The Traits, Benefits and Development of Emotional Resilience

Emotional Resilience Is a Trait You Can Develop

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Inner strength and emotional resilience can be learned. Ascent Xmedia/Taxi/Getty Images

What Is Emotional Resilience?

Emotional resilience refers to one’s ability to adapt to stressful situations or crises. More resilient people are able to "roll with the punches" and adapt to adversity without lasting difficulties; less resilient people have a harder time with stress and life changes, both major and minor. It’s been found that those who deal with minor stresses more easily can also manage major crises with greater ease, so resilience has its benefits for daily life as well as for the rare major catastrophe.

What Influences Emotional Resilience?

Emotional and physical resilience is, to a degree, something you're born with. Some people, by nature, are less upset by changes and surprises -- this can be observed in infancy and tends to be stable throughout one’s lifetime. Emotional resilience is also related to some factors that aren't under your control, such as age, gender, and exposure to trauma. However, resilience can be developed with a little effort. If you know what to do, you can become more resilient, even if you are naturally more sensitive to life’s difficulties.

What Are Traits of Emotional Resilience?

Resilience is not a quality that you either do or do not possess; there are varying degrees of how well a person is able to handle stress. Still, there are certain characteristics that resilient people tend to share. Some of the main characteristics are:

Emotional Awareness:

People with emotional awareness understand what they’re feeling and why.

 They also understand the feelings of others better because they are more in touch with their own inner life.

Perseverance:

Whether they’re working toward outward goals or on inner coping strategies, they’re action-oriented -- they trust in the process and don’t give up.

Internal Locus of Control:

They believe that they, rather than outside forces, are in control of their own lives.

 This trait is associated with less stress because people with an internal locus of control and a realistic view of the world can be more proactive in dealing with stressors in their lives, more solution-oriented, and feel a greater sense of control, which brings less stress.

Optimism:

They see the positives in most situations and believe in their own strength.  This can shift how they handle problems from a victim mentality to an empowered one, and more choices open up.

Support:

While they tend to be strong individuals, they know the value of social support and are able to surround themselves with supportive friends and family.

Sense of Humor:

People strong in emotional resilience are able to laugh at life’s difficulties.  This can be a huge asset, as it shifts one's perspective from seeing things as a threat to seeing them as a challenge, and this alters how the body reacts to stress. They also get a good laugh more often, and this brings benefits as well.

Perspective:

Resilient people are able to learn from their mistakes (rather than deny them), see obstacles as challenges, and allow adversity to make them stronger.

They can also find meaning in life’s challenges rather than seeing themselves as victims.

Spirituality:

Being connected to your spiritual side has been connected with stronger emotional resilience, especially if you're internally connected and not just going through the motions of attending services. (This doesn't mean that people who aren't spiritual can't be resilient, just that this connection has been found.)

How To Become More Resilient

As mentioned, emotional resilience can be developed. And because stress and change are a part of life, there are always opportunities to practice resilience -- the payoffs are significant. All it takes is an interest and commitment to the process, and a little information on how to develop and strengthen traits of resilience.

Sources:

Bonanno GA, Galea S, Bucciarelli A, Vlahov D. What Predicts Psychological Resilience after Disaster? The Role of Demographics, Resources, and Life Stress. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. October 2007.

Southwick SM, Vythilingam M, Charney DS. The Psychobiology of Depression and Resilience to Stress. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology. 2005.

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