Education Week: How to build stress resilience


Editor’s note: Education Week coverage can be found in this section of the website.

An Education Week presentation showed participants how to build their stress resilience in two ways on Monday afternoon.

Patrick R. Steffen, a BYU clinical psychology professor, taught the crowd about developing a resilient body and mind, two key ways of building stress resiliency.

BYU psychology professor Patrick R. Steffen speaks about stress resilience during Education Week. Steffen said developing a resilient body and mind are ways to build stress resilience. (Dallin Wilks)

Developing a resilient body

A key part of developing a resilient body is dealing with more eustress, a good stress, compared to distress, a negative stress. The problem is most people don’t deal with eustress as often as distress, Steffen said. “If you said I am so eustressed, most people won’t know what you mean.”

People should aim to create a bell curve with eustress in the middle, taking the majority of stress people deal with. Distress and calmness should be on the outside of the bell curve as the minorities of stress people deal with, Steffen said.

“The goal of stress management is not to eliminate stress, but hitting the goal (of eustress) in the middle is,” he said.

Dealing with stress creates a short circuit response in one’s body including: getting energy now, moving energy to needed areas quickly, turning off long-term projects, blunting pain perception and increasing cognitive function, Steffen said.

While these responses may help people in the moment, Steffen said prolonged experiences under the short circuit response can lead to dire health problems, such as diabetes and hypertension, among others.

Biofeedback offers the opportunity for one to see how they’re doing with a particular stress response, Steffen said.

Steffen displayed this by having participants practice a six-second breathing technique while having their breathing measured. The biofeedback displayed constant breathing for the participants while doing the breathing exercise, compared to an erratic pattern while not doing the technique.

The breathing techniques Steffen had participants go through consisted of breathing in for six seconds and breathing out for six seconds. This breathing technique leads to a total of six breaths per minutes, the ideal breathing pace, according to Steffen.

While focusing on one’s breath can sound quite simple, Steffen said the technique can have tremendous and immediate benefits.

Developing a resilient mind

The primary focus of building a resilient mind is through meditation, Steffen said.

Being in the moment and developing an awareness, which needs to be practiced, are a couple of ways meditation can be practice, according to Steffen.

A way the majority of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can mediate is through mindful prayer, Steffen said.

He offered two ways people can meditate with the help of technology: BYU’s Counseling and Psychological Services relaxation recordings and Refill My Soul, a Church-based meditation app.

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