3 Ways to Build Resilience WITH Stress

blog Feb 23, 2022

I'm usually all about creating LESS stress in our lives, but studies show that SOME stress can be an effective way to build resilience and help us cope better with stress.

This concept is called hormesis. When an organism has to deal with some stress, weaker elements die off making the organism stronger.

So, exposing our bodies to stress occasionally can be a GOOD thing! We can be more resilient and better able to deal with other stressors in life.

Here are 3 science-backed ways to build resilience WITH stress:

1.     Fasting: Fasting for health has been around for thousands of years and was a normal practice for our paleo ancestors. Fasting forces cells to work harder and use other forms of energy. Weaker mitochondria, which are the energy producers in the cells, die off and get replaced with healthy ones over time which operate more efficiently. Try fasting for a day or two, or practice daily intermittent fasting by restricting food intake for a 12-18 hour period each day.

2.    Breath-holding: Breathing is necessary for life but science shows that breath-holding can help build resilience. On the physiological side, breath-holding increases tolerance for carbon dioxide in the bloodstream which actually increases the body’s ability to transport oxygen to the cells, making the entire organism stronger. On the mindset side, while holding the breath for a few extra seconds until there is moderate air hunger, we can use positive self-talk to push ourselves past our previous self-imposed limits. This translates as resilience in other areas of life.

3.    Cold Exposure: Researchers have found that cold therapy has benefits for both the mind and body. The number of white blood cells increases as a result of cold exposure, making the immune system stronger. Cold exposure also ‘exercises’ the vascular system and results in a lower heart rate over time which means less stress. Mentally, the willpower required to overcome the desire to stay warm helps improve clarity and enhances mood.  Start by turning the water to cold at the end of the shower for 10-15 seconds and build up to 30 seconds or longer. Or try full immersion in cold water or ice baths.

The cold leads the way toward a spirituality of the mind, a calmness with which you can handle any other stress.
— Wim Hof

The “Iceman” Wim Hof combines breath-holding and cold exposure in his Wim Hof Method which has been scientifically proven to build resilience and has helped reverse autoimmune conditions including rheumatoid arthritis.

These methods aren't for everyone, especially for those with underlying health issues. Always consult a professional health practitioner before trying any of these methods.

(A note about fasting: People with a history of eating disorders should probably avoid fasting. If you are currently eating sugar or processed foods, start by eliminating those before doing a fast)

I actually practice all these methods myself, including daily 16-18 hour fasting and dipping in an icy river in the middle of winter! It’s great for building energy, mental clarity and lowering inflammation.  ⬇️ 🥶 ⬇️

Do you have resilience-building habits? What are they? If you have questions about these practices, just let me know!

Want to learn more about breathwork? Download my free Breathe Away Pain one page mini-class here: Breathe Away Pain Min-Class


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  2. All information in this post is based on my personal experiences. Please discuss any changes to your diet with your healthcare team. No information in this article is meant to replace medical advice. Please read my Terms and Conditions.