Building Emotional Resilience: 6 Ways to a Better Life

TLDR: Life can sometimes feel like a journey on a bumpy road in an old vehicle. Emotional resilience can act as a shock absorber in this journey. In this post, we are going to look at 6 strategies that have helped me to become more emotionally resilient and I hope they will help you too.  

Let us talk about the world for a moment.

Everything feels bleak.

You cannot turn on the news without getting bombarded with information that tells you that we are doomed.

It almost feels like traveling on a bumpy road in one of those old rackety red busses. You wish the journey will be over soon but the bus just slows down and then the road gets worse.

So, what do you do in a situation like this?

We know from our experience that worrying, complaining, or sulking does not help.

It just makes things worst.

What can help instead is building emotional resilience to help you with the journey of life.

Before we start, let me clarify that by mental resilience, I do not mean to address here things like depression or life-changing events.

If you are in a situation like that please seek help. We are fortunately in a period where the society is waking up to the fact that mental wellbeing is as important as physical wellbeing.

And help is just a phone call away.

Instead, I am going to talk about the rest of us who, in a strict sense, have everything intact but still cannot shake off that nagging feeling of doom.

As someone who stays alone and pretty much fends for himself, I often get this question, “How do you manage to stay positive.”

Well, I do not feel positive all the time. Only delusional people can stay positive all the time.

So, there are plenty of days when I get up from my bed and ask myself, “Why even try!”

But I have learned to acknowledge my feelings instead of denying them.

Acknowledging my feelings has helped me build some amount of emotional resilience that comes handy while managing the ups and downs of life.

I think of emotions as something that will hit me and then pass over. Like a big wave of water or a gust of wind.

Instead of being overwhelmed by my emotions I try to look at them objectively.

I know that it is easier said than done.

But with practice, over time, you can develop emotional resilience as a skill.

While you are in the grasp of strong negative emotions it may seem difficult to build any mental resilience to life’s less pleasurable experiences.

It is possible though, and that is a thought you should bear in mind if you are experiencing negative thoughts often.

Therefore, in this post, I am going to talk about a few strategies that have helped me to become more emotionally resilient and I hope they will help you too.

Taking control of your life will help you build emotional resilience

Taking control of your life will help you build emotional resilience
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Taking control of your life seems to be an ambitious goal and a somewhat pompous thing to say on my part.

As if it is as easy as turning on a switch.

It is not.

I understand that and I am not talking about some overnight miracles or manifestation magic.

Instead, I am talking about small things that are in your control.

Like making your bed every morning, going for a 15 minutes’ walk a few times a week, saving a few bucks every month, meditating 5 mins a day, eating healthy meals a couple of times a week.

On the surface, these changes seem to be insignificant but somehow it changes your self-identity and makes you emotionally resilient to the ups and downs of life.

Small accomplishments compound and that puts you in an upward trajectory.

Mental resilience is about counting your blessings

Mental resilience is about counting your blessings
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In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Life is not fair.

Bad things happen to good people.

But ever wondered, how come some people give up and cry foul, and blame everyone while others just pick themselves up, dust themselves off and carry on as if nothing happened? How do they manage to be emotionally resilient to these challenges?

The key is to look at the good things going in your life.

Look back at your past and find things that you thought to be the absolute worst thing that happened to you but in the long run, turned out to be blessings in disguise.

In the winter of 2004, I was doing my internship in a small sleepy industrial setup in Pune, as a part of my MBA in HR.

Everyone in the team said that I was doing a stealer job and I should definitely get a pre-placement offer.

But when the time came, I was not even asked.

The offer went to one of my fellow interns.

To make the matters worse, she declined the offer, and I was still not considered.

The offer went to another intern who worked with the organization about a year back during her summers.

I was devastated.

My next interview was with a BPO for the role of an HR executive.

During the Group Discussion (GD) round I felt that I did quite well.

GDs were never my strong point and to the date, I feel there’s little value in hosting a shouting match unless you are recruiting fishmongers.

I digress.

At the end of the round, my classmates told me that I was incredibly good.

But, to my surprise, I was not shortlisted.

And today, I can say with confidence that those rejections are the best things that happened to my career.

I would have failed miserably as an HR professional.

Those failures put me in a trajectory that allowed me to discover the world of online marketing, start-ups, and content.

Things I discovered later that I am passionate about and good at doing.

So, today, whenever I feel that I did not get something I thought that I deserved, I look back at those scenarios from my past and it gives me the strength to keep moving forward.

In short, those past failures helped me to build emotional resilience to the disappointments life throws at me.

Cultivate an inner circle who will help you develop emotional resilience

backlit dawn foggy friendship
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“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”– Walter Winchell

Your inner circle is not just your friends with whom you have a good time hanging out.

These are the people with whom you almost have a spiritual connection.

Maybe you do not talk to them every day, but like magic, they know if something is wrong with you and you know if they need you.

These people are extremely hard to find.

To find them you must learn to give unconditionally.

You will be disappointed at first. And then you will learn that the whole point is about not having any expectations when you make a friend.

They do not have to be your peers or from the same age group.

Some of my closest friends are 20 years younger to me and some are 20 years older.

These are the people who will stand by you in your darkest hours.

So, believe in serendipity and be on the lookout for your soul connections.

Build mental resilience by learning to adapt

brown book page
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The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.”― Robert Jordan

Flexibility and adaptation are undoubtedly two outlooks that helped me recover from negative situations.

I started my career in the e-learning industry and after two years I joined a well-funded start-up.

This decision was supposed to be a career-defining moment.

But things did not go as planned.

After almost five years when I moved out, I almost had nothing.

What I had was my skillset.

During that period with the start-up, though my main responsibility was to manage e-learning delivery, I actively built my skills in Digital Marketing.

I used my flair for content writing and combined them with my Digital Marketing skills to deliver results that counted.

Even today, I continuously keep learning new and diverse sets of things, ranging from Photography, Speed Reading, Design Thinking to AI in addition to enhancing my core skills.

And that gives me a sort of calm confidence that my life is not dependent on a single employer.

In short, my self-identity is not tied up with my job.

Be Hopeful: Things are never bad as they seem to be

left hand
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Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.― The Shawshank Redemption

Put simply; hope is the ability to see the opportunities in the crisis and the good about to come our way.

Hope is about optimism and the idea that the bad things are not going to last forever.

Whereas someone who may feel rooted in their negative feelings finds it harder to remove themselves from those feelings and change direction, those who are willing to see emotions as things that grip them tighter the more they focus on them and understand how to let go and change direction quickly, come out on top.

In a way, emotions are like quicksand. More you struggle deeper you get into it.

By seeing negative events in your life as flexible, short term situations, you can move on more easily.

Most of us see negative events as a fixed point in space and time.

It is always there.

We let our past failures define our future.

On the other hand, those who view situations as being temporary will be more likely to see the same situation as just a speed bump in life’s rear-view mirror.

So, what can you do to help you adopt this outlook?

Ever poured ink into a glass of water?

That is how negativity works.

When one bad thing enters your life, it starts to spread and color everything else.

Instead, try viewing obstacles and opportunities as crayons that can be laid side-by-side with each other.

Do not dwell on the fact that you didn’t manage to exercise today, but see that you did manage to exercise a few times and you are not going to let a temporary setback prevent you from trying again tomorrow.

Just because you did not get something done the first try does not mean that you will not get it done at another point in the future.

No one gets everything right at the first try.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Be Intentional: All or nothing mindset is an enemy of emotional resilience

yellow bokeh photo
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The key is not to prioritize your schedule but to schedule your priorities.” Steven Covey

The biggest roadblock in developing emotional resilience is the “all or nothing” mindset.

Instead, learn to do tiny steps, but with intention and conviction.

Love to watch Netflix?

Go ahead by all means. But be intentional about it.

For example, I watch 20 minutes during my lunch break and probably another 45 minutes or an hour in the evening. I read reviews and only watch the shows that I know will be worth my time.

Learn to take a day off.

Once you start your self-improvement journey it can be tiring. There is always this nagging feeling that you should be doing something useful.

But your brain is an energy-saving machine. It does not want to do hard things all the time.

So, take a day off in a week and do whatever you want to do.

Spend all day in bed, binge watch Netflix, eat unhealthy food, or do all of it.

The day off will allow you to be more emotionally resilient to life’s temptations and over time you will notice that you don’t even want to indulge in all those habits.

Even if you have the opportunity…

The same goes for your financial habits.

Want to buy that latest phone?

Go ahead, but not at the moment you feel the impulse.

Plan for it and buy it when you feel absolutely confident about your decision.

During the last two months, I bought a new laptop, a new phone, wireless buds, and a tablet. That is a lot of purchase for someone who preaches a frugal lifestyle.

But the difference is that I felt the need to get these items about a year back. I waited for a year to be 100% confident that these things will add value to my life.

And when the time came, I bought them without blinking an eye lead and without an ounce of guilt.

Conclusion

Life can often feel like a never-ending bumpy ride if you do not develop the shock absorbers in the form of emotional resilience.

Emotional resilience helps you move past negative experiences and be hopeful about the future.

Emotional resilience is a skill.

It is a mental muscle.

And like every skill it needs practice.

The more you practice, the better you get at it.

Therefore, in this post, we discussed six strategies that will help you to build emotional resilience and face an uncertain future with confidence.

Let me close the post with this quote from Steve Maraboli.

Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.

Thank you for reading.


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Shyamanta

Employer Branding, Corporate Communication, and Social Media professional with nearly 16 years of experience across global corporations, funded start-ups, and nonprofit.

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