Life has a habit of throwing obstacles in our path, often when we’re least expecting them. Loss and misfortune may impact your life, but you can control how you react to these events. Whatever challenge you’re facing, boosting your emotional resilience can help you weather the storm.
What is emotional resilience?
Resilience isn’t about pushing yourself to get over adversity before you’re ready. And it doesn’t mean you should cope with difficulties without being affected by them.
Actually, being resilient means you’re able to acknowledge your emotions, and respond in a constructive way. With self-awareness and self-care, you can adapt to challenging situations without being overwhelmed.
While it might seem that some people are more resilient than others, resilience is something you can learn. And as you find yourself adapting more easily to new events, your resilience will increase over time.
Here are some ways you can boost your resilience:
Recognise that what you’re struggling with is valid, whatever it is
Do you feel you shouldn’t be affected by an issue because it isn’t ‘bad enough’ in comparison with global events? And even when a real crisis does arise, do you impose limits on how quickly you should recover?
Denying your feelings won’t make you more resilient; in fact, doing this can make it more difficult to heal. Instead, acknowledge how you’re feeling. If something is causing you distress, it’s real, and you have the right to allow yourself time to adjust.
Recognise your own strengths – how you’re resilient already
Chances are you’ve been through difficult times before, and you’ve got yourself through them. You probably already have more coping skills than you realise.
If you find yourself dwelling on your perceived weaknesses, focus on your achievements instead. Psychologist Meg Jay suggests you ask yourself this question: ‘’What were the three toughest times in my life? How did I get through those things?’’ Remind yourself of the strengths you already possess, and you’ll be able to make use of them again.
Achieve a work-life balance
Do you spend all your time and energy at work, or looking after others? If our lives are out of balance this can leave us permanently stressed and exhausted. If this sounds familiar, it can be helpful to set aside some ‘me time’.
The mental health charity Mind suggests devoting some of your day to activities you enjoy. You could start a new hobby, or try relaxation techniques. Regular mental breaks such as meditation and even daydreaming can also boost your mental wellbeing.
Build a support network
You don’t have to cope with bad times alone. Studies have shown knowing when to ask for help is a trait resilient people tend to possess.
Talking about your challenges with family or friends can help you gain perspective over them. Discussing your problems can help you find solutions, too. If you’d prefer to do this in confidence, seeking therapy is an effective way to gain a deeper understanding of your emotions – and uncover coping strategies.
Look after your physical health
It’s easy to forget to look after ourselves if we’re stressed, perhaps turning to comfort food or alcohol to make us feel better. But this puts pressure on your immune system at a time when it’s already under strain. By adopting a healthy lifestyle, you can boost your energy and recover more quickly.
Exercise and a healthy diet have been shown to reduce stress. Even a short walk in nature can help to improve your wellbeing. And if you’re having trouble sleeping, try relaxation techniques before bed.
Learn to be OK with change
Having flexibility is a great way to boost your resilience. Accepting change as part of life means you’re more likely to adapt when the unexpected happens.
Seeing positives or opportunities in change will help, too. Resilient people tend to find a silver lining when something causes the loss of long-term plans or goals. It’s been found that some very resilient people are able to see positives even during tragic situations.
Make decisions, and act on them
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, rather than hoping the problem will go away, try making decisions that will help resolve the problem – then act on them.
These decisions don’t have to be perfect, and they don’t have to fix everything all at once, either. You can start by making small decisive actions to improve your day. You’ll feel the benefit of taking control, and you’ll find bigger decisions will become easier to make over time.
Being grateful for loved ones and positives in your life will help you stay optimistic, even during adverse situations. Gratitude boosts serotonin, a hormone that relieves stress, promotes happiness and a feeling of connection with others.
Keeping a gratitude journal will help you acknowledge things that you might normally take for granted. If you’re too busy to write in detail, try jotting down 3 things you’re grateful for each day.
I hope these tips help you overcome whatever difficulties you’re going through. Your resilience is something you can build on, and as you deal with new challenges you might find yourself getting stronger and more confident, too. With these skills, you can learn to live your life to the fullest.
Would you like someone to talk to?
If you’re going through a difficult time and would like to talk to someone, you’re welcome to get in touch with me. I’m a trained counsellor and hypnotherapist, and I offer online and telephone counselling to people across the UK. I also have a quiet therapy room for face-to-face counselling in Manchester.
National Counselling Society – the professional association for counsellors has a national directory of qualified therapists, searchable by area.
Shutterfly – has inspiring tips for making a gratitude journal.
Mind – the charity’s website has practical advice on boosting resilience and managing stress.
The Samaritans – is a free helpline offering support to anyone in distress. It’s run by trained volunteers and it’s open 24/7.