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Emotional Resilience
Basic Information

Emotional Resilience

Stress is a fact of modern life - seemingly everywhere and all the time. There are so many sources of stress: caring for children, disabled persons and elderly parents, holding down a job, and making time for a social life are all everyday sources of stress. Added to these everyday stresses are extraordinary events such as deaths, serious illnesses, natural disasters and social upheavals that often occur randomly and without warning. It is easy to become frustrated by the great number of pressures that consume you on any given day. Over time, the cumulative effects of multiple stressors, small and large, can combine to wear you out before you've had a chance to get started.

Stress can overwhelm your defenses despite your best efforts at coping. In the short term, you may lose your temper, your blood pressure may soar, and you may even feel sick to your stomach. Over the longer term the cumulative nature of stress can keep you on edge long after individual stressful events ha...


Fast Facts: Learn! Fast!

What is emotional resilience?

  • To be emotionally resilient means to be able to spring back emotionally after suffering through difficult and stressful times in one's life.
  • Emotionally resilient people have a specific set of attitudes concerning themselves and their role within the world that motivates and enables them to cope more efficiently and effectively than non-resilient people.
  • Specifically, emotionally resilient people tend to:
    • Have realistic and attainable expectations and goals.
    • Show good judgment and problem-solving skills.
    • Be persistent and determined.
    • Be responsible and thoughtful rather than impulsive.
    • Be effective communicators with good people skills.
    • Learn from past experience so as to not repeat mistakes.
    • Care about how others around them are feeling.
    • Care about the welfare of others.
    • Feel good about themselves as a person.
    • Feel like they are in control of their lives.
    • Be optimistic rather than pessimistic.
  • These special beliefs and characteristics of resilient people help them to keep proper perspective, and to persist with coping efforts long after less resilient people give up.

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How does resilience work?

  • Emotionally resilient people don't know more or better coping skills than non-resilient people. Instead, they are better able to apply the coping skills that they do know compared to non-resilient people.
  • Resilient people believe that they have the potential for control over their lives and they believe that they can influence their situation.
  • People are able to make judgments and decisions regarding their emotional state, and to act on those decisions even when those decisions run counter to their emotional state. For example, frightened people can evaluate whether or not their fears are justified, and act against their fears.
  • Resilient people believe they can change their moods, and so they work to change their moods.

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What are the benefits to resilience?

  • Positive emotions (happiness, contentment, joy, etc.) are associated with healthy immune system functioning.
  • Negative emotions are associated with weaker immune function, greater production of stress hormones, and greater incidence of illnesses.
  • Sharing of positive emotions with others helps to bond people together, creating and maintaining strong, healthy, and caring relationships.
  • Caring relationships, in turn, provide social support which nourishes further emotional resilience, and positive feeling states.
  • The better you feel, and the more you share that positive feeling with others, the more you are able to draw upon the relationships you create through that sharing to create further positive feelings.

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What is emotional intelligence?

  • Emotionally intelligent people intentionally use their thinking and behavior to guide their emotions rather than letting their emotions drive their thinking and behavior.
  • People who are highly emotionally intelligent tend to also be highly emotionally resilient.
  • In order to become more emotionally intelligent, it is necessary to develop the following five skill areas:
    • Self-awareness involves your ability to recognize feelings while they are happening.
    • Emotional management involves your ability to control the feelings you express so that they stay appropriate to a given situation. This means using skills including maintaining perspective, being able to calm yourself down, and being able to shake off out-of-control grumpiness, anxiety, or sadness.
    • Self-motivation involves your ability to keep your actions focused on your goals even when you are distracted by emotions and to avoid acting impulsively.
    • Empathy involves your ability to notice and correctly figure out the needs and wants of other people.
    • Relationship management involves your ability to anticipate, understand, and appropriately respond to the emotions of others.

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How I can identify and manage emotion?

  • You can begin the process of identifying emotions by asking yourself questions that will help you understand the ways that emotion has affected you. Good questions to ask include:
    • What am I feeling now?
    • What are my senses telling me?
    • What is it that I want?
    • What judgments or conclusions have I made (and are they accurate)?
    • What is this emotion trying to tell me?
  • The answers to these questions are key to using your emotions to move toward your life goals, rather than allowing your emotions to use you.
  • Often, your body reactions suggest important clues to what you are feeling. For example, if your face begins to get warm while you are talking with someone, you may be embarrassed; if you have "butterflies" in your stomach, you may be nervous; and if your head pounds, your heart races, and you feel increasingly tense and hot, you are probably angry.
  • You can also learn to identify emotions based on the way they make you feel, think and act. For example, maybe certain memories come to the surface of your mind when you are feeling sad that aren't there at other times.
  • Consciously knowing what you are feeling and why may suggest steps you can take to help you change your feelings.
  • Understanding your emotions makes it possible for you to manage them so that they work for rather than against you.
  • If your sadness (or anger, or anxiety, etc.) would normally influence you to act in a way that might hurt yourself or someone else, becoming aware of that emotion can enable you to take steps to not act in that destructive way.

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What is happiness?

  • Researchers have found four inner traits that help people to have positive attitudes and to be content or happy more often than not.
    • Self-esteem - Happy people respect their value as human beings and have confidence in themselves. When times get tough, people with a solid sense of self-worth and a firm belief in their own competence are the very people who persist until the tough times have passed.
    • Personal Control - Happy people believe that they have control over what happens to them and they tend to believe that they are actively in charge of their own destiny rather than being a passive victim of fate.
    • Optimism - Happy people are hopeful people and they expect they have a decent chance to succeed when they try something new.
    • Extroversion - Happy people tend to be outgoing and sociable and they often find it a pleasure to be around others, rather than a chore.
  • You can strengthen your own habit of being happy by practicing it again and again.
  • As you become more and more comfortable acting happy, the phoniness will be reduced and the happy behaviors and attitudes you have been practicing will begin to feel more natural.

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What is optimism?

  • Optimism is the name given to the personality trait shown by people who tend to expect that good things will happen in the future.
  • The opposite of optimism is pessimism, which is the belief that bad things will happen.
  • Optimism helps to motivate people to take healthy actions that they otherwise would not bother with.
  • Optimism motivates people to change bad situations and to address problems early on before they spiral out of control.
  • Optimism improves a person's ability to develop friendships and supportive relationships because it motivates people to think that other people will like them.
  • Optimism affects the body at a physical level by influencing the immune system as research has found that optimists catch fewer contagious disease than pessimists.
  • Though the optimistic tendency to look on the bright side of things and to expect good things to happen is a good overall personality trait to have, it is not appropriate to be blindly optimistic in all circumstances.

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How can I become more resilient?

  • The first step usually begins with the awareness that stress can do damage in your life.
  • The awareness stage of change begins when you decide to learn more about becoming stronger and more emotionally resilient.
  • Seek out more information on stress management, and on various aspects of emotional intelligence and emotional resilience. The more you know going into the process, the easier it will be for you to achieve lasting and positive changes.
  • The preparation stage begins when you decide whether you actually want to make the effort to change yourself. It is also the stage in which you start making specific plans for what changes you want to make, and how you will accomplish those changes.
  • The specific goals you set should be based on your best assessment of your particular strengths and weaknesses and the goals should help you strengthen weaker aspects.
  • The action stage starts when you start working on accomplishing your specific resilience goals.
  • As you make your commitment to improving your coping and resilience skills, share that commitment and your plan with at least one other person as public commitments are easier to keep than private ones.
  • Don't try to do everything at once. Select one area that is the most important to you to work on first and plan several achievable, time-limited goals.
  • Breaking your larger goals into small achievable bits is the best way to successfully complete the change process.

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