Building Emotional Resilience

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Building Emotional Resillience

By Tarah McShea

Resilience is the term used to describe an individual’s ability to “bounce back” from stress and adversity. Resilience is not something we are born with. It is something we learn through practicing positive coping skills. 


Below are important ways we can strengthen our ability to overcome adversity and thrive as women and mothers.


Develop our emotional vocabulary 

One of the best ways to build resiliency is by developing our emotional vocabulary. Any challenging situation can bring up a plethora of emotions. When we can name and acknowledge each emotion, we are better able to process that emotion and begin healing. It is often not the situation itself that is the most difficult to overcome; it is the emotional response we have to the situation that is challenging to navigate. 


One way of expanding our emotional vocabulary is by journaling. Journaling is a healthy way of expressing ourselves and “getting it all out” without judgement -- getting out all the feelings and emotions attached to an experience or event. Fear, guilt, shame, embarrassment, overwhelm and helplessness are just some of the emotions we can feel in difficult times. The more emotions we can identify and explore on paper, the better we are able to understand our feelings and shut-off the part of the brain that mediates fear and anxiety. By identifying and labelling the emotion, we are better able to see the cause of pain and find solutions.


Re-framing 
Once we have developed our emotional vocabulary, we can begin to practice ways of re-framing our thoughts and experiences. Re-framing allows us to look at our feelings or experiences objectively and wholly, then gives us an opportunity to challenge the way we think and feel.

An example of re-framing might look like this:  

“I am so anxious again and I’m never going to get rid of this anxiety.” 

Re-framing this statement might look something like this: 

“I’m feeling anxious right now and that’s ok. With each experience I am strengthening my ability to cope in these situations.”


Another example might be when we are exhausted and overwhelmed.  In these times we often say to ourselves, “This is too hard, I am not coping, I can’t do this.”  Try and take a deep breath and re-frame this statement to: “I feel stressed in this moment. I am building the skills necessary to handle stress better. I am getting better at this each day.” 

There are many examples of negative self-talk, catastrophizing and “stories” we are playing to ourselves throughout our day that are not founded in any real facts. We need to develop our self-awareness to identify and challenge these negative thought patterns. 


Look for positive ways in which you have dealt with a similar situation in the past or did something despite your fears and use that information to help solidify your new statement.  

Try this statement next time: “I can do hard things, I have done hard things before, I am strong.”


Mastery 
Do you feel powerless regarding life’s hardships or do you feel like you have control and influence over the things that life throws at you? Do you find it hard to let things go or move beyond life’s difficulties?

Firstly, it is important to realize that we all experience difficulty, hardship, trauma, pain and suffering at some point in our lives.

What strengthens our ability to overcome adversity is referred to as self-efficiency or mastery. This essentially refers to the degree to which an individual perceives themselves as having control and influence over life circumstances. 

How do we build self-efficiency? Mastery of a skill or task plays a key role in building self-efficiency. Another is positive self-talk and affirmations -- making sure we maintain a positive and not critical view of how we complete a task. There are so many fun skills we can master like reading a book from front to back, knitting a scarf, completing a difficult puzzle, painting, repairing furniture, drawing, playing an instrument or learning a new language. You could even try mastering the skill of speaking up for yourself!


Social support & Positive relationships 

Social support and positive, strong relationships are important protective factors that have a huge impact on our happiness and wellbeing when we are going through trying periods. In fact, social support is a major buffer of postnatal depression. Good social support and positive relationships help us to feel less alone and help us cope with stress.


There are lots of ways in which we can build our support networks, but firstly we need to be vulnerable and ask for support. Asking for help and support is not a weakness, but an essential part of our happiness and wellbeing.


Mindfulness 

This leads us to our final and most important point -- the practice of mindfulness.  After a stressful, traumatic or challenging experience, our minds can be hyperactive (to say the least).  Mindfulness helps us stay in the present moment, reduce rumination, increase focus and concentration and calm the “monkey mind.”


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Photo by Lidya Nada on Unsplash