Emotional Resilience & Managing Stress

In today’s society, stress seems to be a normal occurrence; we tend to use that word almost daily to describe all sorts of situations, and it’s clear that our stress isn’t going anywhere. In fact, one in four Canadians cite stress as the reason for leaving their job, and 73%  of all working adults (aged 20 to 64) report at least some level of stress – and that’s just in the workplace! Situations that put pressure on us find their way into every aspect of our existence, from our family and social lives, health, and finances to all the unfortunate or unexpected occurrences that really throw us for a loop. Although we all experience grief, fear, uncertainty, and loss, it’s essential to get better at dealing with these things to build up our emotional resilience so these things don’t take us down, eat us up, or take away from all the important things we need to do and enjoy.

Building up our armour

Although it wouldn’t be terribly unusual for a toddler to have a tantrum because his ice-cream cone fell in the sand, if an adult did that, well…that’s a really big indicator that they struggle with emotional resilience. While we talked about mental resilience in an earlier blog, which highlights our ability to problem-solve, maintain focus and perspective, think of emotional resilience as the protective armour we surround ourselves with to keep us emotionally strong. Emotional resilience is all about how we handle stress and turmoil in our lives; and learning to handle it more effectively and calmly is an important goal.

Maintaining our defences

We all have varying degrees of emotional resilience – it’s all contingent on how we handle stressors at that specific time in our lives. Knowing that we will continue to face varying levels of adversity, it’s important to build on our emotional resilience at every opportunity.

Here are some of the key qualities or factors needed for having strong emotional resilience. These aren’t just for helping us cope with crises or difficulties, but think of them also as part of a prevention or defence system to better prepare us for whatever life throws at us:

  1. Emotional Intelligence – part of having emotional intelligence is recognizing our behaviours and the impact they have on others – so building on this can only improve our resilience.
  2. Positivity – finding the silver lining in a bad situation, or discovering more of our personal strengths we can draw on. It’s also about not wallowing in self-pity.
  3. Flexibility & adaptability – or in other words, go with the flow. Change is part of life – let’s ride the wave and know we’ll likely come out of it for the better.
  4. Support systems – it’s hard to go it alone, so don’t. By letting our friends and family know we need them during a tough time, we can find the support and resources to help pull us through.
  5. Focus & perseverance – it’s the ability to concentrate, push on, and not be derailed by adversity. We must pick our battles and keep our focus – and sanity – for the bigger things we may need to confront.
  6. Sense of humour – how many times have we said, “We’ll laugh about this one day”? Even during some of our scariest or saddest moments, the ability to laugh at the absurdity of it all keeps us grounded.
  7. Perspective – knowing what our role is in any situation, that most crises are temporary, and that we aren’t poor helpless victims is a really good start to gaining and keeping perspective.
  8. Learn from failure – this involves taking a good introspective look at ourselves and asking what we can do differently next time and owning up to our mistakes.
  9. Control – not only do we need to know when to take control and meet adversity head on, but just as importantly, we need to know what exactly is within our control.

Finally, when exploring our emotional resilience, it’s important to look at our overall health; we can’t be emotionally strong if we don’t take care of ourselves. The right amount of healthy eating, exercise, rest and a good work/life balance is essential to get through emotionally draining times. In fact, we put ourselves more at risk for stress when we don’t look after our spiritual and physical needs. The next time we’re faced with a doozy of a crisis, we’ll be a little more confident that we do indeed have what it takes to really showcase our emotional resilience and get through it intact.

“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.” ― Oscar Wilde