With it being Mental Health Awareness Week, it seems appropriate to build on our previous posts about stress. This post will look at how we can look to develop 'emotional resilience'.
Stress is a natural process within our body, its purpose is to get the body to respond to a threat, a response to an event, known as the flight or fight response whereby a cascade of processes involving the immune system work to protect, cope with and remove ourselves from a dangerous situation. This is often a good process and if short lived is a healthy response. It gives us our motivation and drive to achieve and accomplish tasks.
However, sometimes Stress can be detrimental and if chronic, it can influence our resilience, our emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.
At some point we all will suffer with stressful events in our lives such as dealing with traumatic events, unexpected bereavement, challenges at work, money worries…the list is endless.
However, why is it that some people can sail through stressful events with little effect at all, whilst for others it can be too overwhelming? Psychologists believe people who have emotional resilience tend to cope better during stressful events.
Resilience is our ability to be flexible to adapt and adjust to cope with changes within our environment or to a situation. It reflects our ability to maintain stable equilibrium; it is not about having a “carry on regardless” or “just get on with it” attitude. Emotional Resilience has been described as, “a personality trait and or due to genetics”. However, it is more complex than that and research has identified key characteristics of emotional resilience with it being suggested there are things you can do to help start to build and develop your emotional resilience.
Identifying the triggers
Self-awareness - Noticing the signs and symptoms, becoming more connected with your feelings, emotions and physical symptoms is key. It enables you to look into perhaps what may be the cause, so a solution may occur.
Problem Solving - The ability to assess the situation rather than running away, looking for solutions. i.e. if work is the key stressor, is there support at work to help? Maybe strategies to work smarter, not harder? Maybe changes to your workload or changes to your working hours. It could simple steps like prioritising your tasks.
Self-efficacy – Research suggests individuals with self-efficacy have greater emotional resilience. People who avoid blaming others and feel they are in control of their own destiny, who have self-belief are key qualities to emotional resilience.
Know your limitations! Sometimes we need help from others and that’s okay.
Talking to people; close friends, family or work colleagues. It may be that you need more professional support, recognising this helps to put things in place. Therefore discussing your situation with your GP to access services such like CBT, Talking Therapy or accessing online tools maybe useful.
Does your employer have an EAP (Employee Assistance Programme)?. These services can help with a wide variety of issues, not just work issues.
Try to be social, spend time with good friends to help restore some positivity. Research has shown positive emotions can reduce levels of distress. It may be joining a social network of people can be helpful. Reaching out for support is not a weakness, it is a strength and is a key strategy to make changes.
Staying active, exercising or finding interests/hobbies you enjoy
Being active is important; there is lots of research to support the benefits of staying active for good physical and mental health. Being active helps to reduce the affects the anxiety, reduces aches and pains, helps combat stress, brings focus, clears the mind and improves mood through chemical changes.
Doing some form of exercise can bring back that greater sense of control, increase self-esteem and confidence. Find an activity you enjoy, this will ensure you stick to it. It may be walking the dogs, dancing to your favourite music, cycling or swimming. It may be joining a group; tennis, rowing, yoga for example.
Taking a break, making time for yourself is important.
Learning a new skill
Learning a new skill can help develop emotional resilience. Whilst challenging yourself, it helps you build confidence, gives you knew skills and can bring new interests and purpose to life, which is imperative to aid positivity and restore self-esteem.
Relaxation, Mindfulness and Breathing
It may sound simple…relaxing, but often when in a persistent stressful state it can be hard. Taking time to relax, being mindful and breathing more effective is a great way to combat stress, manage anxiety, bring clarity, acceptance, calm the nervous system, harness your energy and promote healthier sleep. Often when our minds are overactive, it can be draining.
Here are some useful resources:
Avoid Risk taking behaviours
It is so common when we are feeling stressed to associate relaxing, with detrimental habits. Try to avoid drinking too much, smoking and taking drugs. Often these habits form more barriers to recovery, leaving you with side effects and the problems will still build. Drinking alcohol and caffeine can also make your anxiety symptoms worse.
Acceptance, Appreciation and Empathy
Accepting and understanding your situation and symptoms, allows you to accept your reality, enabling you to become in control. Turning negatives into positives and keeping your “Glass half full”.
Forgiveness: avoid putting pressure on yourself or others when you make a mistake. Allow and accept that mistakes happen and focus on how you can correct it. Be kind to yourself and empathize with others. Being empathetic has shown to help release Oxytocin, ‘the happy hormone’.
Appreciate and recognise what you have, what you have achieved, your surroundings and people in your life or positive elements of your work. Sometimes writing positive things that have happened or you have achieved that day are helpful or having a list where you can tick off things you’ve achieved. Goal setting can be useful, it’s important to just ensure your goals are realistic and perhaps broken down in stages.
Assertiveness: Having the ability to say no, make specific time out for “you” and time with friends, family and loved ones.
Eat Healthy: Try to avoid missing meals or eating a poor diet. Remember food is fuel for the mind and body. Try to maintain a varied healthy diet.
I hope this information has been useful and stay healthy!