6 Strategies to Help Build Mental and Emotional Resilience

6 Strategies to Help Build Mental and Emotional Resilience

Stress, challenges, and struggles are part of life. It’s not possible to eliminate them, but it is possible to learn new skills to cope, to manage difficulties, and to build resilience. Increasing attention in both the academic literature and popular press has helped people to realize the importance of this skill.

What is resilience? Put simply, resilience is the ability to bounce back from something challenging or difficult. It’s knowing that you can get through that experience, that you will grow from it, that you can cope and move forward. Everyone is resilient to some degree, though level of resilience does vary between people. The good news is that you can make an effort to increase your resilience and strengthen that part of yourself.

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”

— Vince Lombardi

Resilience is related to grit, which is another character trait. Grit reflects perseverance and stick-to-itiveness. It’s not giving up easily. It’s having passion and using that passion to push yourself to meet your goals.  Resilience and grit are now considered to be more important than never failing or experiencing challenges. Stress researchers have found evidence of the fact that getting through challenges ultimately makes you stronger–this is called good stress or “eustress”. It indicates that effectively coping with adversity is an important quality for both mental and physical health.

6 tips for enhancing your mental and emotional resilience

  1. Slow down. One of the things that can be most helpful is to pause and be patient. Allow yourself some time to react. Know that you may not immediately be able to see the situation clearly, and that’s OK. Taking some time to decide your next move will allow you to put whatever has happened into perspective and allow you to reflect on how you want to proceed. Distancing from your automatic thoughts or reactions allows you more space to make a clear-headed reaction. It’s too easy to rush into action or a decision and then regret it later because you didn’t really check in with yourself. Depending on the situation, sometimes it’s helpful to talk to others to get their input.
  2. Never give up. This is the grit piece mentioned above. Resilient people can sometimes seem stubborn because of their relentlessness and passion. But in life, working hard and focusing your energy to meet your goals is important and goes a long way. Try and try again. Just because you failed once doesn’t mean you can’t succeed in the future.
  3. Related to perseverance, have optimism and hope. Look on the bright side. Sometimes this is hard, but challenging your negative thoughts can help. Thought records or journaling can help you see that you aren’t looking at all sides or aren’t seeing the silver lining.  One simple practice is to take a few minutes before each night to jot down something for which you are grateful. It can help you build optimism and positivity.
  4. Spend some time identifying your values, and live with purpose and meaning. Previous blog posts have discussed values identification. This process can help you to build resilience because when you are focusing on things which are important to you, you will be better able to cope with struggles and press on. We are naturally more willing to work hard to stick with things that are critical to our sense of self, that have meaning and value.
  5. Practice acceptance. When you have a challenging experience that gives rise to negative emotions, acknowledge them. Mindfulness practice is a good way to develop the ability to sit with these emotions, ignoring the urge to push them away. You’re not saying that you approve of what happened, or that you’re happy about it, you’re simply noticing and labeling it. Tolerating it and letting it co-exist with you.
  6. Make sure your cup is full by attending to self-care. This includes things like getting enough sleep, getting exercise, eating healthfully, etc. Whatever you have found helps you to regulate your emotions. Perhaps it means seeing friends, or engaging in hobbies. You will be much more able to bounce back from challenges if you are in a good place, and practicing self-care and making that a priority can help.

Building resilience takes time and effort, but you can do it. Keep it simple, work on one thing at a time, and be mindful of your intention to improve yourself. That attention can help you reach your goals.