Instability and anxiety abound in our world.
I suppose it’s always been that way. We all experience the loss of loved ones, jobs, health, etc. But since 911 I’ve felt a greater sense of uncertainty and disruption in everyday living. With the advent of Covid, it’s been even more difficult. Add to that the rapid technological change and political turmoil we experience and you have a formula that taxes our capacity to cope.
You may not be able to cure the world but there are ways of attaining greater internal stability and emotional resilience in the face of life’s uncertainties. As we get older we face greater health issues, the loss of friends and family, and even financial worries. With the right tools in place you can make it through the difficulties and even gain greater confidence. Adversity can be an opportunity for growth.
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What is Emotional Resilience?
Let’s start by defining emotional resilience.
According to the American Psychological Association, psychologists define resilience as
…”the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.”
It should be added that resilience isn’t only an individual matter. Your capacity to be emotionally resilient also includes a social dimension. Seeking and accepting the help of trusted family, friends, and professionals can be an important aspect to fostering resilience in the face of difficult circumstances.
To a great extent, resilience is a learnable skill. Some may have greater genetic and environmental advantages. But similar to physical fitness, nearly everyone can get into better shape. The ability to cope with stress is associated with longevity, lower rates of depression, and greater life satisfaction. Think of resilience as an emotional muscle.
Don’t underestimate your capacity to improve your ability to lead a resilient and creative life. Working on accepting change, maintaining a hopeful outlook, and learning from the past are all things that can foster greater resilience.
Here is a short video on resilience.
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How Can You Gain Greater Resilience?
There are many ways of expanding your capacity for resilience. I have listed below 7 ways of becoming a more stable and resilient person. They are not the only ways of doing so but are essential elements in your journey to molding a solid and resilient core.
1 — Social Connection
Relationships are an important aspect of helping you get through difficult times and successfully incorporate resiliency into your skill set. It’s good to know you are not alone. Fostering connections with family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and people with similar interests can provide not only comfort but also strength and the needed determination to face trying times. Joining local groups such as civic associations, faith-based groups, political organizations can bolster the sense that you are not alone.
Related: Resilience: Social Support Benefits
2 — Stop Believing Your Thoughts
Believing everything you think is often a great source of suffering and diminishes your ability to cope. Your thoughts are always with you. Much of the time these are negative thoughts that cripple your coping capacity. First thing to do is recognize your thoughts are not always true. They are often based on fears, anxieties, and worries and are not an objective account of the world or the problem you may be facing. One way to free yourself of the negativity is to practice noting the thoughts and let them go. Resist indulging them and believing them. Let them recede.
3 — Self Care
Taking the time to care for your needs is essential to developing a flexible and reliable resiliency. Self-care can include prioritizing your physical wellbeing, emotional health, mental acuity, and capacity for relaxation and stress management. Setting aside time to eat properly, exercising regularly, fostering self-reflection and emotional expression, and effectively managing stress through mindfulness and relaxation practices can provide a strong resilient foundation to your life.
4 — Fostering A Positive Attitude
Maintaining a positive attitude can be instrumental in developing and sustaining resiliency in the face of life’s challenges. In this regard, it’s important to reframe difficult situations as challenging rather than dark and pessimistic. Seeing situations as offering potential for growth and development leads to a greater capacity to solve or cope with those situations and circumstances. This kind of reframing fosters greater problem solving ability while opening up the potential of stressful situations to foster personal resilience.
Related: The Power of Positive Thinking
5 - Sustaining Physical Health
Being physical healthy is an important element in sustaining an ongoing and reliable resiliency. Physical strength and endurance bestows a capacity to meet challenges in a robust and powerful way. Exercise promotes neuroplacticity (BDNF), the brains ability to change and grow new cells that enhances your ability to function. Diet also plays a role. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, olive oil, polyphenols, and seafood is associated with increased stress management and greater emotional ability to handle distress. A well rounded exercise program (aerobics, anaerobics, and balance training) coupled with a Mediterranean diet can bestow positive outlooks, greater self-esteem, and ability to endure stress.
Related: The Resilient Diet
6 — Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
The feeling that you aren’t quite up to par or that you just don’t cut it can have a devastating impact on your ability to meet life’s challenges with confidence and hope. The 4 Ps of imposter syndrome people pleasing, perfectionism, paralysis and procrastination eat away at your ability to effectively solve problems and maintain a healthy attitude toward living. Overcoming this crippling mindset is an essential factor in positive change in your personal and social life, as well as your career satisfaction and success. The internal belief that you are a fraud and don’t deserve good things hampers forward motion. Believing in your self is a necessary part of fostering emotional stability and psychological resilience.
7 — Seeking Professional Help
Sometimes we all need some extra help to get us through. Our efforts at creating emotional resilience may come up short. It’s in these times that seeking professional help may be appropriate and be just what is needed to get on the right track. Finding a good therapist to work with may seem daunting. But in the end it will be worth it. Sitting from time to time with someone familiar with the issues of gaining emotional stability and resilience can be tremendously effective. It’s worth taking the time to seek out someone you feel comfortable with and forge a helpful and therapeutic bond.
Related: How Do I Find A Good Therapist?
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It’s important to prioritize resilience. The seven areas I outline above can act as guideposts in your journey toward acquiring greater resilience in facing the inevitable conflicts, struggles, stresses and uncertainties of life. It’s important to find your own path. Utilize the approaches that suit your personality and values. Developing adequate resilience is an on-going process. It’s an evolution that can deepen and set down roots in the rich soil of your body/mind. You don’t need to do it alone. Employ the help of trusted companions and professionals when needed.
Good luck on your journey.
If you any questions or concerns, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The information in this article is for educational purposes only and not meant to diagnose or treat any disease or health condition. Consult your medical provider about any medical conditions you may have.
Dr. Oliva, ND is the founder of the health and fitness website Transform Your Life. He is a New York State licensed Master Social Worker, a traditional Naturopath, a board certified Holistic Health Practitioner in addition to being a health and fitness writer.
He is a member of the American Naturopathic Medical Association, the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, the Society of Complementary and Holistic Practitioners, and the National Association of Social Workers. Dr. Oliva is a former Adjunct Assistant Professor of Sociology at Brooklyn College (CUNY), and director emeritus of the Brooklyn College Magner Career Center. He has earned certification in Mindfulness meditation from Molloy College.
Dr. Oliva received Zen meditation and Hatha Yoga training at the Ruah Institute as well as tutelage in Chinese Chan meditation under Master Sheng-Yen.