The Secret to Resiliency: Healthy Stress

I had the privilege of delivering a keynote and facilitating a pre-conference field day on "Women in Regenerative Agriculture“ at Eco Farm. One principle of regenerative agriculture is "a little stress builds resiliency." Stress your plants a bit (but not too much) against the elements and they build the ability to thrive in change. 

Kristyn Leach of Namu Farm shared a story of allowing one of her crops to succumb to a pest infestation instead of using insecticide. She spoke about approaching her land with curiosity instead of control. She did lose most of her crop, but she saved the seeds of the few that survived and ended up with very strong future harvests.

“A bit of stress (but not too much) leads to resiliency” is a universal truth: in the soil, in our personal lives, and in larger systems. Over-managing mistakes to prevent messes, unexpected moments, and spontaneity impedes our ability to thrive in the midst of change. I’m practicing looking for places in my life where I'm over-sterilizing stress out of my environment, and thus sacrificing learning. And I'll tell you: for a control-focused Scorpio, this is a HARD inquiry. Hah! 

In business: Where am I micro-managing my team, and thus not encouraging actual delegation (read: resiliency) in my business? Where am I confusing “safe but potentially messy” product, media and service experiments (also known as innovation) with irresponsible risks? Where is this confusion costing my clients results in their lives and businesses, and costing my business growth opportunities? 

In parenting: Where am I over-managing my toddler so I don’t need to clean up messes? I will always ensure that he’s safe. But if I’m being real, I also may resist fun activities with him because it’ll be “such a mess”! Where am I potentially sacrificing educational and bonding experiences?

What To Do

How can we increase "safe experiments" around healthy stress? “Safe” experiments allow for new experiences without risking our foundation or stability. When Kristyn lost her crop, that had financial implications from which she knew she could recover. I can't let my child make too many messes - there are implications for his health, our home, and my sanity. But I can certainly let him have adventures that may inconvenience me in the short term and provide beautiful long term memories.

It can be difficult, but there is space in our lives to get more adventurous and test our limits. We don't need to risk financial security or (in my child's case) paint on the wall to allow for "healthy stress.” We start where we can, gradually build our capacity to be with the unexpected, and meet life’s challenges stronger and wiser. 

Interested in using “safe experiments” and healthy stress to build resiliency in your teams, organizational culture, or between external stakeholders? Schedule a free consultation to work with us in your business or organization.

Nikki Silvestri