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Resiliency—the Ability to Bounce Back

A story—and a need for resiliency.

One beautiful autumn evening, after a full day with clients, I was carrying the groceries through the living room when I noticed my dog's peculiar paw prints on wet carpet. In shock, I quickly dumped the bags on a table and walked into our kitchen, which now resembled a toddler's wading pool.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Resilience in the midst of daily challenges

The kitchen floor was covered with an inch of water, and it was rapidly seeping into the dining room carpet. Where the heck was the water coming from? Quickly I ran down to the basement to grab old towels to soak up the water—and was greeted with the horror of another flood, water gushing from above and multiple boxes dripping water from the shelves.

For Big and Small Setbacks in Life, We Need Resiliency

Small floods are minor setbacks in life, of course, but there are also major setbacks: loss of a job, the break-up of a relationship, a sudden illness, or an emotional letdown. What we need at times like these is resiliency—the ability to bounce back.

Fortunately, emotional resiliency is a learned skill that we can develop and refine. It is a quality that allows us to greet new circumstances, no matter how difficult, with grace and courage.

Think of resilience as a set of muscles that need to be exercised. The ability to bounce back is vital to our sense of well-being, and it is worth investing some time in developing our resiliency muscles. Here are some tips that will help you spring back when confronted with challenges, big or small. Practice them regularly, even on little annoyances like detours on a highway or a small flood like mine, to develop more resiliency in your life.

Tips to Build Emotional Resiliency

1. Practice gratitude.

Studies have shown that the regular practice of gratitude increases happiness, improves health, and expands overall well-being. You can make it a habit to begin or end your day with thoughts of gratitude, or make a formal ritual out of writing in a gratitude journal. Once you make appreciation a habit, you will be more likely to easily adapt to life's curveballs. 

IN ACTION: "Good thing this flooding didn't happen last week when we were on vacation!"

2. Find the good in everything.

I'm not talking about pretending everything is okay when it's not or only seeing life through rose-colored glasses. I'm referring to what makes us uniquely human—the power to choose what we will think and how we will feel about anything. When something we consider negative happens, it is a good practice to look for the good. This simple mind shift (or what psychologists call "reframing") helps give us a more balanced viewpoint.

IN ACTION: "Well, I guess I can kiss this ugly linoleum goodbye." or "I never liked this linoleum; now I'll finally get to replace it!

3. Accept what is.

Many times, the real culprit in difficulties is not what has happened but our refusal to accept what happened.

Denial, even in small doses, inhibits our natural ability to learn from our mistakes and prevents us from bringing our strengths forward to assist us. Look at the situation squarely with eyes wide open and accept what is. Feel your feelings fully. Acknowledge your pain and then determine to shift before getting stuck in a negative whirlwind.

IN ACTION: "What a mess! Total bummer! But then again, I've been wanting to replace this kitchen floor for a long time."

4. Respond instead of reacting.

Often when confronted with difficult people or situations, we tend to react in a knee-jerk way—and regret it later. One of the most helpful skills to develop is the ability to push our pause button, self-calm, and regroup before saying or doing anything. Getting into an emotional flurry can keep us from thinking clearly and make the situation seem worse than it actually is.

Many times we have misinterpreted something. Once we get some distance from the situation, we often discover that it is not as bad as we had imagined. Space increases perspective. Give yourself a safe space to center before acting.

IN ACTION: "Hmm. The dishwasher is still oozing water. Stuck in refill mode! Buttons aren't responding. I'm calling the plumber right away."

A practice of mindfulness can be very helpful to make a habit so that when we're challenged, we can respond instead of reacting.


5. Focus on what you CAN change, not what you can't change.

In problem-solving, it's possible to get stuck trying to change things that we really have no power over. Or sometimes we waste time and energy trying to fix someone who doesn't want our help and has no intention of changing. It is vital to focus our time and energy on what will move us forward, even in small steps. Action primes the pump and brings unexpected opportunities to us.

IN ACTION: "The water damage is something I can't change. Hey, I should check out our home insurance to see what they cover. I'd really like to install tile instead of linoleum, but it's more expensive."

Related reading: "What Is Emotional Intelligence?"

Building resiliency for minor catastrophesResiliency is an asset that cannot be monetized but results in enormous wealth that is enduring and unchangeable. When we develop our resiliency muscles, we increase our happiness exponentially—every situation, even a flooding kitchen, becomes an opportunity to grow ourselves. Then we learn from our mistakes, shift our attention to what really matters, and begin to build an internal compass that isn't dependent on outside circumstances.

IN ACTION: Oh, and the ruined linoleum tile? Now I have a new kitchen floor with beautiful Italian tile that we got at a seventy-five percent discount from one of my husband's contractors. And the home insurance covered most of it. Not such a catastrophe after all!

So next time life hits you with a curveball, "inhale, exhale, and breathe."

Try practicing one or two of the above tips for a greater sense of well-being, and enjoy increased ease in all areas of your life. You'll be able to bounce back when you start to feel flattened.

For more information on emotional intelligence and creating thriving relationships and rewarding life, contact us at  support@heartmanity.com.

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Jennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence CoachJennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence Coach
Jennifer is the Heartmanity founder and an emotional intelligence expert. She has two decades of EQ experience and is the author of emotional intelligence training and courses. As an emotional fitness coach, Jennifer teaches EQ skills, brain science hacks, and a comprehensive approach that gets results. She is happily married and the mother of three incredible grown children.

Posted in Brain Fitness, Mindfulness and Perspective, Emotional Intelligence & Fitness

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