Emotional resilience is sometimes referred to as hardiness, or emotional stamina. Physical stamina is at the top of many people’s agendas these days, but the emotional and psychological aspects are usually left to chance. Unless you are a top ranking sports person or athlete you probably haven’t given it much thought.
I was speaking to a friend and colleague who was grieving the loss of both parents. He said that of the past few months “I’ve been holding it together, I don’t know how, but I have.”
He wasn’t complaining. In fact he was celebrating new beginnings, but he also recognised that healing is an open-ended process that requires self-compassion and patience.
As we were talking, he listed, in a matter of fact way, the activities and routines that had enabled him to “keep putting one foot in front of another”. These included a demanding job in mental health care, looking after ageing in-laws, parental responsibilities, academic writing, putting together a conference on his specialist area, and much more. He also found the time for his own sadness, reflection, and acceptance of a new reality.
It struck me that he was talking about emotional resilience; the ability to recover from what life throws at us, and grow through the process. And trusting it; painful though tragedy is, we have a kind of alter-ego that can steer us through that part of our life, if we let it.
Possessing emotional resilience doesn’t mean avoiding difficulties or somehow, miraculously, having a problem-free life. In fact, emotional resilience is like baking; you can’t bake a cake in theory, you have to throw things into a bowl and mix and cook them. Some people do this intuitively, others feel they must follow a recipe. No matter how you go about it, and how good or bad the results are, without the ingredients and the right steps, no cake!
We can’t avoid the trials of life, but they are also what makes us, and life, what we and it are.
The great thing about developing resilience is that it is built on well-understood foundations. This means that you can break it down to study and develop one factor at a time. The main ones for enhancing emotional resilience are:
- A positive view of yourself
- Confidence in your strengths and abilities
- Caring and supportive relationships
- A capacity to make and execute realistic plans
- Skills in communication and problem-solving
- The ability to manage strong feelings and impulses.
If you’ve never approached your own resilience as a project, this list can seem a little daunting. But trust me, it can be done if you know the right steps to take.
You can learn how to develop your own resilience right here on my school. My course on nurturting personal resilience gives an in-depth online personal development programme you can follow up at your own pace.
Like all my courses, this one will give you practical tips and consolidation exercises. For now this is just a ‘heads up’ on what’s to come. It'll be launched soon so keep in touch. You can do that by signing up to my newsletter.