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Resilience is the ability to adapt to or recover from difficult, stressful situations. It is well known that stress and trauma can have a significant negative impact on psychological and physical health. But studies have shown that individuals with high levels of resilience experience less negative impacts when going through stressful situations.

In fact, when individuals with high resilience experience a challenging situation, they often emerge stronger and even more resilient. Developing the ability to adapt and move through stress and trauma is one of the most important ways to protect mental and physical health.

Professional athletes are prime examples of resilience. They regularly face intense physical challenges, high pressure, and the threat of failure. They are able to channel their stress into their athletic performance and use it to succeed, instead of letting it get the best of them.

Here are three things athletes teach us about resilience:

  1. Complete your stress cycle. When our systems experience physical or mental stress, the stress can become “stuck” if the cycle is not completed. Animals who experience threat or stress tend to run away or fight a predator until they are safe. This high emotion coupled with physical action and the release of energy and adrenaline signals to the system that the threat is over. Athletes teach us that resolving stress through physical activity is an important way to build resilience.
  2. Build a support system. Professional athletes have a network of people supporting them, including teammates, coaches and family members. Support systems are critical when it comes to developing resilience. Individuals with strong connections and community are much more likely to adapt to and recover from difficult situations and learn from the experience.
  3. Practice self care. Athletes spend a significant amount of time caring for their physical and mental health, including getting adequate sleep and nutrition. Self care means putting attention on your physical and mental health and determining the best activities to calm your nervous system and help your body relax and heal. A healthy self care routine during a challenging time of life can help build resilience.