Personal Growth

Build EMOTIONAL RESILIENCE To Survive An Uncertain Time

build emotional resilience

For context, I’ve written this article to help you build emotional resilience as we experience the second lockdown of 2020.

However, the advice stands true for any period of extended isolation.

It’s been a hell of year.

I don’t know about you but I’ve experienced some struggles this year that have never before appeared on my radar.  Unprecedented events like these suddenly have us thrown into a way of living that is alien to us and it’s scary…no, it really is.

Think of all the luxuries we experience daily that our ancestors could not have even comprehended.

a tray of pampering goods as an example of the luxuries we now have available to us
No pampering for the caveman.

Need food?  I’ll just mooch down the road to the square, concrete building and grab whatever I like. No spear throwing for me.

Need warmth? Let me just twist that toggle just a smidge to the right and hope I can hold out between now and the 10 minutes time where I’ll be snug as a rug.  No log gathering or survival tactics required.

No matter how you look at it, for many of us that live in a first world country, we have access now to things that used to mean the difference between life and death.

Build emotional resilience? Nope. I just need to survive another day, thank you! – said the caveman.

Woah now, Emma.  You’re starting this off a bit heavy!

On the contrary…

We are now living through a time of uncertainty whereby a lot of us are experiencing true financial struggle for the first time.

Our relationships are strained and loneliness is rampant as bouts of disconnection are thrust upon us.

A woman sitting alone curled up on a chair, looking out of a window

But, the truth is that even during seemingly dark times like this where no-one seems to have any answers and we’re not quite sure when we’re going to come out the other side; this year will be what you make of it.

Times are tough and your struggles are most certainly not to be dismissed. But I want to help you re-frame your mindset surrounding the year that’s gone and the few months left to come of it.

During the first lockdown of this year, I suddenly found myself experiencing anxiety as if it were the first time again.

I have spent over a decade learning and educating myself surrounding this mental illness alongside building greater self-awareness so that I could handle my anxiety in a way that fits my needs.

I’m pleased to say that it was a roaring success (if I do say so myself).

A complete mindset shift, a change of attitude, and self-education surrounding human behavior had me finally living a life where I was in control.

a woman staring out of the window smiling while the sun shines on her face
Finally feeling like myself again…

Happily, I plodded along, a little bit smug, having lived years with my anxiety under control.  Never has it been eradicated and nor should it be. After all anxiety at the heart of it all is fear and fear is certainly necessary, but it was managed.

I lived with it in a way that’s healthy; anxiety became helpful to me when I needed it and it was managed when it became irrational.

When you build emotional resilience anxiety becomes a lot easier to manage as stated in Building Emotional Resilience to Promote Health by Mary C. Davies Ph.D.

So it was somewhat upsetting when, during the April of this year, I found myself back in time experiencing anxiety to the same degree as when it all began at the age of 16.  I felt like a failure.  All that progress and here I am, AGAIN?!

The truth is when life throws us a curve-ball of this size and magnitude we may well react to it, you know?  You’re not on your own in this.

Global anxiety is at an all-time high as we fear what the future holds. Loneliness and depression have sky-rocketed. We are more disconnected from our loved ones than ever and isolation keeps us cooped up with our own thoughts that sometimes, are not so helpful.

I want to offer some insights for how to re-frame the next few weeks or maybe even months moving forward. And build emotional resilience as we go into the second lockdown.

emotional strength for the second lockdown signified by man raising his fist in the air as a sign of victory

Despite it all, building emotional resilience in the face of adversity is what is needed here and what can get you through with the least amount of emotional hiccups.

When life throws you a bone you take it and run with it.

And sometimes the bone is decaying, smells and has a strange green layer of goop hanging off it – but it is a bone none the less.

So, what have I got here for you, I here you ask?

RE-FRAMING

In this section, I’ll be going over a few important ways to help alter our mindset and shift our focus toward a more positive and helpful way of thinking so that you can actually use this lock down period to your advantage.

Let’s get things back on track, shall we? Let’s build emotional resilience that will get you through this tough time and you can carry with you throughout life.

Below is the first section of the 64 page e-book ‘Emotional Resilience In Isolation’. Download the full e-book here!

 1. THE GIFT OF TIME

Let me know if any of these sound familiar…

‘I’m just so busy. I don’t have enough time for myself…’

‘I wanted to learn to play piano but I just can’t fit it in at the moment…’

‘Work is taking over my life and I don’t have time to do the things that bring me joy…’

‘I’d love to see you soon! I have some free time opening up August 22nd 2023, how does that sound?’

Alright, if you haven’t at least said something similar I think I’m going to call your bluff. 

At the very least, I’m sure you can relate to the perils of an overworked life and too many priorities for any one human being to possibly handle.

Currently (or at least pre-2020) we are more over-worked, more stressed, and less content than we’ve ever been. 

a woman working in bed on her laptop late at night signifies that we need to build emotional resilience from the overworked lifestyle
Must. Keep. Working…

And a huge part of the problem for a lot of us out there is that 12 hours in a day is just simply not enough. 

How can life expect me to work, be a parent, set up my own side business, love my partner, see my grandparents for a coffee, workout and enjoy a whole host of hobbies with ONLY 12 HOURS?!

Everybody is pulled in ten thousand different directions and, with limited time, putting yourself as a priority seems near impossible.

Perhaps the above doesn’t resonate so much with you.  Perhaps you don’t have too many obligations to worry about but your soul-sucking job has you in from 8 am to 6 pm every day and leaves you brain dead by the end of it.

You head home with no motivation, zero focus and feeling pretty crummy.

The time in the evenings or on that spare day off every other weekend doesn’t even feel like free time because you need it just to re-cooperate from the emotional heartache of working in the time-suck that is your job.

Regardless of how it used to be, a lot of us have now been awarded the gift of time.

Time is priceless.

girl holding out a beautifully wrapped gift as a metaphor for the phrase 'the gift of time'
That’s right, it’s a gift.

The hours, days, and months fly by and with every second we age and we will never be able to get it back.  So, if there is one thing to appreciate among all of this – it’s time.

Perhaps you find yourself at home now more than ever and at first, this seemed daunting.  What the hell do you do with yourself?  You might fixate on the financial worries, fears of loneliness and isolation and grunt at the boredom this period has in store for you.

This is why you need to build a resilience mindset because with so much time your mind can run rampant with fears and worries if you let it.

But this is an opportunity.

It might be a really long while before a chance like this come around again where you suddenly have time on your hands. 

Although it’s completely understandable for this to throw you out of whack, this most certainly works in your favour. 

OK, so the everyday routine has gone out the window and that feels weird.  The people you see every day at work aren’t there any-more and that doesn’t sit quite right

What about the 9 am morning coffee and croissant that you buy from the coffee chain around the corner without fail every morning – this all feels a tad disjointed.

We are creatures of habit and routine

routine provide emotional resilience because it gives us certainty shown by a woman writing on a post it note on top of a weekly planner
Someone grab the sticky notes, I’ve got some planning to do!

It makes us feel safe and secure and gives us a feeling of certainty in our lives and we like this because uncertainty scares the shit out of us

With certainty, we feel as if we have control and this makes us feel comfortable.

So, having a year like this that flips everything on its head and gives your everyday routine the middle finger may well throw you for 6 and that’s alright.  That’s pretty damn normal. 

But alongside all of the things it feels as though this year has taken from you, the one thing that it has GIVEN a lot of you is time.

‘Great, Emma.  I have time, what the hell shall I do with it?!’

I’m so glad you asked. TAKE YOUR PICK!

  • Relax! (yes that’s right, it’s not easy for many but now is the time to slow down)
  • Read that book you never had time to start
  • Pick up that hobby that brings you joy that you never had time for
  • Start that side-business that you felt you didn’t have time to focus on
  • Get in shape (No more ‘I don’t have time to exercise’ excuses!)
  • Do some life inventory ( What are your core values and beliefs, life goals, build self-awareness, solidify what you want moving forward)
  • Learn Spanish as you’ve always wanted
  • Learn to play the instrument that you never thought you’d have time to learn
  • Hone your skills in something that’s important (perhaps that will help your career)
  • Take time for you and your partner (relationship check-in)
  • Redecorate the guest bedroom that now has greenish-grey off white walls and a special patch of mold in the corner
  • Write the book you never started
  • FINISH writing the book that you started but didn’t complete
  • Take the time to cook full healthy meals
  • Help someone in need

You can do SO MUCH of the things that are actually important to you and that actually matter when you have time.

Again, in the age of being over-worked and underpaid time is a luxury that a lot of us don’t feel we have. 

Yes, it will always be about prioritizing and yes it will always be down to you to take control over where and who gets your time and how you manage your life but it does snowball.

Before you know it you’ve said yes to too many invitations, taken over-time at work that you regret accepting, are trying to make sure everyone else is happy and that you’re working so you and your family can have a good life.

It’s admirable and it’s understandable.

This is the perfect time to get things in order and have some space to breathe.

a girl stand with her eyes shut breathing in the fresh air to calm herself and relieve herself of anxiety

Although it might seem hard to appreciate when you’re worried about paying the rent or the bills etc, the emotional peace that you can find for yourself when you just have TIME far outweighs any financial worries or future uncertainties.

Build emotional resilience by appreciating the opportunities to be found in times of distress.

Time has been given to a lot of you whether you like it or not so it’s best to appreciate what a gift this is and USE IT.

2. SUPER GLUED TO THE HERE AND NOW

Nothing is permanent and everything is temporary.

a tabby cat is stuck in a bird box after trying to wiggle through to signify the need to build emotional resilience toward the feeling of being stuck
Feeling a bit stuck?

This is really important to get your head around because it will help you with the negative emotions and thoughts that make you feel as though things are doomed. And that’s not an exaggeration.

It’s easy to get caught in a negative feedback loop whereby you’re thrown into uncertainty and feel like you’ve lost all control. 

With this can come the overwhelming feeling that ‘everything is doomed’ and so we stop looking for ways to help ourselves and accept our fate by doing nothing.

We tell ourselves we’ve lost control and nothing is certain which makes us feel like ‘everything is doomed’ so we do nothing and accept our fate which makes us feel like we’ve lost control and nothing is certain…You get the gist.

I’m going to lose my job, my landlord will throw me out, my partner will leave me and I’ll have to start from scratch.

Listen, here are some hard truths.  That exact situation COULD play out.

But the statement above still stands true; nothing is permanent and everything is temporary. 

Being able to change your perceptions of events such as this in a way that allows us to see that this is a time in our lives that will come and go, allows you to relieve yourself of the weight of impending doom.

It allows you to build emotional resilience by recognizing that –

This is not the be all and end all.

an open and empty road leading off into a foggy distance and surrounded by autumn trees
This is just one part of the entire journey.

You are not super glued to the here and now; you’re gliding through it on a jelly train.  Sometimes it’s hard to hold on, you’re worried you might fall off and it feels like it’s going to disintegrate beneath you but that’s life.

Life is one big jelly train.

Times might be tough, NOW.  You might be struggling, NOW.  Days are filled with uncertainty, NOW.  Money is tight, NOW.  The future seems bleak, NOW.

But now is not forever and this is just part of the ebb and flow of life.   When you fixate on a period of time like this and jump into a black hole of fear and worry you’re only perpetuating the notion that what is happening to you now is PERMANENT.

And with thoughts like this, it’s incredibly tough to a) get through it emotionally unscathed and b) find ways to use it to your advantage.

There will be things that are permanently affected like losing your job, for example, but that does not mean you are destined to be jobless for the rest of your life.

Perhaps your relationship can not handle the strain of this new (temporary) way of life and it has to end.  The relationship is over for good but that does not mean you are destined to a life alone.

This time of your life is no different from any other – obstacles pop up and you must maneuver yourself around or over them. 

You will regularly need to change your trajectory as life throws you curve balls but also opens doors and you will have to adapt and change as and when these things come along.

This is just one (pretty hefty) curve-ball. 

Acknowledge its presence, accept it, adapt to it, and change your course of action accordingly ready for when the next obstacle comes along.

life has many obstacles that we must jump over as signified in this image of a woman mid jump over a hurdle at the olympics
Get ready for the next hurdle!

In 4 months, 10 months, 2 years, or 5 years’ time we will all be in an entirely different situation than the one we are in now and when we get there we might look back and think, ‘My goodness, that year was tough.’

But it was just that, a thing of the past; a moment in time that has been lived through and moved on from

Let go of the WEIGHT you burden yourself with when you allow yourself to think limiting things like, ‘I’ll never get through this’ or ‘This is never going to end’

It will end and the choice to see it for what it is and responding to it in a way that is helpful to you (by using the TIME you’ve been given) is yours.

This may well change the course of your life for good and that is no bad thing.

You are not stuck here among this forever, you are not super glued to the present.   Amongst all of the uncertainty, find comfort in the CERTAINTY that nothing is permanent.

 This time will end and how you choose to respond to it will determine how you will move on from it.

You can build emotional resilience by heightening your awareness of the permanent and the temporary.

HELP YOUR 60 YEAR OLD SELF

an older woman standing outside by a red bush and laughing to herself

Alright, so it might be hard to be excited in the present at this current time (unless you’re like me and are LOVING the newfound free time to finally do the things that you love but never seem to have time for !)

But, what about getting excited for the future?

We’ve already looked at what it could mean for you to have more time and we’re now clear on the mindset moving forward that this is not permanent, it will end and we will move on from this time in our lives.

With all of this, now is perhaps the perfect time to do some re-evaluating and put the steps in place to plan for a future that looks pretty epic from where I’m sitting.

Think about it, in times like this we find ourselves wondering, ‘What am I even doing with my life?’  And this is normal, friend. 

Our routines have gone out the window, our lives have been turned upside down and we begin to ponder over what’s really important.

woman sitting on the steps of a building, deep in thought. build emotional resilience by living a life with purpose
Time to re-evaluate a few things?

Something magnificent happened during the first lockdown earlier this year.

I would go out on my daily walk to a beautiful park near me and I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. 

There were more people running, jogging, cycling, rollerblading, kite flying, and Frisbee playing than I have ever seen there, EVER.

It was the best site to see.

I could feel the motivation that the people had now that they had the time. 

I could see the enjoyment of being outdoors, taking the time to be in the sun, and actually being leisurely about it. 

No rushing about or angry tube journey for them! No, sir.

Right in front of me, I could see a park full of people who had finally discovered what life could be like if they had more time, more control

They were rediscovering their priorities.

They were able to build emotional resilience by re-connecting with themselves.

woman meditating on the top of a cliff edge overlooking a canyon

On top of this, I had the pleasure of speaking with a handful of friends who had been furloughed for those 3 early summer months and were now back at work. 

Now, despite the fact that there were many salesmen (yes, I worked in a car showroom in a previous life) who were overjoyed to be back at work because their pockets were feeling a little emptier than they were used to; a handful of a past colleague of mine seemed to have woken up.

For the first time in the longest time, they had experienced what life could be like if they didn’t have to give 10 hours of their day to corporate life.

They reconnected with long-forgotten passions, they discovered new skills, they felt better than ever after using the time to eat well and get in shape.

They had forgotten what it felt like to feel well in themselves and to do what they needed to do for THEM.

a woman blowing bubbles in public and smiling
That’s right, I do this for ME.

With that their priorities have shifted and I am pleased to say that 2 have set up their own online businesses in a bid to create a life for themselves that they want to live.

Now, I am not saying to build emotional resistance requires you to jump ship and become a self-made entrepreneur like all the cool kids.

What I’m saying is this – with time and self-reflection you can RE-EVALUATE your values and your priorities and make sure you’re living in accordance with them. 

You can plan ahead and think about the life you want to lead.  Understanding what’s truly important is incredibly underrated in the generation of MORE

We want more money, more sex, more assets, more brands, more clothes, more happiness, more gadgets, more followers….MORE PLEASE!

But with this comes the working of long hours in jobs that might not align with our true passions and a superficial love for the unimportant.

the image of money being burned to signify that emotional resilience is built when you focus on what's important and not the superficial

It’s easy to get stuck in this way of thinking but wait…

Now, your work-life has altered.  Now, it doesn’t have to be the priority and now you don’t have to split yourself into 20 pieces to give everyone else your time and attention. 

You have the time and the mindset to stop, breathe and think.

And even better, you have the time to PLAN.

And planning, during any period of your life, will always help you build emotional resilience because it allows you to take back some degree of control.

I’ll say again, the present time might not be worth celebrating for you. 

In fact you might want all of this to be over as quickly as possible (which hopefully it will be for the obvious reasons) but it is most certainly worth getting excited by the future.

If you used this time to think about 60 year old you, what would you imagine could be a peaceful life for your older self?

For those with the response, ‘I want to be happy’ or ‘I want to be rich’.

These are so vague that they aren’t even worth considering. 

Happiness is a by-product of your actions and behaviours and this is where the value should lie. 

Riches are a by-product of hard work and becoming a master in your field and this is where your values should lie.

Forget about the superficial and think about what would bring your life meaning and purpose.

This is why your 60 year old self will be thanking you.

Building your resilience is an article from the American Psychological Association which states very clearly why you should find a purpose to help drive you forward.

And, why a heavy focus on the things that are IMPORTANT will help you build a resilience mindset.

By living in alignment with your core values and beliefs you set yourself up for a life of content and fulfillment.

With this might come happiness and riches and if so, congratulations.

But by living in a world that tells you that you should want more and be better and look perfect, you can find yourself in times like this where the important things in life don’t feel like enough.

This way friction and discontent lie.

I’ll break it down for you because I think this is important. 

The following are a list of things that you might now be without or lacking in but are superficial in value and are external sources of happiness that should not be relied upon:

  • Branded Clothing
  • Night’s out (eating and drinking)
  • Buying any form of luxury goods (non-essentials)
  • High amounts of disposable income
  • The new car you wanted
  • The upgraded phone that you can’t get
  • Validation from peers of all of the above

These are examples of BAD values

When you place your core values surrounding the external and superficial you will not only find that you are never truly content but that source of happiness is out of your control as it relies on external factors.

If a core value of yours is to be seen as the ‘best’ and the person with the ‘most’ then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

superficial values create disappointment which is signified here by a man in an expensive suit wearing an expensive watch
It is unwise to place value in the superficial

Because it relies on you always having the money to have the ‘most’ and it relies on other people’s opinion that you are the ‘best’.

You will not be able to build emotional resilience if you live by poor values.

This is where we think about the things that we always have in our control,  that are internal and align with GOOD core values. 

So what do you have now that you can appreciate?

  • Time
  • The love of our friends and family
  • The ability to always learn a new skill
  • The ability to develop a skill you already have
  • The support of people who offer it
  • The offering of support to people who need it
  • An appreciation for the hobbies and activities that bring you joy
  • Quality time with your partner or children

Just to name a few.

Connections with the people we love bring our life meaning and are within our control.  The ability to master a skill and in turn ‘become the best’ without argument is within our control. 

Using the time we have to take up those hobbies and activities that we never have time for, is within our control.

bundles of brightly coloured wool
Yes, even knitting. ESPECIALLY knitting.

When you focus on the former, superficialities in life and place value in ‘things’ or external factors then your 60-year-old self may well find that they’ve had a pretty tough life of discontent and disappointment.

When you place value in the internal – being a good person, mastering a skill, showing others respect and love, valuing quality time with loved ones, showing gratitude for what you do have not jealousy over what you don’t…

THEN you might find 60-year-old you sitting on a porch somewhere in the future feeling at peace with their decisions.

These friends of mine that had some pretty epic light bulb moments during the first lockdown and realized that they’re life was not flowing in accordance to their values.

They were not having the quality time they wanted with their families.

They realized that they were not taking care of their minds and bodies how they should have.

And, they were stressing about external factors that were not important.

And, they used all of this to rediscover WHO THEY ARE.

What they want their lives to be and figure out how to make that happen.

So, with all of that said.

Take a moment and ask yourself:

What are my core values and beliefs about myself?

Are they helpful, good values?

Am I living in accordance with them?

If not, how can I change my life to align with these values?

And then make a plan. 

The present situation is difficult for a lot of us but do not stop yourself from feeling excited about the future and a sure-fire way to do that is to work toward building the future that YOU WANT.

Now is the PERFECT time to re-prioritize and build yourself a life that 60-year-old you would have been proud to have lived.

a black and white image of an older man and woman dancing and laughing
Happy 60 year old you.

I am NOT saying ‘Quit your job today and follow your heart wherever it may go!

Let’s be sensible here.  For my friends, this did mean putting a plan in place for a career change but it doesn’t have to be this drastic.

Perhaps you are sitting and wondering how you and your partner could have drifted so far apart and a value of yours is to show love and affection in abundance.  So, it could be as simple as putting a plan in place to work on your relationship.

Carve out the time for one another and make sure it’s the amount of time that you and your partner deserve.

Perhaps you have rediscovered your love for playing the Obo.  Your life is better for having music in your life but you don’t make time for it, you don’t give it your attention even though it brings you peace and joy.

It could be as simple as using this time to plan an hour or two into your schedule each week just for playing your beloved Obo.

Build emotional resilience by getting excited for the future.

And the best way to get excited for the future even in a dark present is to live in accordance with good values, implement the things that give your life meaning, and plan your actions moving forward in a way that would make your 60-year-old self smile with glee.

For more ways to enhance your emotional resilience, you can read 10 Ways to Boost Your Emotional Resilience, Backed by Research by Time. A full and in-depth article with 10 top tips for building emotional resilience.

About Emma Loveday

Hi there! My name is Emma, founder and writer of 'Resilient Humans'. Lover of slippers, 13% vol red wine, online courses (I don't care, you don't know me!) and queso, obviously. I'm currently in the process of writing my new book, 'Bold, Brave & Brilliant: 12 life lessons to cultivate mental strength and emotional resilience'. Check out @resilientemma on Instagram for the latest updates and all of the juicy goodness. Any questions? Just drop me a DM at hello@resilienthumans.co.uk or jump in the comment section below, I'd love to hear from you. No, truly I would.
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