by Brad Waters
May 21, 2013
Resilience is defined as an
to properly adapt to stress and
Stress and adversity can come
in the shape of
family or relationship
health problems, or workplace
and financial stressors,
when they can face difficult
and rise above them with ease.
Resilience is not a rare
in reality, it is found in the
and it can be learned and
developed by virtually anyone.
Resilience should be considered
rather than a trait to be had.
10 Traits of Emotionally Resilient People
Ten years ago this month, Hara
Estroff Marano, Editor-at-Large for Psychology Today, wrote in
her article "The Art of Resilience":
"At the heart of resilience is a
belief in oneself - yet also a belief in something larger than
Resilient people do not let adversity define them. They find
resilience by moving towards a goal beyond themselves,
transcending pain and grief by perceiving bad times as a
temporary state of affairs…
It's possible to strengthen your
inner self and your belief in yourself, to define yourself as
capable and competent. It's possible to fortify your psyche.
It's possible to develop a sense of mastery."
How do we fortify our psyche to
ride the waves of adversity rather than being pulled under
by the torrent?
How is it that some people
handle incredible amounts of stress while others quickly
Those who master resilience tend
to be skilled in preparing for emotional emergencies and adept at
accepting what comes at them with flexibility rather than rigidity - times
are tough but I know they will get better.
The old metaphor applies:
'Resilient people are like bamboo in a hurricane
- they bend rather
Or, even if they feel like they're broken for a time,
there's still a part of them deep inside that knows they won't be
Here's how they do it...
They know their boundaries
- Resilient people understand that there is a
separation between who they are at their core and the cause
of their temporary suffering. The stress/trauma
might play a part in their story but it does not overtake
They keep good company -
Resilient people tend to seek out and surround
themselves with other resilient people, whether just for fun
or when there's a need for support.
Supportive people give us the
space to grieve and work through our emotions. They know how
to listen and when to offer just enough encouragement
without trying to solve all of our problems with their
Good supporters know how to
just be with adversity - calming us rather than
self-awareness - Being ‘blissfully unaware' can get
us through a bad day but it's not a very
wise long-term strategy.
Self-awareness helps us get in
touch with our psychological/physiological needs - knowing
what we need, what we don't need, and when it's time to
reach out for some extra help. The self-aware are good at
listening to the subtle cues their body and their mood are
On the other hand, a prideful
stubbornness without emotional flexibility or self-awareness
can make us emotional glaciers: Always trying to be strong
in order to stay afloat, yet prone to massive stress
fractures when we experience an unexpected change in our
They practice acceptance -
Pain is painful, stress is stressful, and healing
When we're in it, we want the
pain to go away. When we're outside it, we want to take away
the pain of those who we see suffering. Yet resilient people
understand that stress/pain is a part of living that ebbs
and flows. As hard as it is in the moment, it's better to
come to terms with the truth of the pain than to ignore it,
repress it, or deny it.
Acceptance is not about giving
up and letting the stress take over, it's about
leaning in to experience the full range of emotions and
trusting that we will bounce back.
They're willing to sit in silence -
We are masters of distraction: T.V.,
drugs, risky behavior,
We all react differently to
stress and trauma. Some of us shut down and some of us ramp
up. Somewhere in the middle there is
mindfulness - being in the presence of the moment
without judgment or avoidance.
It takes practice, but it's one
of the purest and most ancient forms of healing and
They don't have to have all
the answers - The psyche has its own built-in
protective mechanisms that help us regulate stress.
When we try hard to find the
answers to difficult questions in the face to traumatic
events, that trying too hard can block the answers
from arising naturally in their own due time.
We can find strength in knowing
that it's okay to not have it all figured out right now and
trusting that we will gradually find peace and knowing
when our mind-body-soul is ready.
They have a menu of self-care habits -
They have a mental list (perhaps
even a physical list) of good habits that support them when
they need it most.
We can all become
self-care spotters in our life - noticing those things that
recharge our batteries and fill our cup.
In part two of this
resilience blog series, my guest Karen Horneffer-Ginter,
author of Full Cup, Thirsty Spirit: Nourishing the Soul
When Life's Just Too Much,
25 ideas for cultivating resilience. Her blog just might
inspire you to create your own self-care menu.
taken the menu idea a step further by designing a
that serves as visual inspiration to
nourish the soul when life's just too much.
They enlist their
team - The most resilient among us know how to
reach out for help.
They know who will serve as a
listening ear and, let's be honest, who won't! Our team of
supporters helps us reflect back what they see when we're
too immersed in overwhelm to witness our own coping.
We can all learn how to be
better supporters on other people's team.
In this L.A. Times article,
"How not to say the wrong thing", psychologist
and co-author Barry Goldman help readers develop a strategy
for effectively supporting others and proactively seeking
the support we need for ourselves.
Remember, it's okay to
communicate to our supporters what is and isn't helpful
feedback/support for our needs.
They consider the
possibilities - We can train ourselves to ask which
parts of our current story are permanent and which can
Can this situation be looked
at in a different way that I haven't been considering?
This helps us maintain a realistic
understanding that the present situation is being
colored by our current interpretation.
Our interpretations of our
stories will always change as we grow and mature. Knowing
that today's interpretation can and will change, gives us
and hope that things can feel better tomorrow.
They get out of their head
- When we're in the midst of stress and overwhelm,
our thoughts can swirl with dizzying speed and
disconnectedness. We can find reprieve by getting the
thoughts out of our head and onto our paper.
As Dr. James Pennebaker wrote in
Writing to Heal,
"People who engage in
expressive writing report feeling happier and less
negative than before writing.
Similarly, reports of
depressive symptoms, rumination, and general anxiety
tend to drop in the weeks and months after writing about
Writing is one resilience strategy
we can literally keep in our back pocket.
But there are other ways to get out
of our head. Looking back at #5, it's actually okay to distract
ourselves sometimes. That is, it's okay when the distraction serves
to get us out of rumination mode and bring us back to the present
Healthy distractions include going to
the gym or going for a walk, cooking & baking, volunteering, or any
of the self-care items on your self-care menu from #7.
Note: For another
perspective on resilience - from a psychological research
perspective rather than a self-care focus strategy - read the
following article by Dr. Paul Wong, "The
Positive Psychology of Persistence and Flexibility".
25 Ways to Boost Resilience
Guest author Karen Horneffer-Ginter
is a psychologist and author of the new book "Full
Cup, Thirsty Spirit: Nourishing the Soul When Life's Just Too Much".
She writes with humor and honesty about
how we can move from lives of disconnectedness and overwhelm toward
lives of more fulfillment.
Ways To Boost Resilience"
Resilience in the moment:
Seek sources of inspiring news -
Check out sites like
as a way of taking in quick doses of positivity and
Allow yourself to feel your
emotions - Sometimes having a good cry or fully feeling our
emotions in some other way can help us re-find our center
and feel less overwhelmed by our feelings.
Take a run - It can help to get
moving - in whatever way we choose - to let go of stress,
increase our energy level, and release endorphins into our
Remember a time of resiliency in
your past - What allowed you to find a sense of courage,
strength, and hardiness in the past? By remembering such
life moments, we can create a metaphoric trail of
breadcrumbs back to this place within ourselves.
Lift some weights - Engaging our
physical strength can allow us to feel stronger emotionally.
Free weights, squats, and empowering yoga poses can all help
us reconnect with the hardiness in our body.
Talk with someone you trust.
Having meaningful and honest conversation can help us feel
less alone and allow us to gain clarity about what we most
Take a morning off to recharge -
Unplugging and stepping off the wheel of our doing can offer
just the reset we need to re-find our center.
Take a time-out bath - Either in
its simple form (or with the additional of candles,
bubbles, and a relaxing scent) unwinding with a bath can
help us decompress and relax back into our resiliency.
Think of someone you know who
exudes resiliency - It can help to pull up an example of
embodied resiliency as we attempt to reconnect with our own
version of inner-strength.
Connect with your sense of
source through meditation or prayer - By taking time to be
quiet and turn our attention within, we can reconnect with
what feels sacred and grounding.
Go about the ordinary tasks of
the day - Sometimes it helps to simply get back into our
routine, even if we don't feel up for it. Returning to the
familiar can help re-settle things within.
Take a walk in nature - It can
feel refreshing to get outside, clear our mind, and
invigorate our senses. Sometimes this offers just the
recharge we need.
Write in a journal - Writing
down our thoughts and feelings can help us make sense of
what's going on and appreciate that life's challenges are
also opportunities for growth and learning.
Boost the resiliency of someone
else - Sometimes, the best way to reconnect with our
resiliency is to support someone else by offering our
encouragement and kindness.
Notice your feet making contact
with the floor - Simple as this reminder might sound, it can
help us feel more grounded to notice the soles of our feet.
You can also visualize roots extending down into the earth
and imagine that with each in-breath, you're drawing up
nourishment and strength into the core of your body.
Have compassion for yourself and
your humanness - Sometimes the quickest route to
reconnecting with our resiliency is easing up around our
expectations that we should always be strong and
Listen to empowering music - Put
on some songs that help re-ignite your courage and strength.
Take several intentional
breaths. Breathing in and out in an invigorating way can
help recharge our sense of vitality and hardiness. It can be
useful to forcefully exhale, and then allow a natural
inhalation (known in yoga as the "skull cleansing" breath).
Take action - When we're feeling
overwhelmed and helpless, it can help to identify a concrete
step we can take to improve our situation.
Remember you're not alone in
your experience - It can be helpful to recognize the
universality of our human emotions, remembering that others
also feel vulnerable and overwhelmed from time-to-time. As
we aspire for greater levels of resiliency, we can wish the
same for all others.
Resilience over time:
Form a resiliency support group
- Identify a handful of like-minded people who can offer
support and inspiration. A group of two also works!
Keep a collection of inspiring
quotes - Seek out phrases and quotes that help connect you
with your deepest truth and resiliency. It's great to have
these handy when you're in need of inspiration.
Create a mantra - Come up with a
slogan or a brief statement of your intentions, so that you
can come back to this when needed (e.g., "Even in the face
of uncertainty, I move forward with strength and love").
Carve out a daily self-care
routine - Identify activities that support you to feel your
best - these may include exercise, meditation/prayer,
adequate rest, and healthy eating. Experiment to see what
works best for you.
Practice mindfulness in
day-to-day life - The more we practice being in the moment
across all sorts of moments, the better able we are to show
up fully for whatever life brings our way.