When we are faced with challenging obstacles, we all cope in different ways, some face them head on, whereas others buckle under the pressure. It’s important for us to find ways to build up our emotional strength. We spend a lot of time focusing on getting our bodies into shape or practicing healthy habits, but very little time working on improving our mental wellbeing. Building emotional strength requires daily exercise, just like building physical strength.
It’s perfectly normal for us to have moments of stress, anxiety or feeling overwhelmed, but if you regularly feel like you’re drowning in your emotions, you need to improve your mental wellbeing.
What is emotional strength? It’s a type of response when reacting to emotional events in an open and vulnerable way, which allows us to find ways of dealing with the emotion and not getting all tangled up in it.
Do you have emotional strength? Here are four indicators:
- You can respond in an open and vulnerable way.
- You are emotionally responsive.
- You use vulnerable language when describing your situation.
- You engage in action and don’t shy away from it.
There are many situations that emotionally strong people avoid and actions they never take. Here are just a few:
- They don’t seek attention or let others get them down.
- They believe in themselves and don’t hold grudges.
- They don’t shy away from saying ‘No.’
- They don’t sit around dreading what may or may not happen in the future.
- They prefer action, rather than words.
So, looking at these two lists, ask yourself, ‘Are you emotional strong?’
Don’t worry if you’re not because there are things you can do to change that. Here are a few tools that will help you build your emotional strength.
Setting Boundaries – We can start by setting yourself boundaries. Whether it’s with friends, family, your partner, or even your co-workers, boundary setting is extremely important. When you know what is tolerable or not, acceptable or not, reasonable or not, you will have a solid foundation of emotional strength. Boundaries should be based on your values, or the things that are important to you. Remember, they are your boundaries, and yours alone. So, spend some time on setting up your red lines and stick to them.
Many of your boundaries might align with those who are close to you, but others will be unique. It is important to let others know what your boundaries are, so they don’t inadvertently step over them.
Let’s Get Physical – Looking after our bodies is another good way to build emotional strength. The mind and body are inseparable, by taking good care of your body, your mind will reap the benefits. It could be as simple as a brisk walk around the block or going for a jog. It doesn’t have to be a full workout at the gym. What is important is you do it regularly and you get a sweat on.
We Are What We Eat – Eating a healthy diet can help reduce your stress levels, improve your self-confidence, combat depression, and alleviate anxiety.
To have a healthy, balanced diet, people should try to eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day, base meals on higher fibre starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta, and try to reduce your meat and dairy intake – there are plenty of plant-based alternatives out there these days.
A Helping Hand – Reaching out to others is a great way to help build your emotional strength. Some may see this as a sign of weakness, I see it as a sign of strength. The person who doesn’t share their problems could eventually buckle under the weight of their own struggles or become isolated and resentful. It is well known that the people with quality relationships and strong social support systems show signs of greater happiness.
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. People who open themselves up to others learn what real friendship, trust, and sincerity feels like. When your heart is closed, it leads to scepticism and insecurity, but when it is open, you have hope and clarity.
Alone, but not lonely – When you enjoy your own company, you help build your emotional strength. There are times when we inevitably are alone, and we need to be able to make the best of those moments. If you feel some resistance to spending time alone, you really need to work on that. Ask yourself, ‘Why do I hate to be alone, what am I afraid of, what do I think will happen?’ Start off slowly by spending a few minutes alone and then slowly start to build on that. Remember, when you are spending time by yourself, turn off all your devices, so you can limit any distractions. We can’t really claim to be alone if we are chatting on WhatsApp or sending photos on Instagram.
We also need to be careful how we talk to ourselves. Turning negative self-talk into positive thinking can help reduce your risk of depression, lower levels of distress, and improving your coping skills. If you are a person that tends to be critical of yourself, it’s important you change that inner dialogue. Counter your critical inner voice by speaking to yourself in a positive way that is kind, caring and, above all else, supportive, as this is a pillar of emotional strength.
Bring Awareness to Your Day – Practicing mindfulness is another way to build your emotional strength. Knowing yourself, paying attention to your responses, and practicing settling your body down when feeling overwhelmed is going to make you emotionally stronger. By bringing yourself back into the present moment you will have a full awareness of your thought process, your emotions, body sensations and your immediate environment. When you are armed with this full awareness, you will be able to consciously face up to any challenges you may be facing.
When faced with difficulties, take a moment to watch your breath. No need to change the way you are breathing, just become aware of it. Leave your full awareness of the breath flowing in and out of your nostril. This will give you the space to calm down. Once you are calm, you will be much better placed to deal with your present situation, and you will be strengthening yourself emotionally.
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