13 Things You Can Do to Build Emotional Resilience

When you are faced with challenges that shake you to your core, how do you respond? How you deal with your emotions shapes every aspect of your life.

If you don’t own your emotions, they end up owning you. I think we can both agree that this is a recipe for disaster.

We’ve all had our emotions tested at some point in our lives. However, if you find that challenges tend to unravel you, this article will help you build emotional resilience strategies so that you don’t crumble under pressure.

What Is Emotional Resilience?

Emotional resilience is an art of living through which we empower ourselves to perceive adversities as temporary and keep evolving through the pain.((Positive Psychology: What Is Emotional Resilience And How To Build It))

In today’s rapidly shifting world, emotional resilience is the fuel that allows you to bounce back from life’s blows.

In case you haven’t noticed yet, life can be extremely unpredictable. One moment everything is going right, and the next moment your world is turned upside down.

You’ve got two options: You can either accept defeat or rise above it and transform your pain into possibility.

The Importance of Emotional Resilience

If you cannot effectively cope with life’s challenges, you won’t get far in life.

Emotional resilience helps you develop healthy coping mechanisms and maintain balance during stressful times so that you become a master of your emotions.((Couselling Directory: The Importance of Building Resilience))

Resilient people are always thinking about how they can bounce forward when life knocks them down. Bouncing forward is all about being able to find a positive meaning from a seemingly negative event.

When you operate from this state of being, you are no longer living from a place of survival. Instead, you are thriving.

This idea is supported by the ground-breaking post-traumatic growth research of Michaela Haas. In her book Bouncing Forward: Transforming Bad Breaks Into Breakthroughs, she suggests that it is possible to find meaning in the mess. Struggle and trauma can lead to wisdom, growth, and happiness. It’s all a matter of perspective.

The Characteristics of Resilience

Everyone handles challenges differently. However, there are specific characteristics that emotionally resilient people share in common with one another.

Internal Locus of Control

Emotionally resilient people believe that life happens for them, not to them. Victimhood is not a part of their vocabulary. They take responsibility for everything that happens in their lives, both the good and the bad.

The foundation of having an internal locus of control begins and ends with the realization that you always have a choice of how you respond to life’s challenges. While you may not have control over external circumstances, you can always control your inner world.

Self-Awareness

Emotionally resilient individuals have high levels of self-awareness; they know who they are, what they need, and what they don’t need. As such, they are skilled at tuning into the messages that their body is giving them.

If something doesn’t feel good, they shift their state so that they are able to find their center again.

According to Susan David, a Harvard Medical School psychologist who wrote in her book Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life:

“When we are open to difficult emotions, we are able to generate responses that our values align with”

Resilient people use self-awareness as a tool to better understand their thoughts and behaviors, so that they can rewrite old stories that no longer serve them.

Perseverance

Lastly, emotionally resilient people have an insatiable desire to succeed. If they can’t find a way, they make a way. They know that anything of value doesn’t come easy. Giving up is not an option. They know how to persevere.

As Newt Gingrich once said,

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”

Every setback is viewed as an opportunity to grow and become more. Emotionally resilient people know that, in order to reach their desired destination, they need to surrender to the process and trust themselves.

Optimism

In times of struggle, it can sometimes be difficult to find a silver lining. However, emotionally resilient people are able to find the positives buried amongst difficult situations.

They have an unwavering belief in their strength to get through anything and everything. Research demonstrates that naturally resilient people have an optimistic explanatory style. That is, they explain adversity in optimistic terms, in order to avoid falling into helplessness.((Executive Power:Optimism and Resilience: Executive Power)) Because they possess this mindset when challenges occur, they can shift out of fear fast and make empowered decisions.

13 Things You Can Do To Build Emotional Resilience

Emotional resilience isn’t something that you have or don’t have. It’s a skill that can be developed with practice. If you tend to fall into the trap of being emotionally reactive, the good news is that you have the power to change how you respond to challenges in your life.

1. Quiet Your Mind

If you are someone who likes to move at the speed of light, you risk letting your emotions getting the best of you. Mindfulness is a great way to calm your mind and be more present with your thoughts.

If you make this ritual a daily practice, over time, you will be less likely to get carried away by fear or worry.

It’s important to realize that the goal of meditation isn’t to control your thoughts. Rather, it’s to start observing them and noticing that they are just thoughts that come and go.

When you can find stillness amidst the chaos of life, you will be better able to manage difficult emotions when they arise.

Learn to practice mindfulness here: How to Practice Mindful Meditation to Calm Your Thoughts

2. Accept What Is

Acceptance is the first step to overcoming anything. Oftentimes, this is one of the hardest things for people to do. It takes resilience to look at our reality and admit that things aren’t okay.

When bad things happen, your response may be to go into fix mode. However, that option isn’t always going to be available to you right away. Sometimes, you’ve got to sit with your feelings and be willing to receive whatever comes up.

Acceptance doesn’t mean that you’re giving up. It just means that you are surrendering to what is, so that you can make room for what will be. This is what will allow you to feel a greater sense of control over your emotions and your life.

When you start to accept things you can’t control in life, these 10 amazing things will happen.

3. Be Willing to Look at Your Mess

Let’s face it… looking at your mess doesn’t feel good. It’s way easier to find ways to suppress or ignore uncomfortable feelings. However, if you don’t give yourself the time and space to process difficult emotions, they only stay stuck in your body and become toxic.

The next time you find yourself struggling, resist the urge to run away from discomfort. Rather, acknowledge the mess and listen to what it is trying to tell you. Do an internal check and ask yourself, “Why am I feeling this way and what can I do to take back control of my life?”

4. Make Self-Care a Priority

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities of life and forget about yourself. When it comes to building resilience, self-care is essential.

Self-care isn’t just about taking a bubble bath or treating yourself to a new outfit. Rather, it’s a lifestyle that is comprised of daily self-love habits. Over time, these habits become non-negotiable.

Your emotional and physical health are connected to one another. Did you know that your body responds physically to the way you think, feel and act? This is why it’s so important that you take care of your mind and body.

When you commit to taking care of yourself, you are better able to cope with life’s challenges from a proactive and healthy position.

Start taking up some of these 30 Self-Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit.

5. Surround Yourself with Positivity

Do you surround yourself with positive people? If you are lacking ambition and feel stuck, it is highly likely that you are spending time with people who are bringing your energy down.

Negative energy is exhausting. If you want to be successful in life, you’ve got to be wise about who you choose to be friends with.

Make it a priority to surround yourself with people who inspire and challenge you to be a better person. If you do, you will be reminded of how much good there is in the world.

Plus, when life throws you a curveball, you will have a strong support system to fall back on.

Not sure who maybe bringing your energy down? There are 10 Toxic Persons You Should Just Get Rid Of.

6. Ask for Help

When it comes to navigating your way through difficult times, support means everything. As resiliency researcher Elliot Friedman says,

“The availability of social support in all its forms helps us in facing a challenge.”

Sometimes, it can be hard to reach out for help, especially if you are someone who likes to brave battles on your own. However, in some situations, you will need someone to lean on or get feedback from. This is supported by research that suggests that supportive environments have an important role to play in our ability to pick ourselves up when we fall.((Greater Good Magazine: Four Ways Social Support Makes You More Resilient))

Take a look at this guide if you’re not sure how to ask for help: How to Ask for Help When You Feel Silly to Do So

7. Embrace Fear

Fear can feel like an ugly monster that holds us back from stepping into our power and living lives that we are proud of. When you experience fear, do you embrace it or run away from it?

For a lot of people, it’s the latter. This may seem like the smartest option given that fear doesn’t feel good. However, what if you could use your fear to catapult yourself forward in life? It is possible to do this, but only if you are willing to face your fear, head-on.

The best way to embrace your fear is to lean into it each and every day. Action is the only thing that builds resilience over time. When you do something that scares you, say to yourself out loud, ‘This too shall pass. I’ve got this.’

I wrote an article about overcoming fear that can help you: How to Overcome Fear and Realize Your Potential (The Ultimate Guide)

8. Learn from Failure

I believe that failure should be celebrated more often. Failing is a normal part of life. We all do it but we have been conditioned to feel shame around it. If you fail, it must mean that you’re a failure, right? Wrong.

In my opinion, mistakes are proof that you care and that you are willing to take calculated risks. If you’re not failing, you’re not trying. The trick is learning from failure so that you don’t make the same mistakes again. Not convinced yet? Here’re 6 Reasons It’s Okay To Fail.

The next time that you fail (which you will), ask yourself, “What is this experience trying to teach me and how can I learn from it so that I become a stronger person?”

9. Live with Purpose

What is your reason for getting out of bed every day? If you don’t know the answer to this question is, it’s time to rethink what your purpose is.

A lack of purpose will voice itself most when you are struggling. In these moments, it may be difficult to connect to something bigger than yourself.

However, if you have a strong purpose, it will help you make sense of adversity. More importantly, it will motivate you to pick yourself up and move forward. People who live with purpose are better able to find meaning in all of life’s experiences, making them emotionally resilient.((Smart Company: Building Your Resilience and Understanding Your Purpose: Smart Company))

On the same note, finding purpose by contributing to the lives of others is a great way to transform the pain that you feel and channel that energy into something good.

If you’re trying to find your purpose, this article is useful for you: How to Find the Purpose of Life and Start Living a Fulfilling Life

10. Find Humor

During times of stress and hardship, it’s easy to spiral into negativity and take yourself too seriously. I’m not saying that pain is funny. However, I am saying that it’s a lot easier to move through your mess when you can laugh at it.

It’s okay to have a pity party and feel sorry for a situation that you may find yourself in. However, there has to be a point when you shift way from this state to one that is more empowering.

I have always found humor to be a powerful therapeutic tool. Research shows that the person who can play with a difficult situation creates an inner feeling of “This is my plaything; I am bigger than it . . . I won’t let it scare me.”

11. Move Your Body

Your emotions are stored in your body. If you don’t express yourself through movement and allow the energy to flow through you, what do you think happens? When your body gets stuck, so do you.

Negative energy loves stagnation. If you don’t move your body, all of that toxic energy will only create a downward spiral of negative emotions. When in doubt, move.

The easiest and healthiest way to shift your emotional state is by shifting your physiology. When the power is flowing through you, without interference, the negativity in your body will begin to break up.((The Chopra Center: 6 Pathways to Remove Negative Energy from Your Mind and Body: The Chopra Center))

The next time that you feel stuck, dance, run or shake — whatever it takes to find freedom in your body and create resilience in action.

12. Express Your Truth

When you hear the word, ‘vulnerability,’ what words come to mind? For a lot of people, it’s fear, shame, guilt and mistrust.

This is because we are brought up to believe that vulnerability is a sign of weakness when, in actuality, the opposite is true. If you want to strengthen your emotional resilience, it will require that you shift your internal narrative about vulnerability.

Yes, it takes an insane amount of courage and resilience to show up in this world as your true self. However, the alternative sounds a lot scarier. Not speaking your truth is a surefire way to live a life of fear and hide behind a mask so as to make others feel comfortable.

If being vulnerable scares you, practice it with your close friends in an environment where you feel safe and supported. Over time, you will get used to sharing your feelings with more people.

When you can connect with yourself on a deeper level and aren’t afraid to be fully seen, you become a more mentally stronger person. You become committed to living in alignment with your truth. There is nothing more powerful.

13. Develop Resourcefulness

You don’t become resourceful just by luck. Rather, you only develop this skill when you are faced with experiences that force you to find solutions to your problems.

The American Psychological Association defines that:((American Psychological Association: The Road To Resilience))

“Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress”

The most resourceful people are also the most resilient. They plan for adversity, in the sense that they flex their mental muscle and have a plan in place if life throws them a curveball. As such, they don’t merely survive through life’s most difficult situations. Rather, they become stronger.

When disaster strikes, resourcefulness is your most important tool against defeat. There is nothing that you cannot handle. Believe it.

Final Thoughts

I hope these strategies inspire you to start strengthening your emotional resilience.

Life will knock you down. However, it’s up to you whether or not to lose your spark. Whatever you do, don’t give up. Wipe away the tears, get up and continue to move forward.

Your inner power is the quiet force within you that knows when to act and gives you the strength to do so. Listen to it and believe that, no matter what happens, you’ve got this.

More About Building Resilience

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