Being emotionally healthy sounds fantastic – until we are faced with a failure, rejection, or tragedy. When our emotions are in crisis, we rarely choose the healthiest response. Most often, we react to these situations instinctively. We might try to pretend they never happened, obsess over every detail, or even lash out at others. Below are some options that are more worthwhile, and might actually leave you feeling stronger and better about yourself. Practice these when you face a small setback, and they will become second nature when you are faced with a true internal disaster.
Here are four ways to exercise your emotional resilience:
1. Apologize when you are wrong
Often, our pride keeps us from practicing this basic preschool-level skill. However, an apology can be a powerful thing for both people involved. First of all, it can help to repair your damaged relationship. Friendships that have gone bad can take an enormous toll on our emotional health. Secondly, your apology, if done correctly, has the power to lessen your own feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Even if you are not forgiven, knowing that you did everything you could to make it right will help you to find peace with the situation. One caveat – don’t apologize if you are not sorry. Not only is this dishonest and insincere, but it will leave you feeling resentful.
2. Build yourself up after being rejected
Often, we try to come to terms with a rejection by considering why the other person might not have chosen us. “I wasn’t as smart as the other applicants,” you might tell yourself. “Of course she wouldn’t go out with me – I’m a loser with a dead-end job.” While this response is logical, it is not beneficial when it comes to our emotional health. Instead, accept rejection for what it is – a momentary choice made by an imperfect human, and not a definitive measure of your worth. Then, focus on your good qualities and a hopeful outcome. “I didn’t get this job, but my interview skills are getting better and I will surely land the next one,” you might say. “She didn’t want to go out with me,” you could reason, “but my future wife will. I’m kind and strong and have a lot to offer.” Believe you will end up in the place where you truly belong.
3. Speak kindly to yourself
Most of us talk to ourselves in a much more harsh and critical way than we would a friend – or even a stranger. Notice the way you speak to a close friend who is feeling down. What tone do you take? What words do you choose? What emotional response are you trying to elicit? The next time you are dealing with an emotional crisis, turn this response inward. Treat yourself like you would a treasured friend. Instead of criticism, regard yourself with kindness and compassion. As Buddha once said, “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
4. Find meaning in the midst of trauma
This is undoubtedly the most difficult practice listed here. It also might be the one that has the greatest impact on our spiritual health. When we are faced with a loss, we often feel angry, resentful, and deeply torn apart. It can be difficult to put ourselves back together. Unfortunately, though, we must do exactly that. Our choices are to remain broken or become whole again in an even stronger way than before. Finding meaning and purpose in a tragedy is tremendously difficult. However, it soon becomes the glue with which you can begin to fit your shattered pieces back together.
“When our emotional health is in a bad state, so is our level of self-esteem. We have to slow down and deal with what is troubling us, so that we can enjoy the simple joy of being happy and at peace with ourselves,” wrote Jess C. Scott. Choose to care for your emotional health in the same way you would your physical health. Make it a priority. Life will not get any easier, but you will find a new and greater level of strength with which to handle it.
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Robyn Reisch is a proud Penn State graduate who lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, son, and two dogs. She enjoys cooking, snacking, lounging, reading, gardening, and listening to country and classic rock.