7 Steps to Building Emotional Resilience

Person stands in field of sunflowers with arms outstretchedMany of us spend a significant amount of time and effort on how we appear on the outside. We get haircuts; buy clothes, jewelry, and cosmetics; and even opt for expensive and painful medical procedures to maintain an image of youthful resilience.

But what about our internal resilience?

While physical appearance is important to many of us to varying degrees, our mental and emotional resilience may be a better predictor of health and quality of life in the long run. Since it is never too early to start making a concerted effort to build emotional resilience, here are seven ways you can begin to bolster your internal strength.

1. Spend Time with Positive People

Have you ever left someone’s company and noticed hurt feelings, tiredness, or general upset but couldn’t put your finger on why?

When you are surrounded by negative and unhappy people, their energy and words can affect you. Next time you are out with friends, pay attention to the words that are spoken, and whether there are critical or toxic vibes present but unspoken. You may decide it’s time to take a closer look at certain relationships.

2. Appreciate Your Job

We can’t all be lucky enough to have found or created our dream job right out of the gate. But it’s important to, at the very least, find some reason to like your job.

Even if you are not in your ideal situation, can you find redeeming qualities to focus on while you work to move up the ladder (or find a new ladder)? Maybe you loathe the work but enjoy your colleagues. Or perhaps the location is close to home, a restaurant, or a gym you like to frequent. Or it could be as simple as your job providing you with the income you need as you continue to develop other interests.

Find a way to draw energy from the positive aspects of your work, even while knowing your situation may be temporary.

3. Take Exquisite Care of Your Body

I know you’ve heard it a million times. Eat right, exercise, etc. What does this have to do with emotional strength? When you take exquisite care of your body, which encompasses movement, nutrition, healing touch, grooming, hydration, and adequate rest, you are sending a message to yourself that you are cared for—and so very worth it.

4. Cultivate a Spiritual Practice

Does this mean church every Sunday or observing religion by wearing a certain kind of clothing and adhering to dietary restrictions? Absolutely not. I am not referring to a spiritual practice in the organized religion sense, though if that floats your boat, go right ahead.

A true spiritual practice can mean regular walks in nature, making art, a few moments of peace and stillness when you wake up before reaching for electronics, or tending to the children.

Meditation, yoga practice, or listening to soothing music can all become a spiritual practice. Keep your mind open and see what you feel drawn to. You may surprise yourself.

5. Become Your Own Best Friend

The idea of being alone—at a restaurant, at a movie, or at home—can be intimidating for some people. If that describes you, it may help to write to yourself each day in a journal. Strange as it may sound, you may just need to get to know yourself a little better.

We live in an age when we can be always connected to someone, any time of day or night. It is easy under these circumstances to lose a sense of yourself, your preferences, your truest desires. As you become better acquainted with yourself, you may come to enjoy that cup of coffee all by yourself. No friend, no phone … just you.

6. Examine Your Thought Habits

When we get down to the specifics of what some people in therapy are actually saying to themselves, they are shocked! They would never speak to another person like that.

Find ways for you to counter the negative thoughts by replacing them with positive ones.

We have become so accustomed to critiquing, berating, and even verbally (thoughtfully?) abusing ourselves. Try to imagine yourself as a child. Would you speak to that child the way you speak to yourself?

Find ways for you to counter the negative thoughts by replacing them with positive ones. If that feels uncomfortable for you, that is a sign you need to spend more time exploring your thought habits.

7. Make the Changes You Want to See in Your Life

I meet very few people who are perfectly content with exactly how life is and wouldn’t change a thing. We are wired to strive, aspire, and have hope for an ever brighter future. However far away and elusive that future may be, start.

Take one small step today, whether it is buying a book on the subject, reaching out to someone to ask about their work, or going to bed earlier. Whatever your goals for yourself, just put one foot in front of the other. Begin now. Regardless of the outcome, you will be building on your emotional resilience for the rest of your life.

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Alena Gerst, LCSW, RYT, GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Wayne

    August 9th, 2016 at 11:15 AM

    I decided a long time ago that life is definitely too short to spend it surrounded by people with only negativity in their hearts.

  • Alena

    August 10th, 2016 at 9:48 AM

    Wayne, so true!

  • Mitchell

    August 9th, 2016 at 2:16 PM

    Body positivity is the key to my happiness and I learned that through a lot of hard work and yes getting in with a good fitness trainer. That has helped me to become a much more positive person all around as well as looking and feeling my very best. For me it was the little extra push that I needed to be happy with me, happier with my life really.

  • Alena

    August 10th, 2016 at 9:48 AM

    Thank you Mitchell. Yes sometimes it takes that one small (big) step to make all the difference. -Alena

  • Dee

    August 10th, 2016 at 9:28 AM

    I don’t even like myself half the time- how will I veer expect anyone else to like me?

  • Alena

    August 10th, 2016 at 11:56 AM

    Hi Dee, Please see tips 5 and 6. Those would be especially relevant for you. -Alena

  • Stefan

    August 11th, 2016 at 7:29 AM

    Just what I needed to stumble across today-
    thanks for sharing!

  • Alena

    August 11th, 2016 at 8:03 AM

    Glad you enjoyed it Stefan :) -Alena

  • John

    August 12th, 2016 at 5:29 AM

    I have always wondered why schools at any level do not offer classes on attitude or better yet, happiness. Great article.

  • Alena

    August 12th, 2016 at 9:59 AM

    Thank you John :) -Aelna

  • Jo

    August 12th, 2016 at 8:04 PM

    Wonderful balanced and excellent guidance, thankyou very much. I find I need to be told often and encouraged even more often in all these areas

  • Alena

    August 13th, 2016 at 3:57 PM

    Thank you Joan. So do I! :). -Alena

  • Joan K

    August 13th, 2016 at 8:27 AM

    Sad you feel the need to apolarize and minimize faith and religion.

  • Alena

    August 13th, 2016 at 3:58 PM

    I’m sorry to learn that’s how I came across, Joan. Nothing could be further from the truth. -Alena

  • brian

    August 15th, 2016 at 7:49 AM

    Wear that Teflon coat and let it all just bounce right off of you!

  • Joseph Jurbala, lcsw

    August 20th, 2016 at 8:57 AM

    Nice well written article with very doable suggestions. I do agree with Joan K in that the line ‘floats your boat’ does not sound consistent with the nice flow and tone through the rest of the article. But good work.

  • Alena

    August 20th, 2016 at 5:18 PM

    Thank you Joseph. I appreciate the feedback. -Alena

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