By Tom Filsinger, adjunct instructor of psychology

Is stress an enemy or friend? It all depends on your point of view.

Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain resulting from demanding circumstances. Stressors refer to stimuli that cause stress.

Every living being experiences stress in day-to-day life. There’s nothing unusual about stress, but how we respond dictates to a great degree how effectively we will cope.

In psychology we refer to people who cope effectively with stress as having a trait called psychological hardiness. Hardy people are resilient and cope with stress in productive ways, turning the emotional energy of stress to their advantage. In other words, coping with stress effectively is all about personal empowerment.

The concept of psychological hardiness was introduced by Salvatore Maddi several decades ago. He believed that hardy people know how to think clearly and solve problems in productive ways. They take personal responsibility for their actions and work towards goals optimistically. Research has supported Maddi’s ideas that hardiness predicts success and adaptive coping.

What are the main factors of psychological hardiness?

First, people who are hardy have an internal locus of control, which means they feel in control of their life and circumstances and act in accordance with those beliefs. These people do not blame external circumstances for their setbacks. They attempt to learn from mistakes and move forward.

Second, people with a hardy personality are committed to attaining their goals. They don’t give up. This means they don’t wait for success to come to them, they work hard to be successful.

Third, people with psychological hardiness view stressors as challenges to be overcome, not problems that are overwhelming. Obstacles become opportunities for growth. Viewed in this manner, succeeding despite pressures and stress becomes a badge of honor.

Learning to cope with stress productively is a process that never ends; life is full of stressors at every stage. Implementing strategies and adopting healthy attitudes can carry over to much of your life, but the key is, it’s up to you!