How can I become more emotionally resilient?
Taking steps to look after your wellbeing can help you deal with pressure, and reduce the impact that stress has on your life. This is sometimes called developing emotional resilience – the ability to adapt and bounce back when something difficult happens in your life.
Make some lifestyle changes
There are some general changes that you can make to your lifestyle that could help you feel more able to cope with pressure and stressful situations. You can:
- Practice being straightforward and assertive in communicating with others. If people are making unreasonable or unrealistic demands on you, be prepared to tell them how you feel and say no.
- Use relaxation techniques.You may already know what helps you relax, like having a bath, listening to music or taking your dog for a walk. If you know that a certain activity helps you feel more relaxed, make sure you set aside time to do it. (See our web pages on relaxation for lots more ideas.)
- Develop your interests and hobbies. Finding an activity that’s completely different from the things causing you stress is a great way to get away from everyday pressures. If stress is making you feel lonely or isolated, shared hobbies can also be a good way to meet new people.
- Make time for your friends.When you’ve got a lot on this might seem hard, but it can help you feel more positive and less isolated. Chatting to friends about the things you find difficult can help you keep things in perspective – and you can do the same for them. Laughing and smiling with them will also produce hormones that help you to relax.
- Find balance in your life.You may find that one part of your life, such as your job or taking care of young children, is taking up almost all of your time and energy. Try making a decision to focus some of your energy on other parts of your life, like family, friends or hobbies. It’s not easy, but this can help spread the weight of pressures in your life, and make everything feel lighter.
“When I’m stressed, I take myself away from everyone, into another room or somewhere quiet – even just for five minutes – and sing to myself. Not full on belting out a tune, but just quietly or even humming to myself really calms me down.”
Look after your physical health
Taking steps to look after your physical health can help you manage stress and lessen the impact on your overall mental health. For example:
- Get good sleep. Stress can make it difficult for you to sleep, and you may develop sleep problems. Being well-rested can increase your ability to deal with difficult situations. (See our booklet How to cope with sleep problems for more information.)
- Be more physically active. Physical activity is important for reducing stress levels and preventing some of its damaging effects on the body (so long as you don’t overdo it).
- Eat healthily.When you’re stressed, it can be tempting to eat too much of the wrong kinds of food or to eat too little. But what you eat, and when you eat, can make a big difference to how well you feel.
Give yourself a break
Learning to be kinder to yourself in general can help you control the amount of pressure you feel in different situations, which can help you feel less stressed.
- Reward yourself for achievements – even small things like finishing a piece of work or making a decision.You could take a walk, read a book, treat yourself to food you enjoy, or simply tell yourself“well done”.
- Get a change of scenery.You might want to go outside, go to a friend’s house or go to a café for a break – even if it’s just for a short time.
- Take a break or holiday.Time away from your normal routine can help you relax and feel refreshed. Even spending a day in a different place can help you feel more able to face stress.
- Resolve conflicts, if you can. Although this can sometimes be hard, speaking to a manager, colleague or family member about problems in your relationship with them can help you find ways to move forward.
- Forgive yourself when you make a mistake, or don’t achieve something you hoped for. Try to remember that nobody’s perfect, and putting extra pressure on yourself doesn’t help.
“I distract myself from my […] worry by doing a puzzle or playing a game.”
Use your support network
Remember that whatever you’re going through that’s causing you stress, you don’t have to cope with it alone.
- Friends and family. Sometimes just telling the people close to you how you’re feeling can make a big difference – and they might be able to help you out in other ways too.
- Support at work, such as your line manager, human resources (HR) department, union representatives, or employee assistance schemes. Try not to worry that talking to your manager or colleagues about stress will be seen as a sign of weakness – your wellbeing is important and responsible employers will take it seriously. If you’re worried that the culture in your workplace might not be very supportive, you might find it helpful to take a look atTime to Change’s resources on mental health support at work, and also the Health and Safety Executive’s information on work-related stress (see‘Useful contacts’on pp.20.)
- Support at university or college, such as your tutors, student union or student services. (See our booklet How to cope with student life for more tips on accessing support as a student.)
- Online peer support. Sometimes sharing your experiences with people who’ve been through something similar can help you feel less alone. Elefriends and Big White Wall both offer supportive online communities where you can talk openly about stress and your mental health.
- Specialist websites and organisations. For example
- The Stressbusting website and the Stress Management Society both offer information about stress and provide techniques for coping.
- The Mind Tools website can help you with stress management and assertiveness techniques.
- The International Stress Management Association can help you find a specialist stress practitioner in your local area.
- Mind’s Infoline can provide information about support groups and mental health services in your local area.
- Your GP. If you feel like you need some professional support, you can speak to your doctor.They can check your overall health, and help you access treatments. They could also recommend that you take some time off work, university or college, and sign a medical note for you.