In a critical situation, whether it is physical or emotional, domestic or professional, the people who will flourish are the ones who are adaptable to ever changing factors and resilient to stressors. Here’s how to train adaptability and survive!
Adapt and thrive
Ever wondered why humans walk the Earth, when all nature’s other experiments in a human direction died out? Ever looked at a rat darting down a city alley and wondered why it is there, instead of say, a guinea pig? Why do foxes melt into the urban night, while many of Australia’s native creatures hover on the brink of extinction?
There’s an old saying “only the strong survive”. It’s wrong.
It isn’t strength per se that saves the day when the shit hits the fan and the situation changes in the blink of an eye. It’s adaptability.
That is, quite literally, why we are here. When the environment and climate became more and more unstable about 3 million years ago, it was human ancestors who could tolerate different temperatures, and live and hunt and feed in different environments, who won the day. They call it the survival of the adaptable.
Adaptation isn’t just about having the skills to master multiple disciplines. It’s about being able to cope with a new challenge or environment, mentally and physically – being resilient.
When your body is subject to a stressor – emotional, environmental, chemical, physical trauma, combat, aggressive training etc. – it reacts with hormonal and chemical changes, and structural adaptations. Generally, it doesn’t distinguish much between the type of stressor, which is why an emotional attack can have as many physical symptoms and trigger a fight or flight response every bit as visceral as a physical one.
Resilience is about training the body to cope with these changes with minimal negative outcomes.
Feel the fear
We train the body to cope with encountering stressors by ‘Fear Reactivity’. This is where we expose the body to constantly increasing stressors in multiple formats. The exposure is within comfortable levels so as not to overwhelm the body’s capacity to cope, but by working all the stressors and responses in gradually increasing intensities and frequencies, your body adapts to an ever-changing environment. The aim of the training is that when you find yourself in real danger, your body can calm itself, and let you react in a controlled, unpanicked manner.
Ways to tackle fear reactivity training include fighting, fear reactivity drills, meditation, cold exposure, problem solving under pressure and fatigue, and exposure to shocking environments with ever increasing complexity. The crucial part is to only increase exposure once the body and mind have become proficient at the current level.
In a critical situation, whether it is physical or emotional, domestic or professional, the people who will flourish are the ones who are adaptable to ever changing factors and resilient to stressors. Sure, in a physical crisis the strength, speed and fitness of an individual will help, but large muscles won’t be a lot of use if the body and brain driving them shut down under stress.
This is why most people in SF or operational roles tend to come from trauma backgrounds or have large life experiences and environmental exposure. Their lives have already adapted them to stress. However, it is also a trainable quality – and for anyone who is looking to be able to respond to whatever the situation throws at them, training the mind and body for resilience and adaptability is as central as training for strength or speed.
Adapt and survive.