How to Build Emotional Resilience
2020 has been a challenging year, to say the least. I have seen memes about canceling this year because it has been “so bad”. Well, this year has been nothing like any of expected. We have been dealing with a global pandemic for over about half of this year and the racial injustice current is taking its toll. All of this generates emotions in us that we often refer to as negative (I like the term uncomfortable emotions better). We can feel powerless in the midst of all the emotions generated by these events. But, if we learn to bounce back, we become stronger in the long run.
You are probably saying, “bounce back from a pandemic, from racism? These big things are out of my control!” And in some ways you are right but there is so much we can do to take care of ourselves emotionally so that we can build resilience. While you are in the grasp of uncomfortable emotions, it may seem difficult to build any resilience to life’s less pleasurable experiences. It is possible, and I encourage you to keep that in mind. You can build resilience even during the toughest times!
How come some people give up and cry into a bottle, while others just pick themselves up, dust themselves off and carry on as if nothing happened? They’re called coping skills, and anyone can develop them.
Flexibility and adaptation are undoubtedly two outlooks that help people recover from bad situations. Whereas someone who may feel entrenched in their uncomfortable feelings finds it harder to remove themselves from those feelings and change direction, those who are willing to understand how to let go and change direction quickly, come out on top.
In a way, emotions are like quicksand. By seeing negative events in your life as flexible, short term situations, you can more easily move on. Let’s imagine someone who sees these negative events as a fixed point in space and time. To them, that disappointment they felt with themselves or that failure they felt, is a fixed point in their life. It’s always there. Nothing they can do will change the fact that there are failure and disappointment in their lives. Those who view situations as being temporary will be more likely to see the same situation as a speed bump in life’s rearview mirror.
So what can you do to help you adopt this outlook?
Ever poured paint or bleach into a bucket of water? The same thing happens to people who see their situations as a fixed point in life. If you only focus on what is going wrong, it starts to spread and color everything else. Try seeing new challenges as crayons that can be laid side-by-side with each other. One crayon might be missing the wrapper, the other might have been used so much that you can barely grasp it between your fingers. Some colors are more enjoyable and pleasant, compared to others. But all these crayons are useful.
To build emotional resilience, change the way you see things. But also change the way you see yourself during the crisis. If you think that you won’t make it or this is the end of you, then you will feel doomed. Your perspective is important. And then when you feel that your emotions are being highjacked, do some emotional self-care. Be kind to yourself. Nurture yourself. You can read more about emotional self-care in this article.
How would you handle these challenging events and any other hardship differently if you remembered that nothing lasts forever?
How would you feel emotionally if you focused on what you are learning through these times?
What would you conquer if examined the usefulness of every hurdle in your life?
If you want to build more resilience so you can bounce from hardships faster and always on the winning side, check out this worksheet on Resilience Traits.