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Emotional Resilience: Training Yourself to Cope

train resilience
Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pexels - Ann H.

Emotional resilience describes the ability to cope with crises without suffering long-term psychological damage. We’ll show you how to train your resilience so you can roll with the punches.

You’re probably familiar with these people: rock-solid types who don’t let anything get them down. If something bad happens to them, they pick themselves up again shortly afterward — they’ve even managed to stay calm during the global coronavirus pandemic. According to psychologists, these types of people have resilience. 

Emotional Resilience: Immune System of the Soul

The term resilience originates from materials science: flexible materials that return to their original shape after external impact are referred to as resilient. 

However, when applied to people, the term means even more. Emotional resilience means being particularly good at coping with the adversities of life or particularly stressful times, such as layoffs or unemployment, break-ups or divorce, time pressure at work, or family arguments. Emotionally resilient people are also capable of using the stress of crisis situations to grow and improve themselves.

Characteristics of Resilient People

emotional resilience
Getting knocked down is a part of life; how you deal with it is your own choice. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Unsplash - Brett Jordan )

Resilient people have certain characteristics that make up their mental and emotional resilience. Psychologists have summarized these in six factors:

  1. Acceptance: Resilient people can accept what has happened to them and see problems and crises as a part of life.
  2. Optimism: Never losing faith that everything will turn out all right is a common sign of emotional resilience. Thinking positively makes people confident and able to cope with difficult times.  
  3. Self-Efficacy: Belief in one’s own abilities and competencies is an important cornerstone of resilience. People with high emotional resilience are confident that they can manage and solve crises on their own.
  4. Personal Responsibility: Resilient people are willing to take responsibility for their lives instead of seeing themselves as victims of circumstances. They strive to proactively solve problems, even if they didn’t cause them.
  5. Network-Oriented: Friendships give people strength in crises. Building social relationships and openly accepting support and help in difficult times is an important part of emotional resilience.
  6. Solution-Oriented: Resilient people are oriented towards finding solutions and trying to implement them.

The foundations for emotional resilience are laid in early childhood, which explains why some people seem to be so much further ahead than others in this way. Nonetheless, it is still possible to actively train resilience as an adult.

Emotional Resilience Training 

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. Based on the six resilience factors, here are three tips you can use to train emotional resilience in yourself.

1. Accept Change as a Part of Life and Deal With Crises Confidently

Life doesn’t always go the way we expect it to — there will always be ups and downs that we don’t see coming. Mindfulness is a way to build acceptance. If you are mindful, you can get through crises without sinking into a black hole of negative thoughts and feelings. Moreover, acceptance promotes a life-affirming and confident attitude which helps build up an optimistic outlook. 

Utopia’s Tip: Train your emotional resilience through regular meditation. Meditation is one way to practice mindfulness based stress reduction – it allows you to both slow down thoughts and think things through more clearly. Anchoring yourself to the present is a great way to stay calm and avoid overthinking.

2. Believe in Your Abilities and Be Decisive

Being aware of your strengths helps you remain confident, even in difficult times. Think about ways you have overcome adversity in the past. Do you tend to see yourself in a negative light? Do you easily forget your previous accomplishments?

Utopia’s Tip: Start writing a success diary. Each evening, write down your successes of the day. When you’re feeling down, you can look back on all your accomplishments, and see your abilities in a different light.

3. Look for Ways to Solve Your Problems and Accept Help

Emotional resilience also means perseverance. Take your time and try to find as many solutions as possible to your problem, and write them all down. 

Utopia’s Tip: Choose one solution and take the initiative to implement it. Don’t be afraid to ask friends for help in difficult times; maybe one of them has been in a similar situation and can offer useful advice. Confide in your partner or family, and accept help when it’s offered. In serious cases, professional help may be the best solution. Having emotional resilience doesn’t mean you have to solve every problem alone.

Inner Strength vs. Toughening Up

emotional resilience
Take time to look back on your accomplishments and the memories that bring you joy. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pexels - cottonbro )

Some believe that the key to emotional resilience is “toughening up”: working harder, hanging in there longer, not letting anything get to you, or solving every problem on your own. Simply put, that isn’t true — toughening up can easily overwhelm you. The path to resilience is different: recovery.

The secret is in using your own psychological resources in a sustainable way. A smaller workload, less pressure to succeed, more breaks, and learning to say “no” every once in a while. 

Muscles need rest in order to grow. So in order to be prepared for hard times, it’s important to savor the good phases in our lives and to keep ourselves mentally healthy.

Part of training emotional resilience is taking time to enjoy the good moments in your life, whether it’s a good meal, time with your friends, or a beautiful sunset. You can draw on these memories when things aren’t going so well. At the same time, they can serve as mental relaxation and a temporary escape. 

Promoting Emotional Resilience

Actively solving your own problems and regular recreation is the best way to promote emotional resilience.

Every problem and every crisis in your life offers you the chance to grow and learn, so take this chance and solve your problems. Not only will this give you strength and self-confidence, but it will also train and strengthen your resilience. Learn to use your resources sustainably: use times without crises to recover and enjoy the best of what life has to offer.

This article has been translated from German by Karen Stankiewicz. You can find the original here: Resilienz: So trainierst du deine seelische Widerstandsfähigkeit

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