Why Emotional Resilience Is a Trait You Can Develop

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Those with a higher degree of emotional resilience can handle the stresses that come with daily life more effectively and calmly. They are also able to manage crises more easily. Fortunately, emotional resilience is a trait that can be developed. In fact, it's a trait that is worth developing for many reasons, not the least of which is that it can transform your life and your experience of stress.

What Is Emotional Resilience?

Emotional resilience refers to one’s ability to adapt to stressful situations or crises. More resilient people are able to "roll with the punches" and adapt to adversity without lasting difficulties; less resilient people have a harder time with stress and life changes, both major and minor.

Research shows that those who deal with minor stresses more easily also can manage major crises with greater ease. So, resilience has its benefits for daily life as well as for the rare major catastrophe.

What Influences Emotional Resilience?

Emotional and physical resilience is, to a degree, something you're born with. Some people, by nature, are less upset by changes and surprises – this can be observed in infancy and tends to be stable throughout one’s lifetime.

Emotional resilience is also related to some factors that aren't under your control, such as:

  • Age
  • Exposure to trauma
  • Gender

However, resilience can be developed with some effort and practice. If you know what to do, you can become more resilient, even if you are naturally more sensitive to life’s difficulties.

Traits of Emotional Resilience

Resilience is not a quality that you either do or do not possess; there are varying degrees of how well a person can handle stress. Still, there are specific characteristics that resilient people tend to share. Here are some of the main characteristics.

Emotional Awareness

People with emotional awareness understand what they’re feeling and why. They also understand the feelings of others better because they are more in touch with their own inner life. This type of emotional understanding allows people to respond appropriately to others and to better regulate and cope with difficult emotions such as anger or fear.

Perseverance

Whether they’re working toward outward goals or on inner coping strategies, they’re action-oriented—they trust in the process and don’t give up. Resilient people don't feel helpless or hopeless when they are facing a challenge. They are more likely to keep working toward a goal when they are faced with an obstacle.

Internal Locus of Control

They believe that they, rather than outside forces, are in control of their own lives. This trait is associated with less stress because people with an internal locus of control and a realistic view of the world can be more proactive in dealing with stressors in their lives, more solution-oriented, and feel a greater sense of control, which brings less stress.

Optimism

Resilient people also see the positives in most situations and believe in their strength. This can shift how they handle problems from a victim mentality to an empowered one, and more choices open up.

Support

Social support plays a critical role in fostering resilience in addition to improving overall mental well-being. While resilient people tend to be strong individuals, they know the value of social support and can surround themselves with supportive friends and family.

Sense of Humor

People strong in emotional resilience can laugh at life’s difficulties. This can be a tremendous asset, as it shifts one's perspective from seeing things as a threat to seeing them as a challenge, and this alters how the body reacts to stress. They also get a good laugh more often, and this brings benefits as well.

Perspective

Resilient people can learn from their mistakes (rather than deny them), see obstacles as challenges, and allow adversity to make them stronger. They can also find meaning in life’s challenges rather than seeing themselves as victims.​

Spirituality

Being connected to your spiritual side has been linked with stronger emotional resilience, especially if you're internally connected and not just going through the motions of attending services. (This doesn't mean that people who aren't spiritual can't be resilient, only that this connection has been found.)

How to Build Your Resilience

There are steps you can take to improve your resilience. These include:

  • Build connections with other people. Prioritize your relationships and reach out to others by joining community-based groups in your area. 
  • Manage your thoughts. Work on maintaining a hopeful outlook and accept that change and setbacks are part of life. The important thing is to keep working toward your goals.
  • Take care of yourself. Foster wellness by taking care of your mind and body. Eat well, stay physically active, and avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms.

If you are struggling to overcome a traumatic event or setback, talk to your doctor or mental health professional. A therapist can help you learn and practice coping strategies that can foster greater resilience in the face of life's challenges.

A Word From Verywell

As mentioned, emotional resilience can be developed. And because stress and change are a part of life, there are always opportunities to practice resilience—the payoffs are significant. All it takes is an interest and commitment to the process and a little information on how to develop and strengthen traits of resilience.

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