Resilience. We’ve all heard the word….but what does it mean? There are plenty of definitions out there, but my favorite is actually a very simple explanation credited to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic: “[to have resilience is to] improve coping skills so that you can handle life’s hardships better.”
Beyond that, something else that is less recognized about resilience is that it also allows us to better enjoy life’s wonders. When we possess resilience, we retain our grasp on the bigger picture even in the midst of momentary valleys…or peaks. In other words, when we develop emotional resilience, we learn to find a mid-point from where we can become mindful observers of as well as productive participants in our own lives. We can weather a storm because we know it will not last. And we can welcome a joy, even while knowing that at any moment, the winds might shift again and present a sorrow in its place.
In short, resilience brings steadiness into our daily life experience. It gives us hope and optimism during tough times, and hope and optimism during wonderful times too.
This is also why emotional resilience is considered to be a key facet in our developing emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, or our ability to identify, assess, and maintain our own emotional wellbeing within the larger context of encountering the emotions of others and groups we belong to, factors heavily into determining our chances of achieving life success.
The good news is that emotional resilience is a learned skill.
You may also find it reassuring and encouraging to know that one of the most valuable lessons I have learned from the difficult times in my life is that difficulty is often a gift in disguise.
When we successfully confront and navigate life’s unexpected challenges, we also receive the opportunity to gain strength and find new meaning in life. Interestingly, in developing emotional resilience we experience something akin to what happens when we break a bone – at first, the bone is fragile and takes some time to knit back together. But, once the new bone has completely grown in, the result is a bone that is stronger than it ever could have been before!
So now we will look at eight key characteristics that can help you develop emotional resilience:
A Sense of Hope and Trust in the World: When you are resilient, you lean into your belief in the basic goodness of the world when times get tough. You are vigilant about maintaining your trust that things will turn out all right in the end, and this positive attitude allows you to weather life’s storms by always seeking the ray of light peeking out through even the blackest of clouds.
Interpreting Experiences in a New Light: When you are resilient, you have developed the ability to look at a situation in a new way (a skill called “reframing”). This approach helps you to minimize the emotional impact a difficult situation brings. Resilient people take a creative approach toward solving a problem, and are willing to approach new challenges with optimism and an open mind.
Understand and accept emotional experiences: When you are resilient, you know that your feelings and emotions exist for a reason. Rather than judging your emotions and spending precious reserves of time and energy labeling them as “good” or “bad”, “necessary” or “unnecessary”, you instead channel your efforts into reading the road signs of your emotional map to find your way back to centeredness, peace, and wellbeing even in the midst of life’s unexpected and stressful moments.
A Meaningful System of Support: When you are resilient, you know that you can’t get through hard times without help. Furthermore, you are willing and able to tap into networks of support when you need help because you understand that isolation is not your friend during a crisis. Resilient people aren’t stoic loners. They know the value of expressing their fears and frustrations, as well as receiving support, coaching or guidance from friends, family or a professional.
A Sense of Mastery and Control Over Your Destiny: You may not be able to predict the future, but when you are emotionally resilient you can put aside that which you are unable to control and focus your attention on elements that are within your sphere of influence. Resilient people know that ultimately their survival and the integrity of their life values depend on their ability to take action rather than remain passive. Tough times call for you to tap into your own sense of personal responsibility and ability so that you can “be the change you wish to see in the world” (thanks, Gandhi!)
Self-Reflection and Insight: When you are resilient, you understand that your life experiences provide fertile ground for learning and growth. You use times of challenge as an opportunity to ask yourself questions and learn more about who you are and what matters to you. You know how to use your thoughts and feelings to gain insights you need to find your way through emotional distress to hope again. Resilient people learn from life situations and understand that the only sensible approach to challenge is to stay centered in the moment, where anything is possible.
A Wide Range of Interests: When you are resilient, you can always look around and find something new and interesting to focus your attention on. The wider your range of interests and activities, the more motivation you will have to do the hard work of maintaining optimism during troubling times. Your array of interests and relationships will also help you stay open to new approaches and perspectives for problem-solving. Resilient people have learned to productively channel some of the unavoidable worry and anxiety that hard times bring into rewarding pursuits.
Sense of Humor: When you are emotionally resilient, you know exactly how powerful a good laugh can be! By cultivating your ability to see the absurdity, irony, or genuine humor in a situation, you also rekindle your sense of hope and possibility during even the toughest situations. Humor has both psychological and physical benefits in relieving stress because it encourages a swift change in your perception of your circumstances—when your thoughts change, your mood quickly follows.
At Southlake Counseling, we understand that it takes time to develop emotional resilience, and that having the support of skilled and caring professionals as well as friends and family can be a tremendous support during times of emotional distress. Furthermore, we know that an ounce of preparation for the inevitability of life’s hard times can be priceless in terms of the message it sends to us each and every day that we are worth surviving and thriving for.
Southlake Counseling professionals are highly trained in a wide variety of modalities that are useful in developing emotional resilience, chief of which is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or DBT. Students of DBT learn four core skills to develop emotional resilience, including mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.
Southlake Counseling is the recognized leader in the Lake Norman area for DBT-based individual and group support – our commitment to providing superior quality DBT training is fueled by our commitment to helping you say “no” to emotional distress and YES to life lived in the presence of the hero within.
If you would like to learn more, please visit us at www.southlakecounseling.com today. We look forward to your call, email, or visit!