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Last Updated on December 4, 2020

13 Things You Can Do to Build Emotional Resilience

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.

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.[1]

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.

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.[2]

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 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.

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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.[3] 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.

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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.[4]

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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.[5]

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.

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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.[6]

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.

Learn more in this article: Accept Yourself (Flaws and All): 7 Benefits of Being Vulnerable

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:[7]

“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 Tips About Building Resilience

Featured photo credit: Masaaki Komori via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Ashley Elizabeth

Resilience Mastery Coach and Motivational Speaker

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Last Updated on January 21, 2021

8 Creative Ways To Motivate Yourself To Reach Goals

8 Creative Ways To Motivate Yourself To Reach Goals

“Self-pity is our worst enemy, and if we yield to it we can never do anything wise in this world” – Helen Keller

From the moment our kindergarten teachers asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up to the job interview question that asks us to envision where we see ourselves in five or ten years time, everyone seems to want to know what we’re doing (or hope to do) with our lives. Some of us have detailed road maps in our minds, with mile-markers for each goal: Obtain a college degree, land a dream career, start a family, visit Mars, achieve world domination—whatever. Others like the scenic route. We have a vague picture of someone in the distant future who looks like us and is doing amazing things, but they’re too far off in the distance for us to see just what those amazing things are. Whether you’ve had your entire life planned out since you were 5 yrs old or are just winging it, we all need a jump start from time to time to keep us moving in the right direction—or any direction. Here are eight creative ways to motivate yourself to reach your goals.

1. Sing to yourself

Seriously. Like laughter, sunshine, and fresh air; singing elevates our moods and increases our well being. It can even be a useful group exercise to enhance collaboration in the workplace. Read more about it here. Studies have shown that singing triggers a release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural way of chemically relieving pain and stress. When we’re happier, we get more done. This might be why Snow White likes to whistle while she works.

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2. Visualize your success

According to Dr. Frank Niles, visualization is a simple but useful motivational technique because when you form a picture of succeeding in your mind, you begin to see the possibility of reaching your goal. When I was working on my dissertation in graduate school, there were days when meeting the daily writing goal I’d set for myself seemed insurmountable, let alone finishing the entire book-length project that sat in my stomach like a baby with an unknown due date. When I began to feel overwhelmed, I’d often visualize the moment of achievement, walking across the stage, receiving my degree, finally earning those three letters at the end of my name that I’d poured so much blood, sweat, tears, and vodka into. Six years and quite a few drinks later, I managed it.

3. Speak about achieving your goals in definitive, positive terms

Instead of saying, “if I get married,” “if I get that raise,” “if I quit smoking,” say “when I get married,” “when I get that raise,” “when I quit smoking.” This shifts your focus from possibility to actuality. Spiritual teacher and best-selling author Dr. Wayne Dyer has written and spoken extensively about the “I Am” discourse, which is a form of positive thinking that takes its name from Judeo-Christian Scripture but is portable in any walk of life. Dyer tells us humorously that God didn’t introduce himself to Moses as “I will be,” or “My name is I hope things will work out.” No. He said simply “I am.” Using this affirmative vocabulary in our own lives, argues Dr. Dyer, can help us to visualize our goals and keep our eye on the prize.

4. Use sticker charts

We all remember the thrill of achievement when we rushed home from school to show our parents the shiny gold star we’d received on our homework assignments in school. Who’s to say this positive reinforcement can’t work for adults too? Draw up a chart of your goals, with various benchmarks. Each time you achieve a benchmark, give yourself a gold star, or a smiley face, or a googly-eyed cat. Whatever gives you a sense of accomplishment. This ties into the visualization technique as well, because charting the trajectory of completion gives you verifiable proof that you’re making progress.

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5. Keep a goal diary

Like creating a chart with eye-catching visuals, writing down your goals and reflecting regularly on their progress helps you to both focus on the desired outcome and holds you accountable. In 1979, a study conducted in the Harvard MBA program asked students if they had goals and if they’d written down those goals. 3% had written down their goals, 13% had goals but hadn’t written them down, and 84% had no clearly defined goals. Ten years later, the study revealed that the 3% who had written down their goals were the most financially successful. While financial stability is only one quantifiable way to measure success, the study still points to a link between clearly defining one’s goals and achieving them.

6. Find a “study buddy”

While this can be a useful way to motivate students to complete homework, it can also work well for anyone who has a hard time settling down to work. I used to notice that I graded papers much more efficiently when my boyfriend was sitting in the other room doing the same thing. While this might not work for everyone, I’ve always found that glancing up now and then to make a comment about something I’ve read does more than allow for a break in the action. The other person becomes a sounding board to bounce my ideas off of. Even Sherlock Holmes relied on Watson’s insights to solve his cases.

7. Keep a corkboard in your workspace or someplace visible, with empowering quotations

Personally, I find Yoda a great inspiration. It’s hard to quit anything when you’ve got “do or do not. There is no try” staring you in the face. Turn to your favorite books and movies, or your role-models. Pick your favorite inspirational quotes and keep them close to remind you that you can do whatever you set your mind to.

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8. Daydream

It might sound counter-intuitive, but I’m going somewhere with this. You probably remember being told off in Biology class for staring into the fathomless blue eyes of your lab partner instead of concentrating on the frog you were supposed to be dissecting. However, according to Margrit Tarpalaru, there’s a way to procrastinate “consciously, creatively, and, most importantly, guiltlessly.”

Tarpalaru, a teacher who uses this technique to plow through grading, refers to it as the “micro-break,”[1] which many of us probably think of as that reflexive urge to check Facebook for five minutes, only to look up twenty minutes later and wonder how we got sucked into the social media vortex. Instead, Tarpalaru suggests techniques like a quick daydream.

Glance up from the computer screen and spend a few minutes thinking about all of the glorious things that await you once you’ve gotten through the day, or the week: biking with your partner, having drinks with friends, the summer cruise you’re planning.

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Like the other visualization techniques we’ve talked about, this practice keeps your eye on the prize, and it’s a conscious form of procrastination because you can’t have that drink, or board that cruise ship unless you meet that deadline, which inevitably forces your mind back on work.

Featured photo credit: Becca Tapert via unsplash.com

Reference

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