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Emotional resilience comes with experience

Photograph: iStock

Text: Kathy Borys Siddiqui

What exactly is emotional resilience, and why is it so important? Is it possible to expand our emotional resilience? If so, How?

Break it down The emotional responses we have to adversity determine our level of emotional resilience. The word Resilience comes from Latin - Resilio- which means to bounce back or recoil.

Emotional Resilience has many definitions, so what exactly is it? One way to define it according to the American Psychological Association is “a process of adapting well when faced with adversity, trauma, tragedy, and significant sources of stress.“

Individuals with a high level of emotional resilience can recognise and manage their emotions in situations of crisis, adversity, and hardships. Emotional Resilience is a skill and trait that we are born with, and it continues to develop throughout our lives. Its development is also strongly influenced by the environment we grow up in, and it continues to be influenced by our personal and professional environment during adulthood. Who we surround ourselves with and the company we keep influences how we handle our emotions. It is essential to keep in mind that someone who is emotionally resilient still gets upset and feels overwhelmed at times. The difference is that they can acknowledge and deal with their emotions with ease. For those of us who are less resilient, there is good news - this skill can be developed with practice.

"Emotional resilience is like the sous chef in the kitchen, it is a must."

Resilience is like a muscle

Why is it so important? For those of us who lead international lives, Emotional Resilience is like the Sous Chef in the kitchen, it is a must. Everyday life hurls lots of emotional experiences our way, and we have to process them. Living an international life is exciting and challenging because of an abundance of unexpected events that often surface - events that we are not prepared for. The aftermath is dealing with intense emotions that accompany these events. Certain experiences are more difficult than others; however, it is inevitable that the sooner we start working out those emotional resilience muscles, the better. We have to be able to recognise how we react to intense and challenging experiences and the emotions that come up. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most important exercise for improving your resilience is training your attention and awareness.

So, what is resilience made up of?

Resilient individuals have specific characteristics and practices in common, according to the American Psychological Association:

#1 Recognising and managing your feelings.

#2 Empathy.

#3 Having a sense of self-worth and confidence.

#4 Ability to form and maintain healthy relationships.

#5 Good problem - solving skills.

#6 A sense of purpose for the future.

#7 Optimism.

#8 Belief in support systems.

#9 Coping well with change.

However, the question lingers on, what if we do not recognise these traits or practices in ourselves? What can we do? Here are a few tips, and please keep in mind there are many more practices that can improve emotional resilience according to

Nurturing the feeling of control - it is vital for humans to feel a sense of control over our


 Developing a sense of self-esteem.

 Developing optimism and hope.

 Cultivating a sense of positivity, well-being, and purpose.

 Practising gratitude each day.

 Developing SMART goals: setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable,

realistic, and time-bound.

Implementing these practices into daily life can bring about great results in emotional resilience growth. Numerous exercises and introspective self-development tools are also available to those who are willing to dive in and explore the world of emotional resilience. As Internationals, emotional resilience is a must-have in our lives. It is invaluable when it comes to coping with challenges, turmoil, or simply during another move and/ or new host country.

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