At Risk: Emotional Resilience

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Start by Refining Your Emotional Clarity Essentials!

At Risk: Emotional Resilience

The virtue known as Emotional Resilience is at once becoming increasingly scarce and urgently essential as we approach winter. First, it’s time to take a deep breath and concede to the reality that COVID-19 isn’t going away anytime soon. Then, it it’s time to get serious about navigating the coming months.

To clarify, Emotional Resilience is your ability to manage everyday nuisances, annoyances and inconveniences. To quickly assess where you rate, answer honestly the question, “Do I frequently find myself feeling irritable, impatient, frustrated, helpless, judgmental or anxious?” Yeah, I know. The 3-letter answer. Most of us indeed are feeling not one, but all of these emotions on most days. Our collective Emotional Resilience is waning, and with the depletion of this type of resilience, clarity becomes murky.

You see, emotions are curious. We’ve been led to believe we can “control our emotions”. But the secret is the ripple effect of our emotions controlling us. How often have you heard phrases like, “He needs to rein in his emotions” and “just use your head” when making difficult decisions? The truth is these sentiments are near impossible to adhere to if you don’t acknowledge how big a role emotion plays in your actions, interactions and outlooks.

But here’s the good news: If you can get your head around a few facts, you can learn to strengthen your Emotional Resilience “muscle”. This toughness is not only crucial for your wellbeing, it’s good for your physical health and mental attention. As you flex this kind of resilience, you’ll move closer to greater clarity, focus and ultimate fulfillment in your life.

Start by pondering the Four Facts of Emotion:

  1. Emotions dictate everything you do, and you don’t even realize it.
  2. Under extended stress, emotions become stealth, and potentially more volatile.
  3. The way to mitigate the effects of emotions is to lean into them.
  4. We have the power to respond and not react to emotions more readily when we build our emotional resilience.

Emotions as Dictators

This quick brain science lesson will serve to help you embrace the Four Facts. Our neurochemistry is constantly shifting. Self-talk and interactions with others lead to the release of different hormones in our bodies. These neurotransmitters (fancy word for hormones) affect how we see the world, and how we react within the world. For example, think about how your body feels when you first set eyes on someone you absolutely adore. That little jolt of “happy energy” is the result of oxytocin— a hormone that’s triggered by feelings or emotions such as love, trust and gratitude. When oxytocin is pumping through your body, the world looks rosy.

Now bring your mind to a time when you were startled and truly scared. For me, it was an encounter with a pack of javelinas one early morning in Arizona. My heart was PUMPING, blood rushing through my body. After I backed slowly away from the wild boars and they eventually lost interest in me, I ran faster than I’m known to be capable of. I also remained absurdly jumpy for two days. Those were the effects of cortisol and adrenaline.

The disappointing fact is that a cortisol blast lasts 24+ hours. Oxytocin last 4 hours.

When negative emotions are perpetual and omnipresent, like impatience and defensiveness, your cortisol and adrenaline valves get stuck in the “open” position. Besides the detrimental effects to your health, these hormones literally fog your brain. It’s comparable to looking back on a heated dispute and seeing all of the “better points” you could have made, and not understanding in hindsight how you couldn’t find the flaws in the other person’s argument.

Sadly, we don’t even realize that we’re anxious or frustrated. Your tolerance goes up, the world begins to look dark and hopeless, and you end up feeling worse!

This is where Emotional Resilience enters the picture. Use the following three steps to build that resilience. Ready, set, LIFT!

1). Take Care: The best way to build Emotional Resilience is through self-care. Each of us has 4 energy tanks: Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual. When these tanks are full(ish) and you’re feeling strong, healthy and grateful, life’s nuisances seem to ease. This is the ideal time to consider what self-care practices you’re going to put in place as the days get shorter, moods darken, and you become less physically active.

2). Gain Perspective: The way to turn a dark mood around is to acknowledge how you’re feeling, and gain some perspective. “It’s okay to feel these rotten feelings.” “This is NOT a honeymoon period we’re going through.” Once you allow these emotions to surface, you get to separate what you CAN control from what’s beyond your control. Then, actively control the controllables!

3). Take Action: We’re finding ourselves having to make more critical decisions and engage in unpalatable tasks lately (like going back to the office during COVID or tackling our taxes). I, for one, am the queen of procrastination when it comes to eating these frogs. Nonetheless, I recommend intentionally doing one really unpalatable task each day. As you do, recognize that the emotions you attach to the task are far more revolting than the actual task. So, go ahead and make that tough phone call or send that difficult email. Tune in as you click “send” and enjoy the relief of taking that task off your to-do list. Then ask yourself if it was as scary, painful or distasteful as you’d anticipated.

Over the coming three Tuesdays, I’ll share additional tips to practice Emotional First Aid to strengthen that resilience muscle!

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