Emotional Resilience and how to better look after yourself
By Jules Fothergill – Feel Well Live Well Therapy
“Resilience never gives up…Fall down 7 times, get up 8”
– Old Japanese proverb
People – young and old alike, who I have worked with over the years and have suffered poor mental health, will ask somewhere along their journey – ‘why me, where has this come from, and what can I do to stop it from returning’…
In this month’s newsletter, I thought it would be good to look at how we can keep ourselves topped up, emotionally strong and resilient.
I thought we’d start by looking at some of the common characteristics that are present in emotionally resilient folk…
- Belief in oneself
- Can let the past go
- Are self-aware
- Are good communicators
- Have a positive mental attitude
- Are always learning
- Are good in adversity
- Don’t do self-pity
- Stick at things
- Don’t bear a grudge
- Are kind to others
- Keep strong boundaries
- Have a reliable network of friends or family
- Are flexible
- Know that things will get better
- Use positive self-talk
- Have a good sense of humour
- Are happy with their own company
- Have a sense of purpose in life
- Can look on the bright side of life – optimism and acceptance
- Practises Physical Wellbeing; exercise, nature, food and drink
So let’s look a little deeper at some of these characteristics and how they work…
Resilient Folk are Self-Aware… Being ‘blissfully unaware’ can get us through a rough spell, but it won’t help us long term. Being self-aware helps us to recognise what’s going on for us physically and emotionally. If we listen to our body and our mind it will give us clues and tell us what we need to know e.g too much stress and anxiety over work will often leave us with symptoms of tension headaches, or maybe that feeling of butterflies in our stomach. What we need to do, is distract ourselves and learn what soothes us. Perhaps it’s getting out and exercising, or listening to our favourite piece of music to ease our stress and worry. The self-aware folk are good at listening to the subtle cues their body and their mood are sending.
Resilient Folk have a Positive Network of Family and Friends… Resilient Folk tend to seek out like minded friends – sometimes called PLU’s or ‘People Like Us’. Often these people are good for support when times are tough, but are also up for fun and adventure when the times are good. These friends and family don’t need to be living in each other’s pockets, but are there when needed. They are usually good communicators and are happy to listen and give advice when asked. They are supportive, but give people the time and space to work out their own solutions to issues. Often they will offer up an opinion, but will not take offence if their idea isn’t taken up – they are confident enough to be themselves.
Resilient Folk look after themselves… Resilient Folk have learnt over the years how to look after themselves. Often this can be through trial and error – so having ‘burnt the candle at both ends’, learning what the downsides are and making life changes as a result. Sometimes they may create a mental or physical list of things that work for them, e.g be in bed by 10.30pm and get a good 8 hours sleep. It may be keeping themselves well mentally. E.g They’ve had a taxing week at work and they are going to have a quiet weekend, eat a healthy diet and do their favourite form of exercise. All of these habits are what help to keep resilient folk strong. They form good habits that help them to be the best they can be.
Resilient Folk Accept what they can’t Change. Tough times are tough, stress is stressful, and healing takes time. When we’re in it, we want the pain to stop and go away. Resilient Folk understand that stress/pain is a part of living that ebbs and flows. As hard as it is in the moment, it’s better to come to terms with the truth than to ignore it, repress it, or deny it. Acceptance is not about giving up and letting the stress overtake us, it’s about experiencing the full range of emotions and trusting we are strong enough to get through it and that we’ll bounce back.
Resilient Folk are Flexible – they think how they can do things differently. Folk that manage to do ‘grey thinking’ not ‘black and white’ tend to be more resilient. As we know, situations are rarely ‘cut and dry’, often it’s our perception, or our interpretation that needs changing. If we can manage to look at things from another point of view, or offer up empathy in situations, we find we get a better outcome. The same is true of our thinking – stubbornness usually boxes us into a corner, which we feel we can’t get out of due to losing face or pride. Try to always be flexible, see the situation from another’s viewpoint. Ask yourself – Can this situation be looked at in a different way that I haven’t been considering? Will it look differently tomorrow?
Resilient Folk know how to say No and keep Strong Boundaries. Resilient Folk have learnt that it’s ok to say no. Usually, so they don’t end doing something that bends them out of shape or pleases others. No – can be such an empowering word and resilient Folk use it respectfully. They also know when to hold a boundary. Personal boundaries are the limits we set in relationships that allow us to protect ourselves from being manipulated or enmeshed by emotional needy others. Resilient Folk make no apologies for using boundaries or saying no but rather see it as another form of ‘self-care’.
So in summary…
Resilient Folk generally have a positive attitude, where their glass is half full and they don’t let adversity beat them. Those that master resilience tend to be skilled in preparing for emotional crisis and are good at accepting what comes at them, with flexibility, rather than fighting it – “times are tough at the moment, but I know they will get better”. The old metaphor applies: resilient people are like bamboo in a hurricane, they bend rather than break. Or, even if they feel like they’re broken for a time, there’s still a part of them deep inside that knows they won’t be broken forever.
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