Developing greater emotional resilience can help you navigate life’s challenges, bounce back from adversity, and thrive in the face of uncertainty. Emotional resilience can also protect you from stress-related illnesses, help you build meaningful connections with others, and improve your overall well-being.
In this blog post, we’ll explore 15 effective strategies that can empower you to cultivate and strengthen your emotional resilience. These practical techniques will equip you with the tools needed to enhance your personal resilience or support others in their journey towards greater emotional well-being.
What is Emotional Resilience?
Emotional resilience refers to an individual’s capacity to adapt and rebound from stressful or challenging situations, demonstrating the ability to maintain psychological and emotional well-being despite adversity, trauma, or significant life changes.
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
— Helen Keller
Being emotionally resilient does not imply that a person is immune to difficulties or unaffected by them, but rather that they have the ability to cope effectively with stressors, recover from setbacks, and maintain a positive outlook on their circumstances. Emotional resilience explains why some people seem to handle life’s difficulties in stride, while others seem to break down at almost every hurdle.
In general, emotionally resilient people adapt more easily to stressful experiences. Others often turn to resilient people in times of crisis, relying on them to manage difficult situations. Resilient people handle change positively and easily cope with minor and significant stressors.
Multiple factors affect a person’s emotional resilience or ability to handle life’s stressors. Some of these resilience factors are out of your control, like how old you are or traumatic things that have happened to you. But anyone can attempt to learn how to develop more resilience.
Everyone is resilient to some degree and can increase their ability to go with the flow, even if they are naturally highly sensitive. Emotional resilience is also like many other personal traits—heredity and life experiences play a significant role in its development.
Factors that influence your ability to be resilient include:
- Family environment
- Exposure to trauma
- Early life experiences
- Personality traits
- Physical and mental health
Fortunately, no matter your experiences, you can practice and improve your resilience.
What Does Emotional Resilience Look Like?
Recognizing the traits of emotionally resilient people in yourself or others isn’t always easy. You may understand what it means to be good in a crisis but still not be able to describe the traits that would help you perform well in a distressing situation.
Emotionally resilient individuals often display certain characteristics and skills that contribute to their ability to handle emotional challenges. These characteristics may include:
Resilient people understand that achieving a goal includes many ups and downs. Setbacks don’t crush them because they know challenges always exist. Emotional resilience means not feeling defeated or hopeless when facing an obstacle but working to find the way around it.
Acknowledging your emotions and understanding why you feel them is part of emotional resilience. People who are emotionally aware are less likely to react out of anger or panic. They are in touch with their thoughts and know how to regulate their emotions even in difficult situations.
Resilient people can find the silver lining in most situations. They believe in their own strengths and abilities to handle problems. They don’t get stuck in a victim mentality where they see themselves as victims of their circumstances or other people’s actions, even when it’s contrary to reality.
Sense of Humor
Finding humor in a difficult situation is a mark of a resilient person. Studies have confirmed how laughter can help with stress relief by helping you reframe your perspective when things go wrong.
In addition to optimism and having a sense of humor, resilient people focus on strengths, possibilities, and potential solutions rather than dwelling on negative aspects. They maintain hope and believe in their ability to overcome difficulties.
One study supports the connection between social support and resilience to stress. Feeling supported by others is also crucial for your mental well-being. If you don’t already have a strong circle of family and friends, start building your support network as part of your effort to increase your emotional resilience.
Resilient individuals tend to view setbacks and failures as opportunities for growth and learning. They see challenges as temporary obstacles that can be overcome, rather than insurmountable barriers.
Resilient people understand the value of self-care. When you are tired, hungry, or sick, you must work much harder to manage your emotions and bounce back from a challenge. Good self-care habits, like eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, and keeping a self-care journal can keep your mind and body refreshed and energized.
Identifying Your Sources of Stress
Learning to identify the causes of stress to manage it more effectively is part of being resilient. Stress can have a significant impact on your physical and mental well-being, particularly if you lack sufficient resilience.
There are two general types of stress people deal with in life: acute stress and chronic stress.
- Acute stress is short-term and includes all of the daily annoyances that can make you feel anxious — the children are acting up, traffic is bad, your boss keeps texting to see when you’ll finish an important project — all these issues add up to a stressful day. Short-term stress doesn’t usually require a lot of resilience. The stress disappears when your family calms down or the traffic clears.
- Chronic stress is ongoing and more severe. This type of stress is not easy to resolve, and can be dangerous to your health.
The causes of chronic stressors might include:
- Grief or loss of a loved one
- Divorce or separation
- Chronic illness
- Money problems
- Job loss
- Mental health concerns
- Big life changes
- Traumatic experiences
is crucial to develop and strengthen your resilience to effectively manage and navigate these persistent stressors and safeguard your well-being.
The Symptoms of Stress
Without adequate coping skills, stress can have a detrimental effect on almost every aspect of your life. When you’re vulnerable to stress, you can’t easily manage your emotions, which may affect your professional and personal relationships. Stress can impact your health, behavior, and a general sense of happiness.
Some of the most common effects of stress include:
- Headaches, backaches, and other aches and pains
- Changes in appetite
- Chest pain and cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure
- Mood swings and angry outbursts
- Feeling overwhelmed much of the time
- Changes in sex drive
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Upset stomach and digestive issues
- Sadness and depression
- Changes in sleep habits
- Substance use, including alcohol, drugs, and tobacco
- Inflammatory problems
And, according to the Mayo Clinic, the symptoms of chronic stress also include an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
Keep in mind that you can’t always control the situations in life that create stress. Increasing your resilience helps to protect you from stress-related illness and allows you to enjoy life more, even during times of great stress.
7 Factors that Contribute to Emotional Resilience
Self-growth takes effort and patience with yourself. Those skills can be difficult for anyone to practice but can be even more challenging without strong emotional resilience. People who lack ample resilience might dwell on their problems, see things in a negative light, or feel victimized.
You may have already overcome many challenges to get to a place where you’re ready to focus on building resilience. Staying positive, proactive, and hopeful might not come naturally to you, but you’re already off to a good start if you know you need to build resilience.
During your emotional resilience-building journey, you can expect to explore these seven factors:
- Positive Self-Talk. The way you speak to yourself matters. Positive self-talk means having a supportive, uplifting internal dialogue.
- Self-Awareness. You’ll need to focus on yourself and be aware of when your actions, thoughts, and beliefs align with your values and, perhaps more importantly when they don’t.
- Mindfulness. Mindfulness will help you look at situations as they are, not how you expect or want them to be.
- Emotional Expression. Learn that it’s OK to express your emotions because they aren’t wrong, and they don’t say anything negative about you.
- Sense of Humor. Keeping a sense of humor and laughing about life’s plot twists can help you feel better prepared to deal with them.
- Support. Surrounding yourself with loved ones who support you and want what’s best for you can help you feel more confident in your ability to handle stressors. You’ll know you’re not alone and others have your back, even when you make mistakes.
- Coping Skills. Developing helpful methods of dealing with challenges is directly related to improving resilience.
15 Strategies to Develop Emotional Resilience
You can get started building emotional resilience right now. You don’t have to buy anything, join a club, or change your life. Choose one or two of the following strategies to practice.
The goal is not to master every one of these strategies. Remember that emotional resilience is a skill you can work on and improve throughout your life, not a single goal you will achieve and quickly forget.
As you improve mood regulation, incorporate one or two more suggestions into your inner work. Don’t forget to journal about your growth and review your entries to reflect on how far you’ve come. You’ll soon find that the more attention you put into self-growth, the easier it is to practice new good-for-you habits.
1. Develop a Growth Mindset
A growth mindset means you’re not comparing yourself to others or measuring your emotional resilience by any meter except your own.
Forget about past mistakes or shortcomings. Focus on what you can do today to develop your resilience skills. Believe in your intelligence and ability to improve, regardless of your upbringing or the dysfunctional coping skills you may have been depending on up until now.
2. Set Boundaries
Yes, setting boundaries on your time and energy is vital to developing emotional resilience. Saying “no” can be difficult, but part of resilience is learning how to be OK with disappointing people now and then in favor of doing what’s right for you. You can’t be everywhere at once or meet everyone else’s needs while still caring for yourself.
3. Exercise Emotional Regulation
Being in control of your emotions doesn’t mean you never feel angry or sad. Instead, emotional regulation means that you can redirect your feelings.
People who can regulate their emotions don’t yell at strangers in the grocery store or pick fights with their loved ones because they’ve had a bad day. They can express their emotions appropriately without being unkind to others or themselves.
4. Accept Imperfection
You’re going to make mistakes, and so are other people. Understanding that no one is perfect will help you accept bumps in the road when they happen. People with strong emotional resilience don’t let imperfections ruin their day. They adapt to the new reality and find different ways to meet their goals.
5. Take Time for Yourself
Self-care is integral to emotional balance. Humans need exercise, fresh air, time alone, time with loved ones, and much more.
When you were young, you may have learned that putting yourself first is selfish. This thought might be true — but only if you never stop to think about what others might need. Putting your wellness first is necessary. A person who is worn down and stretched too thin is neither resilient nor a help to others.
6. Keep a Journal
Studies have shown journaling benefits include stress relief, emotional regulation, and problem-solving skills, which all promote your capacity for emotional resilience. The emotional journaling technique involves writing about your feelings during stressful events to learn how you handle them. Having a set of journal prompts is a great way to discover new insights about the thoughts and behaviors that stand in the way of greater emotional resilience.
7. Celebrate Your Successes
You might still be learning, but you’re doing many things right. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back when you are successful.
Not losing your temper in a stressful situation is an achievement to be proud of. So is picking yourself back up after a failure. You build your resilience one situation at a time. Make sure you give yourself credit for making the effort to become a stronger person.
8. Ask for Help
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength. Confident, resilient people aren’t worried about what others will think if they ask for help.
Whether you need direction on a work or school project, emotional support, or professional help in the form of therapy, learning to ask for and accept help will grow your support network and assist you in becoming more resilient.
9. Embrace Change
There is an old saying that anyone who wants to improve their emotional resilience should remember: The only constant is change.
Change can be uncomfortable and confusing, but change can also force you to learn new things and grow as a person. If you don’t like change, you’re not alone. But if you want to be more resilient, embracing the fact that things are constantly changing is key.
10. Confront Adversity
Bad things are going to happen in your life. Whether you run into a minor glitch at work or meet with a major personal loss, you will face adversity.
Refusing to accept that something has gone wrong is a normal first reaction, but avoidance isn’t a healthy place to live. When you accept that things can and will go wrong, you’re better equipped to adapt and overcome them when they do.
11. Build Healthy Connections
Having people you can talk to and count on for honest feedback is necessary to improve your emotional resilience. Everyone needs a friend to talk to once in a while. Being strong doesn’t mean you don’t need others, but it can mean you don’t waste your time on unhealthy relationships.
12. Practice Self-Care
People say that you can’t pour from an empty cup, which is certainly true regarding emotional resilience.
Taking care of your basic needs, like eating a healthy diet, getting enough exercise, and practicing good sleep habits, is just a start. Self-care includes saying “no” to the things you really don’t want to do and “yes” to the people and experiences that fill you up.
13. Expand Your Perspective
Being able to consider situations from another person’s point of view is the mark of a person with strong emotional resilience. You’re not always right, and even if you are, you can’t make most situations better by proving you’re right.
Sometimes, being compassionate, patient, or generous is the best reaction. When you are willing to expand your perspective to see another person’s point of view, you’re practicing resilience.
14. Cultivate Gratitude
There’s always something to be grateful for, even when things don’t go your way. Remembering to be thankful for the important things in life will help you be more resilient when difficult things come your way. Keeping a gratitude journal is an excellent way to cultivate a gratitude practice.
Gratitude journaling can be as simple as writing a list of things you’re grateful for at the end of each day. Or you can use gratitude journaling promptst to dig deeper into one specific thing you’re thankful for.
15. Reframe Negative Thoughts
Going through the day with negative thoughts like these looping through your head prevents you from feeling strong, positive, and resilient. When you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts, stop and take a moment to reframe them.
For example, negative thoughts like:
- “I never do that right.”
- “She always disappoints me.”
- “This will probably end in disaster.”
Can have positive counterparts:
- “I have improved how I do that.”
- “She has a lot on her plate, so I won’t take it personally if she cancels.”
- “I’m prepared for lots of challenges with this project.”
When you reframe negative thoughts into neutral or, better yet, positive thoughts, you are setting yourself up to be successfully resilient.
Journal Prompts for Emotional Resilience
Keeping a journal is one of the simplest yet most satisfying tools for self-growth. Journaling provides a record of your thoughts and behavior patterns so you can see where you need the most growth and remember what you’re doing well.
Setting aside some time to explore and cultivate emotional resilience in more depth can be helpful, especially through focused journaling. Here are a few journal prompts to explore your emotional resilience:
- What is a challenging situation I have overcome in the past?
- What strengths or resources did I draw upon to overcome this challenging situation?
- What did I learn about myself from this experience?
- How did overcoming this challenging situation contribute to my emotional resilience?
- How do I manage my emotions when I feel overwhelmed by stress or adversity?
- What coping strategies can I employ to help me better deal with stress?
- What lessons or insights have I gained from how I cope with stress?
- What was a recent setback or failure I encountered?
- How did I respond to this setback or failure emotionally?
- What is a negative thought pattern or limiting belief that may hinder my emotional resilience?
- How can I challenge or reframe this belief to cultivate a more resilient mindset?
- What is a self-care practice or activity that helps me replenish my emotional energy and foster resilience?
- How can I prioritize and incorporate more of this practice into my daily life?
- When was the last time I exhibited adaptability and flexibility in the face of change or uncertainty?
- How did this resilience mindset contribute to a positive outcome or my personal growth?
- When was the last time I received constructive feedback or faced criticism?
- How did I handle the feedback or criticism?
- What strategies can I use to maintain emotional balance and resilience in the face of constructive feedback or criticism?
- Who is a person or support network that has played a significant role in my emotional resilience?
- How have they supported me during challenging times?
- What qualities or actions from them have helped me build and maintain my resilience?
- What personal strength or quality do I feel contributes to my emotional resilience?
- How can I further cultivate and harness this strength in other areas of my life?
- What are three things I currently grateful for in my life?
- How do these things contribute to my emotional well-being and resilience?
Wrapping Up: Cultivating Emotional Resilience for a More Fulfilling Life
There are so many ways to start improving your emotional resilience. For some people, the idea of setting personal boundaries is terrifying, but if that seems easy to you, start there. Self-growth doesn’t have to be a slow, painful experience. Keeping a journal and spending time with supportive people are not only easy steps, but they’re also fun.
The benefits of improved emotional resilience are well worth the effort you put into it. Better resilience means improved emotional and physical health, stronger relationships, and more self-confidence. Remember, there is no finish line you have to cross to confirm you’re a resilient person. You’ll know you’re resilient from how you feel and behave and how others react to you when things are stressful.
The journey toward resilience is a life-long process, as as it involves continuous growth, learning, and adaptation. Embrace the journey, be kind to yourself during setbacks, and celebrate the progress you make along the way. By investing in your emotional resilience, you are investing in your overall well-being and setting the foundation for a more fulfilling and resilient life.
About the Author
Kristen Webb Wright is the author of three books on journaling. With a passion for writing and self-reflection, Kristen uses her experience with journaling to help others discover the benefits of documenting their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. In her role at Day One, she helps to promote the power of journaling so people from all walks of life can experience the transformative power of journaling.
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