Developing Emotional Resilience
The majority of Americans overestimate their own resilience. In fact, 83% of Americans polled thought they had high emotional resilience when only 57% of them actually scored as resilient.
We’ve all heard of stories where people have overcome adversity and horrific traumas, yet managed to live healthy and fulfilling lives despite them. This is possible because of emotional resilience.
If you’re struggling with a mood disorder, you’ll be glad to know that you can still cultivate and develop resilience with the right strategies. Not only can emotional resilience improve your everyday life, but it can help you better cope with life stressors when they happen.
But doing so means we need to understand what emotional resilience is, which is exactly what we’re going to cover in this post. We’ll also take a look at the defining elements of resilience and how you can boost your own, so let’s dive in.
What Is Emotional Resilience?
According to psychologists, resilience is the process of how we adapt to trauma, adversity, tragedy, threats, and other stressors.
The word “resilience” comes from the Latin word resilio. This means “retaliate” or “bounce back.”
So, resilience affects how quickly someone will be able to bounce back from an adverse life event. It also means that when we do experience an adverse event, we keep our internal motivation for life and our goals.
Resilience also means that you are able to keep going even when things get tough.
This doesn’t mean that a resilient person denies that they’re experiencing something stressful. Instead, it means that they can keep living their life and following their goals while dealing with a stressful situation.
An example metaphor would be a sailboat. We can think of resilience as the ability to keep your boat steady even during stormy weather.
It means that they are able to cope with stressors in a more emotionally healthy and productive way.
Resilience doesn’t Mean You Ignore Pain
Resilient people also feel pain, stress, and adversity. In fact, learning to become resilient can be full of stress and emotional pain.
The difference lies in how people deal with it and perceive it.
A resilient person is able to see that the trauma, stress, or disappointment they’re feeling is temporary. They will then take the steps to work through it.
One of the most important parts of resilience is the fact that emotionally resilient people use their adversity to grow and evolve as a person. And after trauma, this process is called post-traumatic growth.
Examples of Emotional Resilience
People who are not resilient will likely deal with a problem or stressful situation by ignoring the emotion they’re feeling. They may distract themselves with TV, food, or other social activities.
They also might overthink the problem to the point where they ruminate and wish for the problem to go away.
But someone who is resilient will recognize that they’re feeling sad or distressed. They’ll let themselves feel the emotion for a while without ignoring or dismissing it.
This helps the emotionally resilient person avoid getting overwhelmed by their emotions.
We’ve also heard of amazing resilience during disasters like the 9/11 attacks.
Another example is hurricane victims who have lost their homes and livelihoods.
These resilient people don’t panic and sit in despair while the hurricane is happening. Instead, they ride out the storm by being calm and prepared. They may even go out to help the less fortunate after the hurricane is over.
Elements of Emotional Resilience
There are three building blocks that make up emotional resilience. Working on each of these three elements is essential to improving your resilience.
These three types of resilience work together to build your overall emotional resilience skills.
Physical resilience refers to how quickly your body can adapt to challenges while keeping its strength and stamina. A physically resilient body can also recover from challenges efficiently and quickly.
Physical resilience also refers to how well a person can function when they have to deal with illness, accidents, and anything else that’s physically demanding.
These factors play an important role in building physical resilience:
- Building meaningful connections
- Making healthy food and lifestyle choices
- Practicing deep breathing
- Doing activities that bring you joy
Of course, we can’t control if we get into an accident or get certain illnesses or disorders. But we can work to build our physical strength and build healthy habits for better energy and vitality.
Mental resilience refers to all the mental processes that help us cope with emotional stress and adverse events in our lives.
This also includes how we respond to situations, no matter how they affect us.
Mental resilience involves our self-esteem and confidence. When we’re more confident and sure of ourselves, we’re more likely to believe that we are capable of dealing with stressors in a healthy way.
Mental resilience also includes emotional awareness and emotional regulation. For example, people who are mentally resilient can identify the emotion they’re feeling and know why they’re feeling it.
The way we think and reason also impacts our mental resilience.
If we’re able to reason through our emotions, we’re much more likely to use healthy coping strategies. These include talking through the problem, finding comfort in joyful activities, or seeking help when we’re struggling.
Finally, mental resilience also considers what we focus on. This goes back to the idea of rumination. Someone who’s not mentally resilient tends to focus obsessively on the problem without coming up with any solutions.
Meanwhile, a mentally resilient person will acknowledge the emotion and will focus on it for an appropriate length of time while still going about their daily life.
The parts of social resilience involve all of our interpersonal relationships. These include friends, family, co-workers, bosses, partners, children, and our communities.
When we build strong relationships, we’re more likely to get support from those we trust when adversity happens to us.
Plus, having strong interpersonal connections also helps us become more flexible because we understand other people better. This helps us become more resilient when dealing with others, especially if they have different beliefs than we do.
An important part of social resilience is called community resilience. This refers to the ability of communities to overcome adversity and obstacles as a group.
These obstacles include natural disasters, violence such as shootings, economic difficulties, and other community challenges such as death or conflict.
Traits of Emotional Resilience
Emotionally resilient people may deal with problems in their unique (but healthy) ways, but they all have some common traits.
And while some people may be born with more of these traits than others, it’s still possible to work on cultivating these traits and to develop them as skills.
The traits that show emotional resilience include:
- Internal locus of control
- Emotional awareness
- Ability to persevere
- Openness to support
First of all, having a sense of humor when it comes to resilience doesn’t mean you laugh at every serious situation.
It just means that you can switch your perspective to viewing a difficult situation as a challenge rather than a threat. And of course, the health benefits of laughter can help you reduce stress and become more resilient.
An internal locus of control means that you believe that you’re in control of your own life (rather than life controlling you).
People who have an internal locus of control tend to have less stress because they feel more in control of their own life and are more likely to think of proactive solutions to their problems.
Perspective is what gives you the ability to learn from your mistakes and to see how your adversity has meaning. Perspective, as well as optimism, help stop you from seeing yourself as a victim in a difficult situation. This can give you a huge mental health boost by decreasing how much you worry.
Finally, resilient people understand that they don’t have to shoulder their burdens alone all the time. While resilient people have a lot of inner strength, they’re not afraid to rely on others for emotional support when things get tough.
Stress and the Emotional Resilience Cycle
The stress and emotional resilience cycle shows how we go from a stressful event to building resilience.
There are four parts to this cycle:
- Traumatic events
- Perceived stress
- Stress management
- Emotional resilience
First, a traumatic event happens to us. This could be the death of a loved one, becoming unemployed, getting ill, being severely humiliated, experiencing poverty, or being in a war or natural disaster.
The next step in the cycle is that our bodies and minds perceive this traumatic event or adversity as stressful. This triggers a fight-or-flight response and an emotional response.
At this stage, someone who is not emotionally resilient will run from the situation, avoid it, or express their emotion in other unhealthy ways like uncontrollable anger.
But someone who is resilient will manage their stress with coping mechanisms. They will self-regulate their emotions. They will also seek out professional help if needed. This is the next step in the stress and resilience cycle.
The final step in the cycle is emotional resilience. This is when we experience self-improvement to become more flexible and balanced. We can also adjust to change better.
This can also help you to have a more relaxed mental state, even if you are experiencing a stressful situation. Being more relaxed boosts alpha brain waves, which help to reduce stress and anxiety.
Tips to Boost Emotional Resilience
No matter how little emotional resilience you might think you were born with, you can start working on boosting your resilience today. Part of this process is working on developing the traits of emotionally resilient people.
Keep in mind that building your resilience is a process that can be difficult and painful. However, it will be well worth it in the end.
One of the best tips to boost emotional resilience is to have a role model. This could be someone in your personal life or a public figure who has overcome significant adversity.
This is how children who grew up in difficult circumstances were able to grow up into healthy adults with fulfilled lives.
Another tip for learning how to build resilience is to work on being mentally flexible. The most resilient people out there have more than one way to cope with stressful situations.
This way, if one of their coping mechanisms is unavailable (for example, a friend or therapist), they’re still able to deal with their stress.
Finally, some of the most resilient people report that finding meaning (or a “calling” in life) has helped them to keep going, even through the toughest of times.
The Importance of Self-Care
Having a solid self-care routine helps you build resilience by keeping your body and mind strong and well-rested.
Having a good exercise routine can not only decrease your stress levels, but it can help your body learn to adapt to stress.
You can also work on enhancing your brain’s performance through good nutrition, supplements, meditation, and conditioning.
When you’re working on boosting your emotional resilience, don’t get angry with yourself if you allow your emotions to spiral. It takes time to build resilience, and the important thing is that you are trying and are working towards it.
Improve Your Emotional Resilience One Step at a Time
Being emotionally resilient can not only help you cope with your mood disorder, but it can help you deal with the stresses of daily life more effectively.
So no matter how resilient you are now, know that you can work on improving this as you cultivate these new habits and mindsets daily.
And if you’re still struggling with developing emotional resilience, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) may be able to help. This non-invasive, breakthrough therapy aids in brain healing and is completely safe.
Ready to find out if TMS is right for you? Schedule a free consultation with us today.
- Cherry, K. (2019, August 18). How the Fight-or-Flight Response Works (S. Gans MD, Ed.). Retrieved January 5, 2022, from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-fight-or-flight-response-2795194
- Ellin, A. (2020, December 17). Special Report: Why Developing Resilience May Be the Most Important Thing You Can Do for Your Well-Being Right Now (A. Young MD, Ed.). Retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/wellness/state-of-resilience/
- Kaufman, S. B. (2020, April 20). Post-Traumatic Growth: Finding Meaning and Creativity in Adversity. Retrieved from https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/post-traumatic-growth-finding-meaning-and-creativity-in-adversity/
- Mayo Clinic. (2021, July 29). Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke. Retrieved January 5, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456