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Building Mental and Emotional Resilience 101

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(Photo: iStock)

We all try to plan and organize our lives the way we want, but in all its beauty and frustrations life is never what we want it to be. Some days we truly wish a panic button existed for when times get tough.

But it can never be that simple because you need to rely on yourself. Sandwiched between handling pressure and losing your cool, resilience means springing back into shape after being stretched thin and tested. The American Psychological Association suggests that being resilient is an important protection against mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, or drug and alcohol abuse.

While some are born with a natural resilience, scientists suggest that with our ability to grow both mentally and emotionally, certain behaviors can be learned to help us adapt and reframe unease in hopes to find opportunity in adversity.

Pump Up the Positivity
Resilient people have one thing in common — they find an unseen benefit in even the worst of situations. In life, either we see the glass as half empty or half full. However, the key lies in how we view the world through our own choice and perception of circumstances. As a society, we often focus more on things not going well, when in fact there’s a lot good happening that can tip the scales. Resilience comes from experiencing both negative and positive emotions, so be sure to feed those emotions a more mindful belief.

Embrace the Situation You’re In
When you learn to embrace the situation you’re in, you become better prepared to respond when life goes little haywire. Think of life in all its dynamism as an ocean, always there, always moving but never the same. Some waves are small, others have the power to turn our world upside down. But it’s a matter of being able to transcend fears and not so much look inward, but outward. We don’t have control over life, but we do have control over how we respond. Adopting flexibility when a wave takes hold is a lot like learning to surf — don’t bail out just yet. Even the biggest waves are manageable with time and patience.

Develop Strong Social Connections
To be honest, life is boring without a solid and supportive network of friends. Having concerned and loving people around you not only acts like a protective and positive influence during times of crisis, but it's equally important to talk out anxieties to help ease worry. Of course, a conversation can't make anything worrisome go away, but it can allow you to receive positive feedback for possible solutions by someone looking from the outside in. We are never alone in our struggles.

Build a Better Dialogue For Yourself
Similar to how positive affirmations help us understand our self-worth, mantras help us find peace in chaos. By affirming positive intentions during a time of hopelessness, come up with a statement that upholds your inner strength. Think along the lines of, “This too shall pass” or “I’m stronger than my challenges.” Keep that phrase at the forefront of your mind and use it when life gets all weary-faced emoji.

Additionally, try seeing things working out for the better with creative visualization. Create images of hope as real as possible within your mind, then add energy, focus and concentration to help manifest these into your waking life. Resilience fortifies problem-solving skills, but it also shines with drive. So the more you stay balanced within these energies and look forward positively, the better you can see dreams in your physical reality.

Put yourself first
Taking a mental break and relaxing not only helps keep stress at bay, but reduces your chances of becoming overwhelmed or emotionally reactive. Focus on yourself through simple practices that bring you in the present moment. Whether it’s a breathing exercise or meditation before work, the key is building up energy habitually to help release emotions that no longer serve you. For example, if you want to cry — go ahead. The University of Tilburg in the Netherlands suggests crying can make you feel better and help to see things more clearer. Additionally, resilience comes from healthy habits of exercise that help relieve stress and recalibrate hormones, complemented by a balanced diet with effective sleep.