What Is Emotional Resilience?

We hear lots of talk about the word resilience, but what does it actually mean to have resilience or be resilient? And why is it that some days you feel more resilient than others?

Resilience is our ability to recover quickly from illness, change, misfortune or anything that brings us down. It’s our ability to deal with fear, disappointment or when things don’t turn out, as we would like them to. It is not necessarily the physical recovery but the mental recovery, e.g. our cognitive or thought patterns rebounding back to their normal state. Much of building resilience sits in the field of positive psychology.

The dictionary definition of resilience is ‘the property of a material that enables it to resume its original shape or position after being bent, stretched or compressed: elasticity’. Ironically, sometimes that is how we can feel; stretched to our limit or compressed to our former selves after being through periods of stress.

How do you know you need to build your resilience?

Either you will be impacted by an event or perhaps you don’t feel like you are handling things as well as you used to. Your self-esteem or confidence may feel lower and perhaps you are not responding to challenges with the same positivity you used to. Disappointment at not getting a much sought after promotion or working every day with a very difficult boss are two examples of where our emotional resilience can be tested.

The positive thing is that emotional resilience can be built with some practice. There are many tools to use; I have chosen 5 to get you started.

What if it’s not working?

If your resilience is not bouncing back to its normal state after a period of time that feels reasonable to you, you may need to seek further professional assistance with a psychologist or counselor.

Resilience Building Tips

1 Scale your resilience

Make an honest assessment of where you think your resilience level is. This allows some transparency about how much work you need to do.  This can be done on a Likert Scale as seen below. With one being the lowest and ten being the highest, mark where you currently are. It is also helpful to mark where you think you are normally, so you are not aiming to return to something that is unrealistic. This exercise can be completed sporadically to gauge your progress.

1 ————————–(Me)————————–5———————————————–10

Very low level of resilience                   medium                          high level of resilience

 2 Journal writing

Get into the regular habit of writing a journal for 5-10 minutes a day.   A journal allows reflection and the space to monitor your emotions, thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Writing a journal assists people in making meaning of things and increases self-knowledge. It allows you to access your inner self and tap into intuition and can be used to access creativity and develop self-awareness.

Use it to analyze different times when you are feeling more or less resilient and notice any patterns. Jot down what occurs for you on days that you feel better than others.

3 Take care of yourself

Taking care of our self is such an important aspect of our lives and yet it is often the thing that is most neglected! Pay attention to your needs and feelings and engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing; whether it is exercise, enough sleep, yoga, cooking, meditation, time out to read a book or taking a walk on the beach or in the country.

4 Stay connected

Maintaining good relationships with close family members, friends or others is an important tool in building resilience.   Accepting help, support and being able to talk and be listened to strengthens resilience. Sometimes a good night out with friends and a laugh can be just what we need to lift the spirit.

5 Set goals and work on them positively

Develop some realistic goals and make sure you do something every day even if it seems like a small accomplishment. Focus on your goals with a positive frame of mind. Just building up this momentum can help build resilience and self esteem. If a goal seems too large or insurmountable, break it in to smaller goals and ask yourself “What is the one thing I can do today which will help me move in the direction I want to go?


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