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How Navy SEALS Build Immunity to Stress

Navy SEALS are not allowed a bad day at work, and they certainly can't let stress degrade their performance.

Stress reduction, or brain resiliency, can be learned, and you don't have to be a member of an elite fighting force to do it, according to medical researchers who spoke at at a recent Harvard Medical School symposium on "Resiliency and Learning: Implications for Teaching Medical Students and Residents."

George Everly, an associate professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has studied Navy SEALs and other groups that work under high stress. He said that people most likely to have developed an immunity to stress have a social support network, are optimistic, are persevering with a stout work ethic and value responsibility and integrity.

Resilience can be taught, said Everly, by incorporating these steps in your program.

  1. Allow people to experience success by assigning them to work with successful teams.
  2. Create an environment of safety and encouragement, coupled with mentoring and training.
  3. Promote "self-efficacy" -- belief that we are agents of change, which is earned through personal accomplishment in the face of a challenge.
Read a deeper account of the conference on the Harvard Medical School Focus website.

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(Photo by Flickr user Rennett Stowe, CC 2.0)
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