Stress won't kill you - if you handle it right

It was two in the morning and my mind was still replaying a conversation I had with a colleague that afternoon - what I said, what he said, what I should have said; over and over. My heart was racing, the clock was ticking and, as the birds started singing, I realised I’d wasted any chance of sleep and would start the day exhausted and irritable - with things only getting worse from there.
To put this into context, I was 40, (generally) happily married with two healthy children, a solid group of friends and a reasonably successful career as a writer. Yet my mind was over the place. I didn’t just lie awake, worrying about things I couldn’t change. I made diet and exercise plans, then abandoned them. I felt anxious, on edge, unable to relax.
Perhaps you recognise the feeling. I wasn’t suffering from anxiety or depression as such - certainly nothing serious enough to see a psychologist about - but I was constantly worried about what this constant state of low level stress was doing to my body and mind, which increasingly seemed to falter at the slightest of forces.
Just this week, yet another study (at Pennsylvania State University) linked stress with obesity, heart disease and cancer. The kicker? It’s not stress itself that causes these problems, it’s how you react to it. Which, if the answer is “not well”, just gives you something else to worry about. But why is it that some people cope well with difficult experiences - some even thrive on them - while others seem to crumble with the stress of daily life? While many talk about mindfulness, the new big buzzword among self-improvement circles is resilience - the mental muscle that makes you emotionally tough enough to bounce back and carry on.

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