Emotional resilience isn't about winning a battle; it's the strength to power through and adapt to stressful situations. It's the fine balance that we develop between our emotions and the way we let them affect all aspects of our lives — at work, at home, and in our personal, professional and social relationships.
While spending more than a decade researching and refining emotional intelligence practices in the workplace, I've seen over and over again that the most resilient individuals and teams aren't the ones that don't fail, but rather the ones that fail, learn and thrive because of it.
To self-assess your emotional resilience, give yourself a rating for each statement below:
- 0 = Never
- 1 = Rarely
- 3 = Sometimes
- 5 = Often
1. I am aware of my thoughts and feelings. ________
2. I believe in my inner potential. ________
3. I am willing to adapt. ________
4. I think before reacting. ________
5. I forgive myself and others. ________
6. I have the power to overcome difficulties. ________
7. I peacefully resolve conflict with others. ________
8. I focus on finding solutions to problems. ________
9. I express my emotions in a socially acceptable way. ________
10. I acknowledge negative emotions instead of bottling them up. ________
11. I'm able to create and sustain long-term relationships. ________
12. I'm not ashamed to ask for help when I need it. ________
13. I focus on things I can control or influence. ________
14. I can handle criticism. ________
15. I am aware of my strengths and weaknesses. ________
16. I learn from failure. ________
17. I cooperate well with others. ________
18. I focus on the present and future instead of dwelling on the past. ________
19. I believe there are people who love me. ________
20. I love myself. ________
Total score ________
0–34: Low emotional resilience: You may be oversensitive to stress, overreact and have poor coping skills when dealing with challenges. This could be a hindrance to your job performance and career advancement. Use the practices in the section below to strengthen your resilience.
35–69: Average emotional resilience: Your ability to combat stress and bounce back from challenge exists, with room for improvement. Once you've mastered the technical skills of your job, refining your soft skills can help you continue to advance. Remember, at some point in your career, raw talent and ambition become less important than your personal image, emotional management and ability to influence people and organizations.
70–100: High emotional resilience: This is the ultimate target for everyone. You have a well-balanced emotional reaction to, and perception of, stress. You recognize that thoughts influence actions and generally have an optimistic mindset even in the face of a challenge. This increases your level of emotional awareness with self and influence with others.
Regardless of where you scored on the self-assessment, the nature of life's unpredictable challenges presents an opportunity for continuous improvement with our level of resilience.
Here are 10 science-backed ways to boost your emotional resilience:
1. Practice mindfulness. Become keenly aware of the circumstances, how you feel, what you think and what your options are. This is how you build self-awareness, which is the ability to tune into your feelings, internal conflicts and perception of the world.
2. Breathe slowly and deeply. Diaphragmatic breathing is beneficial in high-stress situations. Making it a daily practice will help you stay grounded and in greater control of your response to life's inevitable curveballs:
- Sit in a comfortable position or lie flat on the floor, your bed or another comfortable, flat surface.
- Relax your shoulders.
- Put a hand on your chest and a hand on your stomach.
- Breathe in through your nose for about two seconds. You should experience the air moving through your nostrils into your abdomen, making your stomach expand. Make sure your stomach is moving outward while your chest remains relatively still.
- Purse your lips (as if you're drinking through a straw), press gently on your stomach, and exhale slowly for about two seconds.
- Repeat these steps several times.
3. Build a robust emotional vocabulary. Studies show that when we learn to distinguish among specific emotions both within ourselves and in others, we are less likely to react without thinking and more likely to think through our options before acting on our emotions or the situation.
4. Reflect. As you process the situation, it's healthy to reflect but not to ruminate. Churning over the "if-onlys" about the past or being anxious over the "what-ifs" of the future is futile. Here are thought starters for your reflection:
- Take responsibility for any words, actions and behaviors that may have affected the situation.
- Consider how the new circumstance affects your current and future goals.
- Draw on experiences from the past as a frame of reference for the current situation.
- Keep your values at the forefront and resist the urge to act out of character.
- Articulate what you have learned that will make you stronger and wiser in the future.
- Identify concerns quickly and courageously; don't let them fester.
- Explore the possibilities and consider the potential upsides of this unforeseen situation.
5. Reframe your mindset. You can view the setback as a challenge instead of a threat and also as a new opportunity instead of an unwelcome, unfortunate fate. One simple way to reframe your mindset is to stop thinking as a victim and instead think in terms of victory
6. Search for meaning. Resist any impulse to view yourself as a victim and to cry, "Why me?" Instead, reframe your suffering to create greater meaning for yourself and others. This is how resilient people build bridges that connect hardships to a fuller life.
7. Forgive. Break the psychological ties that bind you to the past, and give up the quest to change what has already happened. Having a realistic view of the situation and strong faith in your ability to control your destiny will lead to grounded hope — and more hope leads to greater goal attainment.
8. Engage your support network. Research shows that extroverted individuals tend to be more resilient because they're more likely to reach out to others when they need help. Keep in mind that support doesn't always have to come from your manager or someone above your level; some of the best support comes from peers, family and friends.
9. Express gratitutde. Learning to appreciate what we have and who we are, instead of complaining and stressing about what we don't have or who we think we should be, is a powerful technique to redirect stressful, negative emotions. Consider the following gratitude thought starters:
- I'm grateful for ___________________________________.
- I'm grateful that _______________________ didn't happen.
- I'm grateful that _________________________ happened to me.
- I'm grateful I accomplished these goals: _________________.
- I'm grateful to have ________________________ in my life.
- I'm grateful that I am ______________________________.
- I'm grateful that I am not ____________________________.
10. Take control of your outcomes. Emotions can be managed through techniques such as:
- Pausing: Count to 10 and take a deep breath. This gives you time to process the situation, identify how you feel and form a thoughtful response. It also helps you to avoid drawing misguided conclusions.
- Being slow to speak: Don't feel the need to fill up space with words. Emotional self-control includes getting comfortable with silence.
- Believing that you control your destiny: Successful people believe that they have the internal capacity to make desirable things happen. They see opportunities where others see threats, and much of this belief is driven by their mindset.
Kristin Harper is CEO of Driven to Succeed, LLC, a leadership development company that provides brand strategy consulting, market research, and keynote speaking on leadership and emotional intelligence. She is also author of "The Heart of a Leader: 52 Emotional Intelligence Insights to Advance Your Career." Follow her on Facebook.