5 Easy Ways Adults Can Build Emotional Resilience
Emotional resilience, or the ability to regulate your emotions to quickly recover from difficulty, is an important tool that helps us live healthy, fulfilling lives.
Let’s briefly outline what it looks like to have emotional resilience:
- You respond thoughtfully to experiences
- You’re strong in your self-esteem – you know bad experiences don’t define you
- You openly communicate, and you don’t feel attacked when others do the same
- You have empathy for others
- You’re willing and able to learn from negative experiences
- You set boundaries and enforce them
You might not have been given these emotional resilience tools. If you weren’t, it’s often because you had at least one parent or caregiver who couldn’t regulate their emotions….and it affected the entire house. You know exactly what I mean. If your parents were upset? The whole house knew. In fact, the whole house felt it.
If this sounds familiar you most likely:
- Could feel tension throughout the whole house
- Had to walk on eggshells around this parent
- Felt the need to fix your parents’ problem
- Felt a sense of uncertainty in your childhood
If you grew up in a household like this, you may struggle with setbacks or difficult experiences in life.
When things go wrong, does it feel like the end of the world is near?
Maybe you think “Nothing ever goes right!” There’s an overall negative feeling of ‘life is hard,’ and you don’t really feel life will get any better.
It’s okay for this to be your normal. In fact, studies have shown how families with explosive emotions or a lack of boundaries can affect how you function in life. It’s very likely your parents or caregivers had similar experiences growing up. Understanding how the family system works is crucial to building emotional resilience as an adult.
The Family Is an Emotional Unit
Your family is an emotional unit that works and interacts as a complex system. Everyone in the family system depends on each other and each member of the family (knowingly or not) considers each other’s emotions when interacting with each other.
Each family member interacts with each other based on the individual relationships that exist within the system. Even if relationships feel distant, they’re still very connected. Family members are interdependent, meaning a change in one person’s functioning results in changes within the others in the emotional unit.1
Children learn from the adults in their lives. This involves learning how to regulate emotions, or what we have come to know as “emotional resilience.” If one parent cannot regulate their emotions, the children learn not to regulate theirs.
Maybe your parent screamed when they were angry. You may not know how to calmly state your feelings, or you’re afraid of upsetting others so you develop a personality trait of “people pleasing” to avoid these outbursts from others.
The heightened stress (combined with difficulty regulating emotion) causes anxiety. A healthy family unit protects one another and encourages independence, but when it’s full of tension and instability, it’s no longer a safe space. Growing up in a stressful environment can create anxious, depressed, or dysfunctional adults.1
If you find yourself reverting back to what you learned as a child, your old habits, and it’s not serving you, you can work on your emotional resilience to improve your life.
The Benefits of Emotional Resilience
Emotional resilience is an important life skill that can help you navigate life’s challenges. It allows you to bounce back from setbacks and remain optimistic about the future despite hardships or obstacles you may face.
Emotional resilience can:
- Reduce anxiety
- Improve problem-solving skills
- Increase self-awareness and understanding of emotions
- Promote healthy relationships with others
- Enhance creativity
- Help you determine what you want….without outside influence
Let’s talk about that last bullet point. Without resilience, you struggle to know what you really want. And when you don’t know what you want, life feels scary, uncertain, and overwhelming. Knowing yourself more deeply is an essential part of emotion regulation.
Emotional resilience creates a strong sense of self, and a strong sense of self creates emotional resilience. Do you know what makes you feel energized and fulfilled versus drained and fatigued? This self-awareness helps you be a better parent, preventing this negative cycle from being passed on to your children. You don’t accept others’ emotions or feelings as your own, which means you can be a better friend and partner. It also means you can differentiate between what others want for you and what you want for your life.
If you struggle with feeling fulfilled in life – it starts with building emotional resilience.
How to Start Building Emotional Resilience Today
This will take some practice. Here are the five things you can start doing today to build emotional resilience:
1.) Increase self-awareness
Learn how to listen to your mind and body. Tune into your own feelings and perception of the world. Building self-awareness helps you understand the connection between your feelings and behaviors, and allows you to look within yourself to solve problems.2
2.) Learn flexible thinking
This means learning how to make adjustments when needed and being able to think about something in a different way. This helps you to change your plans without feeling stressed or help you to “go with the flow” when things inevitably change. This isn’t a skill we’re born with, and it must be nurtured and practiced.2,3
3.) Set boundaries
This is something you probably felt like you weren’t allowed to do as a child. If you weren’t taught how to set boundaries, this can be hard – at first. With practice, it gets easier, and you’ll feel more confident when you set appropriate boundaries. You’ll also enjoy your life more when you can say no and prioritize your mental and emotional health.4
The Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren5 is a great resource to help you use the energy of your emotions to channel into healthy boundaries.
4.) Stress management
Learning to manage your stress in healthy ways is an important life skill. You’ll learn what works for you to manage your stress, adapt to changing situations, and work through problems.
Stress management techniques might include things like:
- Breathing exercises when you’re feeling anxious. Breath by James Nestor has research on alternative approaches to breathing for mental and physical health6
- Expressing yourself creatively through art, writing, or music
- Setting achievable and necessary daily goals
5.) Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is a centuries-old practice in many parts of the world – and for good reason. Mindfulness allows you to be fully present in what you’re doing.
Mindfulness practices can include:
- Yoga and meditation
- Practice being in the moment and observing yourself without judgment
- Limiting screen time to rest your mind
After observing yourself, you can practice how to best respond to yourself in helpful ways that don’t require too much thought. Soon it will become second nature.
The most important thing to remember is to not judge yourself for whatever feelings show up while participating in any of these activities. If you were never taught emotional resilience, then you likely experienced a fear of being judged, dismissed, or invalidated. You don’t have to do this to yourself. You can break the cycle.
Neurofeedback Helps Build Emotional Resilience
At Whole Family Neurofeedback, we want you to be and feel your best. We want your family to be healthy and happy together. That’s why we help families use neurofeedback as a tool to build emotional resilience.
NeurOptimal® neurofeedback increases your brain’s ability to relax and cope with stress. It helps your brain respond more effectively by bringing you back to the present moment.
During a 33.5-minute session, you listen to music while connected to the neurofeedback device. The device only monitors your brain activity, pausing the music when it detects turbulence. This pause brings you back to the present moment, teaching your brain to self-correct. The more your brain practices this through neurofeedback sessions, the more resilient you become.
Neurofeedback helps promote personal transformation and an overall healthy lifestyle.
Neurofeedback can help:
- Increase mental flexibility and resilience, which makes coping with stress and anxiety easier
- Improve concentration and problem-solving skills
- Promote relaxation and stress management
- Boost self-esteem
- Help you feel calm and more certain
If you’re looking for an effective tool to help you while you’re building emotional resilience, fill out our contact form today.
We’ll answer all your questions about neurofeedback and help you get started.
- Introduction to the Eight Concepts
- What is Emotional Resilience? Positive Psychology. 2019.
- How Neurofeedback Can Help Build Flexible Thinking Skills. Whole Family Neurofeedback. 2023.
- Emotional Resilience. Warwick University. 2022.
- The Language of Emotions, Karla McLaren.
- Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, James Nestor.