12 Reasons For Developing Greater Emotional Resilience
By Julia Thomas
Updated January 02, 2019
Reviewer Heather Cashell
Emotional resilience can see you through your darkest hours, but it doesn't happen just because you wish for it. It takes some time and effort to build it, and you may need help. Resilience offers many benefits for you now and in the future. Here are 12 reasons to get started building resilience skills that you can carry throughout your life.
What Is Resilience?
Resilience is the ability to endure and bounce back from hardship and adversity. Resilient families, communities, and urban centers come together in times of crisis. They not only survive difficult situations, but they work through the tough times to improve their situations.
Family resilience refers to the ability of a family or kin group to survive and thrive through difficult times and situations. When a family is resilient, they make meaning out of their crises. They maintain a positive approach to problems. They often place a high value on spirituality and encourage the ability to see problems in light of a higher purpose.
Resilient families are flexible, well-connected, adept at interpersonal communications, emotionally expressive, and cooperative in problem-solving. Also, they know what resources are available to them and are skilled at accessing those resources.
Community resilience refers to the abilities of communities around the world to use available resources to meet the challenges of the adverse situation. Developing community resilience may mean making it easier for older people to recover from natural disasters. This may be done by putting resources in place for them and letting them know the resources are there and how to access them. It might even involve face-to-face outreach to get the assistance of those people. This is just one example of how a community can prepare to come together in a crisis to provide resources.
Urban resilience refers to the ability of individuals, organizations, and businesses to survive, adapt, and grow through any situation. Resilient cities survive and thrive despite chronic stresses like high unemployment, high crime, and inefficient public transportation, and crises like natural disasters, disease outbreaks, and terrorist attacks.
Urban resilience typically begins with assessing risks, planning, and putting resources in place that will help when trouble hits.
Cyber resilience is the much-talked-about the development of plans, procedures, and resources to deal with cyber events. What is a cyber event? It's any attempted or successful attack, accident, or naturally occurring threat to the security of digital information. Cyber events can disrupt communities, cities, nations, and even the entire world. When individuals and institutions become cyber resilient, they remain more stable and reliable and protect individual privacy.
Resilience In Psychology
What the kind of resilience psychology experts refers to is emotional resilience. It's the ability to endure tragedy, trauma, and adversity and spring back to your usual mental health quickly and easily. When you have high emotional resilience, it takes you beyond any level of mental health you had in the past, allowing you to learn from difficult experiences and situations to become mentally stronger than ever before.
There are three types of psychological resilience. Inherent resilience comes from your genetic/biological makeup. It also includes what happened to you during the first seven years of your life and the family environment you were in at that time. This natural resilience provides a foundation you can build on throughout your life. Even if you aren't naturally resilient, you can still develop resilience any time later.
The second type of mental resilience is adapted resilience. This type of resilience happens on-the-spot when you're in a harmful situation or recovering from one. You quickly dust yourself off and jump back into life as soon as you find the courage to do so. You use adaptive resilience on your own, by accessing your inner and outer resources well when you need them. Again, you can build on whatever level of adapted resilience you might have already developed.
Finally, you can learn resilience over your lifespan. Learned resilience comes from living through difficult experiences and then recovering from them. It's the accumulation of knowledge you gained from adapted resilience. You can also learn resilience from other people, such as role models, resilience training instructors, and therapists.
Why Bother with Building Emotional Resilience?
Much of your resilience may build spontaneously as you move through your life. If it doesn't, you might begin to feel vulnerable, worn out with trying or weighted down under the burden of past traumas. Anyone, whether they're naturally resilient or not, can benefit from developing greater emotional resilience. Here are some of the reasons it's well worth your time and effort.
1. Reduced Risk Of Stress-Related Physical Illness
When you're psychologically resilient, you're less likely to become physically ill. The most common stress-related physical illnesses include gastrointestinal problems, heart disease, headaches, asthma, and diabetes. While the stress may not be the cause of the disorder (at least not the sole cause), stress can make them worse.
It's not the stressful situation that causes the problems, though. It's the way you respond to the stressor, and how well you bounce back, that makes the disorder more likely to start or get worse. Developing greater resilience, then, can put you on the road to better physical health.
2. Reduced Anxiety
Anxiety comes as a reaction to stress. How much better it would be if you could healthily respond to your stressors? When your resilience is high, you tend to get down to the business of taking positive action to improve your situation or overcome the past trauma or tragedy. You're more likely to set worry aside and focus on the ways you can affect the situation in the present. If there's nothing you can do outwardly about your situation, you'll change your thinking and approach to it if you have a high resilience. You adapt easily, and anxiety diminishes.
3. Reduced Depression
If your resilience is high, you won't dwell on negative aspects of adversity. Instead, you'll find ways to make your difficult situation benefit you. You'll look for ways you can learn from the situation if there's no way out of it, and you'll be more assertive in making changes when you can. You don't become depressed as easily, because you adapt and move on rather than getting stuck in despair.
4. You Might Live Longer
People who are very resilient tend to live longer than those who aren't. In one study, people who felt a strong sense of purpose lived on average seven years longer. A sense of purpose is a major resilience factor. In a survey of thousands of adults, 92% of the high-resilience adults felt their lives had meaning.
5. Less High-Risk Behavior
When you have low resilience, you're more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors like alcoholism, drug use, overeating, gambling, and putting yourself in physically dangerous situations. Why? You may take these "easy ways out" because you know no other way to deal with your problems. High-risk behaviors create more problems, not fewer. When you're more resilient, you feel less desperate to retreat into risky behaviors.
6. Fewer Absences From Work
As already mentioned, low resilience can cause physical illness, depression, anxiety, and lead to high-risk behaviors. All of these can keep you away from work. Either you don't go to avoid the symptoms of an illness, or you don't go because the symptoms immobilize you at home.
If your work environment is stressful, you may become extremely fearful about going back to that situation. So, why not choose an easier job? You can do that, but you'll need enough resilience to go out and seek the job as well as adapt to the new work environment.
7. Improved Learning Ability
Children under the age of 7 are busy learning about themselves, their family, and their world. Somehow, they learn the basic facts about the objects, people, and places in their environment well enough to function. How do they do it? Most of them can do it easily because they have great natural resilience.
With greater resilience, you're more comfortable trying new things and exploring your environment. Also, your reasoning isn't clouded by negative and mentally unhealthy thoughts. You can build your resilience even now and benefit from the increased learning capacity that goes with it.
8. Increased Family Involvement
When you're less resilient, isolation may seem like the safest choice. You spend less time with family members who could help you in a variety of ways. You don't enjoy pleasant family times or participate in family activities. Teens often deal with their lack of resilience by isolating themselves. Adults may choose that option, too, in times of adversity.
When you have more resilience, you're better able to interact with your family, enjoy good times with them, learn from them, and benefit from family resources.
9. Increased Community Involvement
Every community offers at least some opportunities for fun, learning, volunteering and making interpersonal connections. You can only take advantage of these benefits if you're out in the community. With a high level of resilience, you can participate in community events and projects that benefit you as well as others in the community.
10. Greater Success At Work
Being present and on time more often is just one aspect of work success. You also have to show good judgment, stay focused on required tasks, and take the initiative to do more than is required. With high resilience, you're more positive and action-oriented. Your mind is clearer of negative thoughts, allowing you the brainpower you need to make sound judgments.
11. Better Long-Term Relationships
It's very hard to have a healthy relationship when one or both of you have low resilience.
If only one has high resilience, that partner might hold up the other one throughout a long relationship. The relationship will suffer. If you're the high-resilience partner, you may feel taken advantage of. You may enjoy helping your spouse through the hard times, and that's a good thing in some cases. However, when it happens regularly, you may begin to feel they're more of a child than a partner.
If you're the one who has low resilience, life won't be easy for you. It might be hard to contribute to the relationship and feel like an equal partner. You may become so reliant on your partner that if he or she is suddenly gone, you can't function on your own. You may not like the person you become, either. That will likely cause your self-esteem to plummet, and you may become mentally ill.
Of course, it's possible that you or your partner will adapt to their situation at the moment. Courage may come in the unlikeliest ways at times. If you want a more certain route to resilience, though, it's better to take active steps to build it.
12. Because Life Is Unpredictable
If your life is good right now, and you've had a relatively easy life so far, you may feel that you don't need resilience. Everything's always been fine, and you don't expect things to change much. While that may be true at this very moment, you can never predict exactly will happen a moment from now.
Change is inevitable. What that change will be might surprise you. When a major change, tragedy, or trauma happens, you're not prepared for it. You may have a much harder time surviving it and thriving afterward. Actively developing resilience is like an insurance policy in case something bad happens to you. It can help you if you ever need to call on it. Even if not, it can improve your life in the above ways.
How Therapy Can Help
If at any time you choose to seek help in building resilience, a therapist can help you in several ways. They can teach you healthy coping skills. You might spend time examining past problems and situations that you recovered from quickly and effectively to find out what positive steps you took. Even if you don't immediately recognize the healthy choices you made, your counselor can help you identify them.
You can get help with resilience issues by talking to a licensed counselor at BetterHelp.com. This counseling happens anytime, and anywhere you have an internet connection. You can get the help you need to improve your resilience whether you're in crisis or not. Then, you can begin to see your life in a new, healthier way and make the choices that will benefit you most.