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Cultivating Emotional Resilience

Life can be tough. There isn’t one of us who will live a full life without experiencing some kind of setback, upset or trauma, which is entirely normal. Life is not about avoiding difficulties, but about how you cope with those incidents and get through them, for they make up the rich tapestry of experience that makes life interesting and worthwhile.

This ability to manage and weather challenging moments is called emotional resilience – the way in which we can pick ourselves up, calm ourselves down and eventually move on. The origins of the word resilience are testament to this: resilience comes from ‘resilio’ in Latin, meaning to bounce back or retaliate.

Emotional resilience varies between individuals, and is, to some extent, something you’re born with. Some people are naturally robust and find it relatively simple to “roll with the punches”, whereas others are much more sensitive to difficult situations, and can feel anxious, hopeless and overwhelmed. This can, in turn, lead to poor decision-making, avoidance of certain situations, and general feelings of anxiety that can affect other areas of life.

There are also other contributing factors such as life experiences like trauma or misfortune that are outside of our control that can impact how robust we are. However, with practise and effort, emotional resilience can be learnt. But how?

First, let’s look at the main characteristics of emotional resilience so that we know how to recognise it:

Emotional Awareness – tuning into what we’re feeling and why helps us understand how emotions contribute to our actions, and gives us confidence to look for answers within ourselves. It also helps us to develop empathy by appreciating what others are feeling

Perseverance – trusting in the process of working towards a goal can help us stay optimistic and motivated, even during a setback, lessening the chance of us giving up

Self-Belief – believing that we, rather than outside forces, are in control of our lives brings a greater sense of self-confidence. We don’t blame others or look for help elsewhere, but instead rely on our own capabilities to overcome difficulties

Flexibility – developing the ability to think positively, to be optimistic, adaptable, realistic and rational can shift our perspective on challenges, allowing us to view them as something to make us stronger

Support – surrounding ourselves with supportive friends and family can give us additional strength to endure and overcome struggles

We’ve gathered some tips for building resilience, based around three main areas:


How you view yourself is key to being resilient. Coping with tough circumstances is about self-reliance, and if we don’t believe in ourselves, we can’t rely on our inner strength.

Take a moment to reflect on how you think about yourself. Are you kind about yourself, or do you criticise and berate yourself for making mistakes?

If you find yourself being inwardly negative, it can be really helpful to rethink how you speak to yourself. Try to be kind and encouraging: instead of thinking: “I didn’t do that very well, I’m so useless”, try telling yourself: “It’s ok. We all make mistakes, and I can try again tomorrow”.

Reframing your internal monologue to be more positive can really help boost your self-esteem, which in turn can boost our ability to problem-solve, reason, regulate emotions and reduce anxiety.


Having a strong and trusted support network is vital in building resilience. Humans are social creatures, and we cannot exist in a vacuum – having people around us to be a shoulder to cry on, to offer practical support and give us a sense of belonging and purpose all contribute to our ability to endure challenges.

Make sure you prioritise the positive relationships in your life by nurturing them – don’t forget, if there is someone you consider to be supportive, the likelihood is that you are their support too! If you don’t think you have anyone in your life that would support you, check out our tips for making new connections and start building your social safety net.


Make sure you take care of yourself by eating well, being physically active and avoiding unhealthy coping mechanisms. Keeping to a routine for eating, exercising and sleeping will give you the foundation to cope with stress and unexpected challenges, and foster overall wellness.

You can also try specific coping actions during difficult moments, like:

- Breathing exercises, meditation and mindfulness

- Focus on what is within your control, don’t worry about what you can’t change

- Concentrate on what you enjoy and find relaxing

- Replace negative thoughts with positive ones

- Appreciate what you already have, instead of worrying or complaining about what you don’t

If you are feeling overwhelmed by things or struggling to overcome an event that happened, don’t suffer alone. Reach out to friends or trusted people for support, or speak to your GP or therapist.

Empowering ourselves to view setbacks as temporary helps us to weather the storms and evolve because of them. Negative situations can help us learn about ourselves, what we’re capable of, and the best ways to manage situations in the future. Instead of losing our cool or running away from problems, we can learn to attune ourselves to our inner world and build the self-awareness necessary for resilience.

(As it happens, the YU app is a great way to start the journey to emotional resilience. Download it here!)

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