How to Become an Emotional Resilience Superhero
Life is full of challenges, some more difficult than others, it’s how we respond to those challenges that matters most. Everyone has the experience of facing a challenge that was just out of their realm of control. Facing tough times like that can make us stronger, but how can you prepare for a crisis in the easier times?
“Emotional resilience” is how readily you can cope with stresses both small and large, and how well you can adapt to difficult circumstances in our life. Resilient people tend to be happier and teaching resilience to children can prevent depression, anxiety and increase grades in school.
Developing resilience helps you keep going when challenges, sudden or expected, make the going get tough. Research shows that natural aptitude is only a part of resilience, and it’s largely a learned skill which you can cultivate to turn yourself into a stress busting super hero.
- Get Clear About Your Purpose.
Developing resilience is a personal journey of learning your strengths and working on weaknesses. Everyone’s journey is going to be different but one of the most useful things you can do on that journey is get clear about your motive and your purpose. Without a strong purpose driving you through adversity you’ll quit or crumble. A strong awareness of purpose works like a lighthouse guiding you through the heaviest of storms.
How do you get clear about purpose? Think about who and what you care about day to day, and how you’d like life to be in the future. Ask yourself how you’d like to behave through whatever challenges you face. What’s motivating you? What are the values you want to express right now?
2. Everyday is an Opportunity to Improve.
Practicing awareness deliberately with low to moderate daily stressors will build resilience. Developing skills of being present, emotional flexibility and keeping focus on your values and goals in relatively safe environments helps when the stress level gets dialled up.
View small conflicts and daily trials as opportunities to develop your skills as they come. Be like a scientist running an experiment, and be curious about the results. Pay full respect to the successes – and focus also on the areas that have room for improvement next time – learning opportunities!
3. Thing Big Picture.
Get in the habit of paying attention to the things are going well in your life. Remind yourself of things you’ve enjoyed, that have been worth your while, and take time to be grateful for things you’re fortunate to have, friendship, food, and shelter. Getting in this habit before you’re under a time of stress will help you to maintain a broader awareness within a crisis.
People who view their crises as insurmountable problems are less likely to thrive, whereas framing something as a challenge makes it easier to work through.
5. Let Yourself Feel Things Flexibly.
We’re all capable of feeling a dizzying array of emotions simultaneously, even feelings that are seemingly contradictory. An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy skill is learning to ‘defuse’ from thoughts and feelings and notice other feelings in your rich emotional landscape. Research by Barbara Fredrickson, PhD shows that in a crisis resilient people are able to feel both traditionally positive and negative emotions simultaneously. They allow themselves to feel upset while also being able to celebrate the good things. Contrasting to that less resilient people are in crisis all of their emotions turn negative. When challenges strike let yourself feel a broad range of emotions, not just the negative ones.
For more here’s a great post by the terrific blog Barking up the Wrong Tree that summaries research evidence about life skills which we can use in everyday life. Here’s an article on building resilience by the American Psychology Association that we used in our research for this post.
Bonus! 6: Enlist the Aid of a Professional.
The psychologists at Brisbane ACT Centre can help you develop these skills and many more – so that you’re ready to face the challenges that crop up in life. If you wanted to run a marathon you’d train before the race so that you could perform at your best, and a good psychologist can help you just the same way. Working with an emotional resilience professional in the good times to help you work on your psychological flexibility skills can make the difficult times ahead a whole lot easier.
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