Emotional resilience is partially inborn, but it can (and should) be learned and developed. If you’d like to be able to handle life’s challenges (both major and minor) with greater ease, to grow from adversity, and to turn potentially negative events into positive ones, the following steps can help you to become more resilient to stress.
Time Required: Ongoing
Develop The Right Attitude
Resilient people tend to view life’s difficulties as challenges and respond accordingly with action, rather than with fear, self-pity, blame or a "victim mentality." While life can be very challenging, an important step in becoming more resilient is to develop positive self-talk and to remind yourself that you are strong and can grow stronger and more wise as you handle life’s challenges.
Part of resilience is emotional awareness; it’s important to understand what you’re feeling and why. Sometimes people feel overwhelmed with their emotions, and this frightens and immobilizes them. Knowing why you feel upset can provide valuable information about what needs to change in your life. It’s also important to do research on how to meet the challenges you face. Maintaining a journal can help you explore your inner world and come up with a plan of action.
Develop An Internal Locus of Control
Resilient people believe that they’re in control of their lives, and it’s true: while we can’t control our circumstances, we can control how we respond to those circumstances, and that makes a big difference in our attitudes and in the course our lives take. Fortunately, you can develop an internal locus of control.
Being an optimist is more than looking on the bright side (though that helps). It’s a way of viewing the world where you maximize your strengths and accomplishments, and minimize your weaknesses and setbacks. Developing a more optimistic world view can help you become more resilient.
Rally Social Support
While we ultimately face our own challenges, a supportive friend or group of friends can help lighten the load. Those with strong networks of social support tend to stay healthier and happier throughout life, and tend to cope well with stress. Conversely, those with little support may find themselves more vulnerable, and those with conflicted and unsupportive relationships tend to fare even worse.
Maintain Your Sense of Humor
If you’re able to laugh at life’s frustrations, you can have increased immunity, if you will, to stress and adversity. Those with a sense of humor about life tend to experience life as less stressful, are able to bond with others during difficult times, and experience the numerous benefits of laughter. If you can take a step back from difficult situations long enough to maintain your sense of humor, you will be more resilient, too.
Yes, you read right. Exercise has been correlated with stronger levels of resilience. This may be due to the effects of endorphins on one's mood, or the physical health benefits to those who exercise, or both. Regardless, adding a regular exercise habit to your lifestyle can benefit you in more ways than one.
Get In Touch With Your Spiritual Side
Studies have shown that those who are more spiritual tend to be more resilient as well. This doesn't mean that you can't be resilient if you are atheist or agnostic. But if you are open to it, reconnecting or strengthening your connection to your spiritual side can provide you with strength.
Don’t Give Up
While many people know of coping strategies that can help with stress, as with diets and exercise programs, the most successful individuals are those who maintain the effort for the long term. Don’t give up on your situation; don’t stop working toward getting through it. Trust the process.
- Be patient with yourself, and just do your best.
Bonanno GA, Galea S, Bucciarelli A, Vlahov D. What Predicts Psychological Resilience after Disaster? The Role of Demographics, Resources, and Life Stress. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. October 2007.
Southwick SM, Vythilingam M, Charney DS. The Psychobiology of Depression and Resilience to Stress. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology. 2005.