primary factor that drives a person to claim that they have good health or otherwise.
A person might have several physical health problems that are being effectively treated with medication but they consider themselves healthy because they have taken action to control the problems. Another person might be working to improve their levels of anxiety or depression with therapy. They, too, might consider themselves healthy because of the ownership they are taking toward the improvement of their mental health. The way people define good health for themselves often boils down to their attitude and their ability to do something to solve a problem – their adaptability.
Both physical ailments and emotional stressors present problems for our health. If left unattended and untreated, these will usually cause poor health in the long run. But when we take action to attend to and seek appropriate treatment for our health problems, we feel empowered toward good health. This action is our natural ability to adapt to problems, our ability to change course as needed – it’s our adaptability.
It’s easy to think “of course I take care of my health problems.” Most of us know that this is the right thing to do. But maintaining our health can be filled with all kinds of questions, confusion, and hard decisions. We might become overwhelmed with information, fear, or even our own negativity. We simply may not know what to do next or which direction to turn for help. We might feel frustrated with our healthcare system which is both rapidly changing and in need of vast improvements. It’s easy to get bogged down in emotional distress and lose sight of our adaptability. This distress alone creates a second health problem that we now must cope with.
The kinds of emotional distress that lead to health problems occur when we perceive stressful events as threats rather than challenges.1 The perceived threat not only leads to negative emotions such as depression and anxiety, but it also negatively impacts the cardiac, endocrine, metabolic, and immune systems. Both exposure to stress and its negative reactions are associated with an increased risk of mortality, especially for those with chronic illness. Being more aware of our adaptability and honing our adaptability skills might just be the first step toward improved health.
Within the great capacity of the human mind, adaptability is nothing new; it is the superpower that has promoted the development of modern civilizations. It originated as a soft skill that later became useful within the business realm to create systems and processes that could be easily changed when needed. Adaptability is the cleverness and creativity of the human mind that we use to avert disaster, solve problems, survive, and thrive. It often requires us to “think outside the box.” It is the combination of intelligence, ingenuity, creativity, and problem-solving all rolled into one awesome quality.
We can benefit from actively practicing adaptability in our everyday lives. Instead of fighting change, we can embrace it with a positive, open mindset and a determination to succeed by thinking in terms of adaptability. When we think about solutions to a problem, whether big or small, remaining open to diverse or unexpected answers is important. Adaptability is also essential in the workplace. Changes are constantly on the horizon and challenges are an everyday theme in most organizations. Adaptability often shows up in the form of collaboration, critical thinking, and resilience. Learning adaptability skills is often accomplished by watching others and maybe even inquiring about mindset, thoughts, and how a certain decision was made. No matter where you encounter change, problems, challenges, or threats, relying on your adaptability skills can help you manage the impact and reduce stress.
Let’s look at how a person might tap into the benefits of adaptability more easily. Being more aware of something is the first step to tapping into its power. If you are unaware of your own adaptability, then becoming aware of your potential for adaptability could help you get past the stress and negativity. This positivity then moves you toward solving problems effectively, thus reducing stress, increasing self-esteem, and improving general health. Let’s look at the following simple example: You are driving and are suddenly stopped by heavy traffic. This causes you to feel stressed and angry about the delay that it will cause. You may feel that you have no control. You may not see the opportunity to adapt to this situation if you remain angry and negative. However, if you are aware of your adaptability, then you would consider various ways to decrease the stress of this situation. If being late is the issue, you might make a phone call to explain the situation. If frustration and wasted time are the issues, then you might consider listening to some relaxing music or a favorite audiobook or podcast. Having no control is the stressor. Changing to a positive attitude and taking adaptive action is the solution. This changes your mindset from negative to positive and is much better for your health. This might seem like a simplified example, but if you have a habit of wallowing in negativity or frustration, it’s harder to break than you might think. You may need to change those old emotional habits and instead try using your brain’s natural superpower of adaptability and develop some new and improved habits.
You may have heard the famous quote by Robert A Heinlein, “You live and learn, or you don’t live long” from the book Time Enough for Love. This is the essence of adaptability. But another equally good quote by Brian Herbert expands on this concept. “The capacity to learn is a gift; The ability to learn is a skill; The willingness to learn is a choice.” This emphasizes the importance and power of positivity (willingness) in promoting learning and adaptability.
Here is a quick review of how you can improve your adaptability skills, become a more effective problem solver, and live a healthier life:
The benefits of adaptability are evident in our everyday lives and our general good health. Practicing adaptability is a great way to improve coping skills, enhance resilience, move forward, and reduce stress. It’s all about keeping a positive attitude, being open to new things, believing in your abilities, and learning from everything you do. In summary, here is one more quote, this one by Jimmy Dean: “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”
Please note: This content is meant to be informative and helpful. My background in nursing allows me to provide health and wellness information, but I am not a psychologist or a counselor and this is not meant to be any form of professional counseling advice. This account of renewal is written from a nursing and a human perspective. Always remember, #YouAreNotAlone!
Kim Rockwell, BSN, RN
Romeo Vitelli PhD. Can Coping with Stress Help you Live Longer? Psychology Today. 12/13/2017. Viewed on 3/23/23 at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/media-spotlight/201712/can-coping-stress-help-you-live-longer
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