The Importance of Developing Emotional Resilience

Emotional Resilience. Anxious. Depressed.Just before Christmas, before ‘Second Lockdown’ High Flyers met, observing appropriate social distancing of course, and another great meeting took place. However, this proved to be an even more valuable, useful and thought provoking gathering due to a discussion led by one of the members.

Let me explain. A great deal has been written and discussed about the effects of COVID 19 on our mental health and, for all its horrors, disruptions and upset, more and more people are understanding that mental health is of paramount importance, equally as much as physical health.  One without the other is simply no real life at all.

So, when the group was engaged in an hour long discussion about Emotional Resilience, it’s importance and how we can strengthen it, everyone in the room was leaning forward and listening intently to the host of the discussion, Bevis Moynan of Magenta Coaching.

So, Firstly, What is Emotional Resilience?

Well, our emotions are a biological state, having a direct impact on our physical condition. Those biological states are associated with our nervous system and, you’ll not be surprised that our states are caused directly by neurophysiological alterations associated with our thoughts, feelings, behavioural responses, and degrees of pleasure or displeasure.

Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; we often see it as ‘being tough’.

It can also be defined as the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; its elasticity.

So Emotional Resilience is our ability to deal with stressful situations and be able to cope with life’s ups and downs, springing back and retaining shape.

So Why is Emotional Resilience So Important Then?

Important should perhaps be replaced by ‘essential’. Imagine if you were unable to function every time something stressed you out, distracted you negatively, was problematic or threatened you to  the point of anxiety. Intellectually we all understand that life isn’t all plain sailing, a smooth road or any other cliché you can think of. Things go wrong, stuff happens, it’s how we deal with it that is most important. Remember the bit above about “The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape.” That’s us, we’re the substance, so our ability to get back to a mental or emotional state that is optimal for us to deal with adversity or the task at hand is what emotional resilience is really all about.

You’ve probably known people that ‘just couldn’t cope’, falling apart when things go wrong, likewise you’ll know those that just deal with things as they come, seemingly just taking it in their stride. What is interesting is that nobody has to be that first person – emotional resilience is a learned behaviour and, like any learned behaviour, the greater the focus in the early stages, the easier it is to make it the norm.

Once you realise that your emotions, how you feel, your moods, are fed by your own thoughts, both conscious as well as subconscious, you’re on the right path to increase your emotional resilience.

I’m not talking about seemingly not caring or just not taking any notice, I mean dealing with things in a way that is best for you, giving you the right outcomes. The difference between seeing something as ‘threatening’ or ‘challenging’.

Let me give you a couple of simple examples … If you’ve ever had the opportunity to attend an event, perhaps a party, a dinner, a wedding, whatever it is – and your first instinct was not to go, you didn’t feel like going – maybe because you thought you wouldn’t enjoy it, you wouldn’t feel comfortable with all those people or whatever … However, you do go, perhaps in support of someone else and, despite your fears, you had a great time and were subsequently pleased you went. It was your emotions that led you to have your initial reaction. Despite which, you went. That’s being more emotionally resilient. Next time an opportunity comes up, it’s easier to make the decision to go.

Anxiety and emotion are linked and responding to your initial emotions in the wrong way can lead to bad decisions. Have you ever heard the old adage “This too shall pass”? It’s a Persian adage translated and used in multiple languages which reflects on the temporary nature, or fleetingness, of the human condition.

How many times in your life have you felt terrible, sad, down, angry only to find down the road that you were anxious for nothing, that the stress passed, that the feelings passed, that the event passed or was ultimately not as traumatic as your thoughts led you to first believe. Conversely, the event truly was traumatic and awful, life sometimes is, but again, down the road you are able to look back and think differently about it … feel differently about it and react differently. That’s emotional resilience.

Some people need more help than others because some have more awareness than others. They’re just more aware of why they’re ‘feeling that way’ and so deal with it differently.

If we look at the current pandemic. People are dealing with it in different ways mentally. Some coping better than others. Mental health affects absolutely everyone, it’s a scale. If you feel really down or upset, anxious or stressed that is mental health. It’s important to understand that people are not ‘broken’ or ‘fixed’ they aren’t ‘ignorant’ or ‘fully understanding’ they just all have different levels of awareness regarding how they feel and why, and are armed differently to deal with it.

So, our emotions can often lead us to make poor decisions, only to regret them later. Once we have a better understanding of how to deal with how we feel about things at any given time, we can let things go, let them pass, reducing any physical impact.

If you’ve ever felt sad, really sad, for whatever reason, it can feel like the end of the world. Sadly, for some people their emotions get such a hold of them, that it literally is. That’s tragic and could so often been avoided. It is an extreme I know, but it happens far too often to regular, normal, healthy people. The mind is very powerful.

During the first COVID 19 lockdown, Bevis and one of his colleagues recorded a series of video’s which, at the they time they gave anybody and everybody free access to. The feedback was humbling, so many people evidently got such a lot from them. They are still available now although the cost of the distribution platform means a nominal charge has to be made to access them.

Anger, sadness, melancholy, euphoria all these and more can lead us the wrong way if we don’t control of our reactions to emotions.  Reaction is controllable with the right levels of awareness and understanding.  Emotional resilience can be improved. Nobody needs to suffer.

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