Emotional resilience is something that you are born with and need to develop throughout your life; it’s not a case of whether you have it or not. By actively recognizing your thoughts and behaviors, you are able to build up a form of strength that helps you withstand the troubles that life may throw at you.
As we mentioned in Emotional Resilience Part 1, people with strong emotional resilience are able to handle minor and major stressors in their life with more ease. They possess a variety of emotional skills that allow them to better read their emotions and control their actions. Like these resilient individuals, there are steps you can take in order to build yourself up.
1. Adapt your mindset.
An important concept to understand is that the only thing that you can really control is yourself. Bad things can happen, and it is how you react that truly matters the most. I can recall many times where something unfortunate happened to me and the events just kept replaying in my head. But, allowing these thoughts to run wild didn’t change anything for me; if anything, it made me more cautious than necessary. So, it is important that you read how your body and mind respond to different situations. If you can do so, look past what has happened and look at how it fits into the grand scheme of things (1). You might realize that certain reactions aren’t worth your time.
Try writing out your thoughts about a certain situation that upset you. Think about what it was about the situation that made you have such negative feelings. Once the words start flowing from you, you can visually observe how things played out and how they affected you (2). And, be patient. It can be hard to come up with the words to describe how you feel. They might not flow out the way you hoped, but a few sentences are still needed progress.
2. Cultivate a sense of self-awareness.
Being self-aware can help you to handle stressful situations better. When you think about a negative situation, consider what it was that led to the current situation. Consider how you responded to it, whether it was verbal or physical. Lastly, think about what the effect of your reaction was. By taking it step by step, you are able to break things down to digestible bite sizes and give yourself the distance you need to understand what’s going on (3). Also, you may learn quite a bit about yourself in the process. The more you experience and learn, the more you grow (1).
3. Practice positivity and optimism.
Although it can be hard to do so in times of difficulties, maintaining a positive view on life can help make things more manageable. If you spend more time thinking about the good things to come, you give less room for negative thoughts and fears to thrive. Now, I don’t mean you need to be overly happy about things and ignore how you are hurting. What I mean is you need to be realistic but also look for the good that is going on.
Another idea that goes hand in hand with a positive outlook is to think about yourself in a positive light. One way can do that is to list out 5 qualities you enjoy about your personality and say them out loud. You can work on building up your confidence and becoming more content with who you are as a person.
4. Take care of yourself physically and mentally.
Taking care of yourself is a great way to help build emotional resilience. When you pay attention to how you are feeling at different moments in time and understand your triggers, it becomes easier for you to control your reaction in tough situations. As Steven Southwick and Dennis Charney noted in their book on resilience, a majority of resilient people also maintained a good exercise routine. They explained that the stress of exercise prepares you to handle the stress that you face in life (1).
Be mindful of what is going on in your head. Since you are the only one privy to the thoughts in your head (unless you speak your mind 100% of the time), it can sometimes feel like you are going through things alone. Since no one else hears your thoughts, you have to push through them yourself and figure out where you went wrong. It helps to practice self-compassion, in which you treat yourself with love and kindness and try not to fault yourself too much. You face your discomforts and remind yourself that everyone has their own struggles to confront (3).
5. Interact with social networks.
Maintaining good relationships with the people around you is another process that will help you out in the long run. Your family members and friends who you value may be able to provide you with the support and perspective you need to work through situations. They can help you build back up your hope (1). In the long term, you must work on your existing interpersonal relationships and create new connections in order to foster a strong sense of emotional resilience (3).
Try adding these steps to your daily life and see how much change happens over time. They don’t require you to set aside much time. Overall, you’ll find that you can navigate through your life with a bit more ease, stressing less about what has happened and what is yet to come.
1. American Psychological Association. The Road to Resilience. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience
2. Chowdhury, M. (2019). What is emotional resilience and how to build it? Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_science_backed_strategies_to_build_resilience
3. Newman, K. (2016). Five science-backed strategies to build resilience. Retrieved from https://positivepsychology.com/emotional-resilience/
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