Build up your emotional resilience

Try our 10 tips for building up your emotional resilience to help you to cope with life’s ups and downs.

1. Talk to someone

Communication is important, whether it’s with a friend, family member or counsellor. Communication enables you to release tension rather than keep it inside. Clinical psychologist Isabel Clarke says, “if you’re talking about your innermost feelings, be careful who you talk to. Make sure that it’s someone who has your best interest at heart.”

Talking about your feelings doesn’t have to be formal or too serious. You can discuss small things that annoy you or make you sad. You might end up laughing about a previous difficult experience. It helps you to strengthen your relationships and connect with people.

If you want to talk anonymously, you can call the Samaritans 24 hours a day on 0845 790 9090. See Counselling for everything you need to know about talking therapies.

2. Improve your self-esteem

Self-esteem is the way you feel about yourself. Lots of things can lower our self-esteem, such as a relationship break-up, not getting the job you wanted or putting on weight. None of these things makes us worth less, but it can feel that way.

If your self-esteem is low, it’s important to learn how to improve it. Clarke says the best way to improve your self-esteem is to “treat yourself as you would treat a valued friend, i.e. in a positive but honest way. Notice when you’re putting yourself down, such as ‘You’re so stupid for not getting that job’ and think ‘Would I say that to my best friend?’. You probably wouldn’t.

Tell yourself something positive instead, such as ‘You’re a bright person, you’ll get the next job'.

3. Manage your stress levels

Being in a stressed state of mind a lot of the time can make it easier for you to overreact or feel negative compared to someone who is relaxed.

Managing your stress can be a gradual process. Look at your lifestyle. If you have a lot of stress in your life, find ways to reduce it, such as asking your partner to help with chores in the house, taking a relaxing yoga class, or talking to your boss about changing your working hours. Introduce regular exercise and time to yourself. These are positive changes. Taking control of your time in this way can effectively reduce stress.

If you have anxiety with stress, breathing exercises can help. See Breathing exercises for stress for advice.

4. Enjoy yourself

Doing things that you enjoy is good for your emotional health. Watching sports with a friend, having a soak in the bath, or meeting up with friends for coffee are examples of small activities that can improve your day.

Doing something you’re good at, such as cooking or dancing, is a good way to enjoy yourself and have a sense of achievement. “If you’re feeling low, tell yourself how good you are at the activity. It really gives you a lift,” Clarke says.

Avoid things that seem enjoyable at the time but make you feel worse afterwards, such as alcohol, or clothes shopping if you’re on a tight budget.

5. Limit your alcohol intake

You don’t have to give up alcohol completely to be emotionally resilient, but avoid drinking more than the recommended limit. If you're a man, don't regularly drink more than three to four units a day. If you're a woman, don't regularly drink more than two to three units a day. Use the alcohol tracker tool to help you stick to the recommended daily limit.

When times are hard, it’s tempting to drink alcohol because it ‘numbs’ painful feelings. However, it can exaggerate some feelings and make you feel angry or aggressive. It can also make you depressed.

If you think that your drinking might be becoming a problem, talk to your GP for advice.

6. Choose a well-balanced diet

Making healthy choices about your diet can make you feel emotionally stronger. You’re doing something positive for yourself, which lifts your self-esteem, and a good diet enables your brain and body to work efficiently.

Aim for a balanced diet that includes the main food groups (see Healthy eating for more information).

7. Do exercise

Even moderate exercise releases chemicals in your brain that lift your mood. It can help you to sleep better, have more energy and keep your heart healthy. If you’re trying to reach a healthy weight, exercise will help you lose the pounds.

Choose an exercise that you enjoy. If it helps, do it with a friend or listen to music. Aim for 30 minutes, three times a week.

8. Get enough sleep

Around seven to eight hours is the average amount of sleep an adult needs for their body and mind to fully rest. But this can vary. Some people need less and some need more before they feel ready for the day.

Whatever the case, make sure that you make sleep a priority. Some people find this very hard at certain times in their lives, for example, new parents and those working shifts. Ask your partner or a family member to help you so that you can catch up on sleep.

9. Develop good relationships

“Our relationships are part of who we are and how we feel,” says Clarke.

“Think about your relationships with family, friends, your partner. Do they have your best interests at heart? Do you enjoy their company? Are you happy with the way you act towards them? Start to think about how you can improve your relationships, then make little changes."

Relate offers counselling for couples and families. For more information, go to the Relate website or call 0300 100 1234.

10. Know the warning signs

Try to recognise when negative emotions start creeping in, whether it’s stress, anxiety or feeling sad.

When you know the warning signs you can do the things that you know will help. For example, a good chat with a close friend or some relaxing breathing exercises.

“Be aware of what your body’s telling you but don’t let it take over,” says Clarke. “If you’re having a really bad day, do what makes you feel better, such as staying in bed a while longer than usual. Enjoy it but don’t let it carry on too long. Get back out there and get on with your normal life.”

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