Choose Your Stressor

You’ve just lost your job.

The relationship you dreamed of is suddenly on the rocks.

The business you’ve built with blood, sweat, and tears is threatened by rumors of a looming recession.

You’re facing a huge unexpected financial challenge.

Imminent deadlines, lack of time, and restless sleep are all too familiar to you.

The diagnosis was not what you were hoping for.

As we continue our series of Overcoming Pain with Resilience, I have to ask the million-dollar question,

“How do you appraise or interpret negative life events?”

The answer to that question determines whether you are predominately Camp Optimist or Camp Pessimist; the former is defined by greater resilience in the face of challenges, higher self-esteem, lower levels of stress, and improved immune function.

The latter is more inclined to see the negatives in situations and expect the worst outcomes.  They also have a propensity to catastrophize and tend to experience increased stress and anxiety.

Inner Warrior Series Part 2

This blog post is part 2 of our Inner Warrior Series: Overcoming Pain with Resilience.

In part 1, we looked at how Intentional Focus and activating the Reticular Activating System is foundational to cultivating a more optimistic mindset and growing resilience. 

In today’s post, we are going to explore Appraisal Theory through the lens of Positive Psychology and show you why it’s a fundamental concept to building resilience.

Appraisal Theory

Appraisal theory helps us understand how emotions are generated based on how you appraise or interpret situations.

The negative event itself does not cause the corresponding emotion; the interpretation of the event is what elicits either constructive or deconstructive emotions.

Emotional regulation is a hallmark of resilience. Therefore, cultivating healthy appraisal styles is paramount to your mental, emotional, and physical health. Positive appraisals are at the core of both emotional regulation and building resilience.

Threat or Challenge

Every life event can be appraised as either a threat or a challenge.

If you believe the danger of the event is greater than your ability to deal with it, it will be overwhelming and you will perceive it as a threat; something you cannot overcome, something you want to avoid at all costs.

However, if you believe the negative event is something you can deal with and perhaps even learn from, the event is interpreted as a challenge, a task to overcome. You feel capable of meeting the challenge. 

This moves you toward the obstacle rather than away from it.

In essence, individual differences in emotional responses to the same event are caused by different interpretations.

Can you see and feel the difference; one is fear-based and the other is possibility-based.

How can you train your brain to believe that you have what it takes to successfully navigate this challenge?  

Research in Positive Psychology identifies various Appraisal Styles that foster resilience.

Appraisal Styles

  • Challenge Appraisal
  • Benefit Finding Appraisal
  • Optimism Appraisal

Today, we are going to do a deep dive into the first style: Challenge Appraisal.

Challenge Appraisal

Think of building resilience as the ability to adapt and bounce back from adversity and Challenge Appraisal as the key component to unlock this process.

A person who uses challenge appraisal believes they have what it takes to meet the challenge; they see the challenge as an opportunity for growth and learning rather than a threat. This is empowering and removes the fear associated with a threat.

4 Ways to Easily Incorporate Challenge Appraisal

  1. Identify Stressors and Reframe

Get into the habit of identifying what you perceive as stressful situations; albeit work deadlines, health issues, financial troubles, or relationship conflicts.

Instead of viewing them as threats, reframe them as challenges or opportunities for growth.  

For example, instead of saying, “This deadline is impossible to meet,” you can say, “This deadline will allow me to enhance my time management skills and these skills will help me better master my time in the future.”

  1. Practice Reflection and Use Your Strengths

Reflect on past experiences and how you overcame similar challenges. Have a good memory; what did it feel like when you mastered a difficult situation?

Focus on your strengths and capabilities. What strengths did you use in the past to navigate difficult situations?

  1. Small Steps

Think of Legos; break down your challenges into smaller manageable pieces. This can help reduce the feelings of overwhelm and motivate you to keep going.

  1. Keep your Perspective

Know that these setbacks are a natural part of being alive on planet Earth.  Instead of focusing on how hard this is or how unfair it is; see it as an opportunity for new beginnings; to experience growth, cultivate positive emotions, and to become mentally stronger with each challenge.


If there is one universal principle in life to recognize it’s that negative life events are a common denominator to all of us as human beings.

It’s not the stressor; it’s the mindset that builds grit.

By exercising your Challenge Appraisal muscle, you develop the ability to confidently meet adversity head-on and emerge stronger from having faced difficult situations.

This will dramatically decrease your stress and anxiety levels so that you can enjoy and appreciate life more fully.

My Ask

Here is my ask: start practicing Challenge Appraisal and see how it impacts your emotions and decisions. Shoot me an email and let me know how it’s going. I’d love to hear from you.

In Optimism


Always remember – Nothing is Impossible


Crisis Kit

I have created this anti-anxiety and anti-stress tool kit, proven by science, to help you reduce anxiety and stress. I guarantee you that if you implement some of these ideas and use these tools; you will navigate this uncertainty boat like a highly skilled Captain.

Rita Hudgens
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