Major FBI investigations are intense and usually slow-moving because of the case’s complexity. For example, I was among many agents assigned to interview witnesses after the terrorist attack of 9/11; supervisors told us to show up seven days a week and work twelve-hour shifts.
Our new schedule didn’t go on for a few weeks — it continued for several months. The stress was so acute that I could feel and smell the tension as soon as I stepped into the Emergency Operations Center. My prolonged work schedule didn’t allow me to explore the de-stressing techniques thrown out by self-help gurus. Advice like stick to regular workouts, adhere to everyday routines, eat healthily, and find humor was shelved as “nice to have but useless when you’re in the middle of sh*tstorm.”
It didn’t take long to discover that most of the people who wrote about how to bounce back after periods of stress and got rich from it were just that — writers. They had never been in the trenches themselves and could offer nothing more than anecdotes and weak platitudes that I could find in an Oprah magazine.
We need mental toughness in the face of Covid, economic upheaval, and adversity.
Mental toughness is not something we’re born with; it’s something we can all learn. Are you mentally tough? Take this evidence-based, FREE Mental Toughness Assessment.
As an FBI agent, I learned that while theories are nice, evidence is better. Neuroscience and psychology can help us understand how our brain and body can hijack us when we’re under pressure, face short deadlines, and feel overwhelmed.
Let’s take a closer look at four powerful ways to bounce back after periods of stress:
1. Beware Of “The Let-Down Effect”
Research has shown that, when we’re in high-stress situations, our body produces large amounts of chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol to prepare our immune system for the challenges before us. These chemicals help the body prepare itself for a fight-or-flight response from the danger of our challenges. As a result, they can help you reach safety in a dangerous situation without being hindered by pain.