In a nutshell, being emotionally resilient means being able to remain balanced in the face of stress, acknowledging difficult emotions but preventing them from controlling your life. Emotional resilience is a trait that can be cultivated, and it can influence everything from your happiness to your overall physical well-being. While nothing can prevent you from feeling pain or loss, there are things you can do to ensure you are better prepared to deal with these experiences when they arrive. Here are six ways to become more emotionally resilient.
1. Be aware of your feelings
Repressing your feelings or compartmentalizing them can help you to cope in the short-term, but your emotional health requires you to engage with these emotions and find ways to work through them. When you’re aware that you’re feeling something uncomfortable or unpleasant, take a deep breath and look more closely. What sensations are you experiencing? What thoughts or beliefs are associated with these experiences? What would you call the emotions you’re feeling? Are you reminded of anything significant from your past? Answering these types of questions properly connects you with your emotions rather than letting them bubble under the surface.
2. Accept your feelings
Being emotionally resilient requires not only identifying your emotions but accepting them. For example, if you note that you’re feeling resentful and sad because of something you’ve learned about your ex-partner, you will only breed self-contempt if you then berate yourself for reacting in this way. It’s vital to validate your emotions as understandable reactions to your situation and to offer yourself compassion even if you don’t like how you’re feeling.
Don’t internally label yourself as stupid, immature, or petty. Instead, affirm that everyone experiences these emotions at some points, and tell yourself that it is okay to feel this way at the moment even though it is not a nice experience. The more emotionally resilient you are, the more you will be able to accept that uncomfortable feelings are part of life and that they will necessarily pass in time.
3. Understand the roots of your feelings
Another element of emotional resilience involves seeing how your present connects with your past. For example, you might be inclined to feel angry when dealing with people who don’t listen to you because it reopens an old wound related to being ignored in earlier life. In particular, you can learn a lot by examining the messages you received in your family of origin. Everyone carries assumptions from childhood, and many of these assumptions can have a huge influence over emotional reactions.
Perhaps the idea of letting other people see your sadness leaves you feeling ashamed because your father taught you that being emotionally vulnerable was a sign of weakness, or maybe you cannot stand setbacks at work because your mother emphasized that your worth as a person was contingent on your achievements.
Once you bring these messages into your conscious awareness, you can choose to write what is sometimes called a “corrective script.” In other words, you can reshape your assumptions to match what you really believe as an adult instead of sticking with what you were taught to believe as a child. This process helps you make more sense of your feelings in the short-term, and it simplifies your emotional life in the long-term.
4. Seek support when needed
Being emotionally resilient doesn’t mean that you need to stoically cope with everything on your own. In fact, people who successfully bounce back from emotional emergencies tend to have a good support network behind them. A group of close friends or a wise family member can sometimes do a great deal to help you work through your difficult feelings. At other times, it might be smarter to enlist the help of a therapist.
A lack of emotional resilience is often connected to feelings of helplessness. While it is true that many things are beyond your control, you will feel more confident about your ability to withstand hard times if you work to make full use of your difficult experiences. Once you have identified, accepted and processed emotions, start considering what you can do to start improving your situation.
6. Look after your body and your mind
Finally, it’s hard to be emotionally resilient if you feel strung out or your body is utterly exhausted. In contrast, those who eat well, sleep well, and exercise regularly feel physically better in a way that promotes emotional strength. It’s also important to avoid being tempted to numb your feelings in a self-destructive way (e.g. with drugs, alcohol, food, or any other). Instead, give some thought to healthy habits that make you feel better on an emotional level. What hobbies are guaranteed to induce feelings of optimism? Which relaxing pursuits help you wind down after a difficult day? Make sure you take part in all of these activities on a regular basis.