How to build your emotional resilience

Emotional resilience describes how you cope with adversity and crises in life. Let’s look at the building blocks of emotional resilience and how they can lead to a less stressful and more content life.

A person’s level of emotional resilience depends on a myriad of factors. Our ability to bounce back from challenges and adversity and our response to stressful times is unique. There’s a sliding scale of emotional resilience, we aren’t simply ‘resilient’ or ‘not resilient’. It’s dictated by the resources and experience we can draw on to apply to a given situation.  

There’s many different ways to dissect emotional intelligence, the easiest being with 3 building blocks or dimensions that we can draw on in times of adversity. 

  1. Physical elements: Our body’s physical strength, energy, health, and vitality 
  1. Mental or psychological elements: Attention, focus, self-esteem, self-confidence, emotional awareness and regulation, self-expression, thinking, and reasoning abilities. 
  1. Social elements: Relationships with workmates, partners, children, parents, friends and extended family. Position in community. Likeability, popularity and communication skills. 

Let’s consider two friends who have both recently been made redundant, James and Brett. James is coping well. He’s accepted the set-back and is already looking for new opportunities. Brett, on the other hand, is having difficulties motivating himself, has started drinking more and is withdrawing from his friends and family.  

On the face of it, it seems James is coping better than Brett. What you don’t see is that James has emotional support from a partner who has a well paid job. He had a warm, supportive upbringing where he was encouraged to grow and develop by attentive parents. In contrast, Brett lives alone, has recently gone through a divorce and was neglected as a child. He didn’t have the same opportunities to develop effective coping skills. For James, his past life experiences and current resources have helped him to be more resilient. 

When it comes to making lifestyle changes, our resilience plays a huge part in our ability to manage discomfort we encounter with adjustments. We can build our resilience by making sure we have an effective tool kit of coping strategies to draw from.   

5 tips for building your emotional resilience 

  1. Keeping physically active can help our bodies adapt to stress. Practising self care, like taking the time to exercise regularly, sleep well, be mindful of food and alcohol intake and engaging in rest and relaxation are all ways to build resilience and boost our mood. 
  1. We can reduce our emotional vulnerability with healthy, positive relationships with friends, family and colleagues. Resilient role models can inspire and guide us. Churches and other community settings can also help us make meaningful connections. 
  1. Understanding what we value in life can be key to our motivation. If we act in line with our values it can help us move and grow towards a more meaningful life. 
  1. Flexibility and acceptance can go a long way. This helps us face stress as a challenge, instead of seeing ourselves as victims. The ability to go with the flow can reduce angst and tension. Flexibility can also help us to switch between coping strategies and not feel like we’ve failed when we do. 
  1. Being open to change and lifelong learning can keep us sharp and open to new opportunities and skills.