Work life seems to be getting more challenging. You may find yourself in the middle of a merger and get a new boss you find difficult. For all kinds of reasons, we can end up feeling we have more bad days than good days.
Emotional resilience refers to our ability to adapt to stressful situations or crises. More resilient people are able to roll with the punches and adapt to adversity without lasting difficulties. Less resilient people have a harder time with stress and life changes.
Resilience is not a quality that you either do or do not possess. There are varying degrees of how well a person is able to handle stress. Still, there are certain characteristics that resilient people tend to share, such as:
- Emotional Awareness: They understand what they’re feeling and why.
- Perseverance: Whether they’re working toward outward goals or on inner coping strategies, they’re action-oriented — they trust in the process and don’t give up.
- Control: They believe that they, rather than outside forces, are in control of their own lives.
- Optimism: They see the positives in most situations and believe in their own strength.
- Support: While they tend to be strong individuals, they know the value of social support and are able to surround themselves with supportive friends and family.
- Sense of Humour: They’re able to laugh at life’s difficulties.
- Perspective: Resilient people are able to learn from their mistakes (rather than deny them), see obstacles as challenges, and allow adversity to make them stronger. They can also find meaning in life’s challenges rather than seeing themselves as victims.
How to Develop Greater Emotional Resilience
Develop The Right Attitude – Resilient people tend to view life’s difficulties as challenges and respond accordingly with action, rather than with fear, self-pity, blame or a “victim mentality.” While life can be very challenging, an important step in becoming more resilient is to remind yourself that you are strong and can grow stronger and more wise as you handle life’s challenges.
Become Aware – Part of resilience is emotional awareness. It’s important to understand what you’re feeling and why. Sometimes people feel overwhelmed with their emotions, and this frightens and immobilizes them. Knowing why you feel upset can provide valuable information about what needs to change in your life. It’s also important to do research on how to meet the challenges you face. Maintaining a journal can help you explore your inner world and come up with a plan of action.
Develop a Sense of Control – Resilient people believe that they’re in control of their lives, and it’s true. While we can’t control our circumstances, we can control how we respond to those circumstances, and that makes a big difference in our attitudes and in the course our lives take.
Cultivate Optimism – Being an optimist is more than looking on the bright side (though that helps). It’s a way of viewing the world where you maximize your strengths and accomplishments, and minimize your weaknesses and setbacks. Developing a more optimistic world view can help you become more resilient.
Rally Social Support – While we ultimately face our own challenges, a supportive friend or group of friends can help lighten the load. Those with strong networks of social support tend to stay healthier and happier throughout life, and tend to cope well with stress. Conversely, those with little support may find themselves more vulnerable, and those with conflicted and unsupportive relationships tend to fare even worse.
Maintain Your Sense of Humour – If you’re able to laugh at life’s frustrations, you can have increased immunity, if you will, to stress and adversity. Those with a sense of humour about life tend to experience life as less stressful, are able to bond with others during difficult times, and experience the numerous benefits of laughter. If you can take a step back from difficult situations long enough to maintain your sense of humour, you will be more resilient, too.
Exercise – Exercise has been correlated with stronger levels of resilience. This may be due to the effects of endorphins on one’s mood, or the physical health benefits to those who exercise, or both. Regardless, adding a regular exercise habit to your lifestyle can benefit you in more ways than one.
Get In Touch With Your Spiritual Side – Studies have shown that those who are more spiritual tend to be more resilient as well. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be resilient if you are atheist or agnostic. But if you are open to it, reconnecting or strengthening your connection to your spiritual side can provide you with strength.
Don’t Give Up – While many people know of coping strategies that can help with stress, as with diets and exercise programs, the most successful individuals are those who maintain the effort for the long term. Don’t give up on your situation; don’t stop working toward getting through it. Trust the process.
Overall Tip – Be patient with yourself, and just do your best.
For more thoughts on a related theme see https://tonyreiss.com/2012/02/18/changing-how-we-think-feel-behave-to-be-more-effective-the-art-of-cutting-a-new-groove/
Bonanno GA, Galea S, Bucciarelli A, Vlahov D. What Predicts Psychological Resilience after Disaster? The Role of Demographics, Resources, and Life Stress. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. October 2007.
Southwick SM, Vythilingam M, Charney DS. The Psychobiology of Depression and Resilience to Stress. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology. 2005.