Build Your Emotional Resilience with These Exercises

How do you handle yourself after a stressful or negative event? It would depend on your emotional resilience.

So, what is emotional resilience?

Emotional resilience definition is your ability to calm your frantic mind after a negative, stressful, and chaotic experience.

It is also considered the inner force or intrinsic motivation with which you hold yourself down through all of life’s challenges and setbacks.

Fortunately, developing emotional resilience can be done in various ways.

And yes, there are resilience activities for adults and resilience exercises that can help ensure emotional resilience is cultivated and maintained.

Most people develop great emotional resilience in early childhood but struggle to retain it until adulthood.

What is Emotional Resilience? 

Emotional resilience is more than just winning the battle.

It is the strength to power through any storms (challenges and setbacks) and still keep the boat afloat and steady.

The word ‘resilience’ is derived from the Latin word ‘resilio,’ which means to retaliate or bounce back. 

Emotional resilience is an art that is closely related to self-compassion, self-belief, and enhanced cognition. 

It is how you empower yourself to perceive challenges and adversities as temporary.

It is also your ability to continue evolving despite the pain and sufferings.

In a broad sense, emotional resilience means you bounce back from stressful encounters and not allow it to affect your internal motivation. 

Contrary to popular belief, emotional resilience is not a ‘bend but don’t break’ trait.

Rather, resilience is accepting the idea that while you are broken, you still continue to grow even with the broken pieces.

Interestingly, your level of emotional resilience can vary between different phases of your life.

For instance, you can be emotionally resilient in your professional life but still need to work hard when it comes to your home life.

Nature and nurture both play a role when it comes to identifying your emotional resilience. 

So while you may be born with some capacities that help you manage stress competently, early life experiences and past traumas will also have an impact on how your emotional resilience develops.

Many studies have shown that emotional resilience when confronting minor stresses has a correlation with your ability to face major challenges.

So the sooner you develop and build emotional resilience, the more it will benefit you in the long term.

Emotional Resilience Traits

Depending on the context, emotional resilience can look different. 

However, many resilient people share and exhibit certain traits. 

Consider the list below as an emotional resilience exercise or test. 

The more traits you recognize in yourself, the more resilient emotionally you are likely to be.

  • Positivity. You see the good in most situations and people. You also have faith and belief in your own strengths and talents. You also have developed the capacity to survive the tough challenges and setbacks.
  • Self-awareness. You can accurately identify your emotions and understand what causes them. This also gives you the ability to easily empathize with others using the same skill set.
  • Apt reliance on others. You know when to reach out to help when you need it. You also have a tight circle of people you can rely on for support.
  • Realism. You have a clear and accurate perspective on what you want and can achieve. You also know what your talents are and you don’t over or underestimate what you can do.
  • Willingness to learn. You are able to easily recognize mistakes and setbacks as an opportunity to learn. You see meaning in your setbacks and struggles.
  • Determination. You not only set goals, you also keep working hard to achieve whatever you set your heart to. You always go beyond dreaming. Instead, you plan and actively orient yourself towards consistent and productive action.
  • Spirituality. While you don’t have to be overtly religious, you practice some kind of developed spirituality (i.e., meditation) that is associated with emotional resilience.
  • Belief in autonomy. You know that you are in control of your own life and development instead of crediting or blaming other people for your situation.
  • Humor. You can laugh at yourself and the things that are happening in your life and you don’t take everything seriously all the time.
  • Authenticity. You recognize vulnerability as a strength instead of a weakness and you are the type to willingly share yourself with others.

Top Emotional Resilience Exercises

While building emotional resilience can be challenging for some, it is reassuring to know that it can be done. 

The following exercises can teach you how to be emotionally resilient. 

You will also learn solid examples on how you can use the techniques accordingly in your daily life.

As you go through the exercises and examples, reflect on when, how, and where you can integrate the habits in your daily life. 

While not all will apply and will be suitable in your case, consistently practicing them can make a significant and long-term impact on your emotional resilience.

1. Establish your support system.

When you are still in the process of building your emotional resilience, it is important to realize that you cannot do it on your own.

While emotional resilience has a lot to do with autonomy and inner strength, it also requires knowing that to be your best, you need a strong support network. 

Often, reaching out is viewed as a sign of weakness.

However, nothing can be farther from the truth.

On the contrary, reaching out to others is considered a sign that you are well aware of your own limitations and you value and understand the importance of human connection.

Depending on what you want, your support system will likely include some trusted family members and good friends.

Perhaps, some colleagues you trust will also be included in your support system.

It is crucial that you think beyond those people as well.

For instance, consider the role a therapist can play in your life, even if you are not having an active crisis.

Many people engage in occasional psychotherapy appointments, which give them a beneficial forum where they can increase their self-knowledge and reflect on their decisions.

 2. Confront your fears.

Your fears will have a strong hold on you if you hide from them rather than facing them head on.

Facing your fear can make a world of difference for your emotional resilience and well-being.

While this approach can seem great on paper, how can you apply this approach at a practical level?

One approach that can be used involves the use of meditation to deal with challenging and difficult emotions.

This exercise has two parts and both are designed to empower you to face your fears accordingly.

First, you need to determine the body cues that indicate fear.

For instance, when you are fearful, you might start sweating and palpitating.

When this happens, deliberately slowing the pace of your body can make a world of difference.

Slowly and deeply breathe in and out as many times until your palpitation disappears.

Second, say out loud “I am afraid of ___.”

This enables you to have a more objective perspective of the fear you want to overcome. 

After you have done this, recite a positive affirmation such as “I am safe, relaxed, and free from fear.”

3.  Be assertive and learn how to create the change you want.

Lack of emotional resilience is often associated with a specific passivity.

For instance, some people often find themselves just going along with the preference of others instead of what they really want.

Others also find themselves at the mercy of life rather than being in total control of it.

If you want to develop emotional resilience, you need to nurture and practice your assertiveness skills and use those skills to effectively propel yourself forward towards your goals.

It is also critical that you are able to draw a clear distinction between assertiveness and aggressiveness.

The latter is demanding, entitled, and loud.

The former is clear, confident, and calm.

Case in point: if you are unhappy with what someone has done at work, an aggressive person might say “I have told you so many times that I won’t be putting up with this!”

An assertive person on the other hand might tell you, “I would like to discuss how we can work together more effectively.”

When you notice that you are being passive, ask yourself how you can rephrase what you can say so you will come across as assertive and not aggressive or passive.

4.  Evaluate your thoughts.

Developing emotional resilience will require that you practice self-reflection on a consistent basis.

While self-reflection is something you can do on your own, this is also sometimes best done with the help and guidance of a therapist or even a trusted friend or confidante.

If you would rather do this practice on your own, you can start by integrating a self-reflective practice in your life such as keeping a journal.

The idea is to be aware of your thoughts, what you are feeling, how you think about yourself and your life, and how you speak to yourself.

You need to also practice noticing patterns that indicate areas you need to improve.

Specifically, you need to look for tendencies where you tend to avoid responsibility for the things that are going wrong in your life.

You need to also be aware of your tendency to hide certain emotions like sadness under more defensive emotions such as anger.

Each day, work on challenging yourself to think of something beneficial that you can apply in your daily life from the challenges and setbacks you have encountered.

This can help reinforce the idea that even challenges and setbacks can help you improve your life and become better.

5.  Be in control of your destiny.

If you want to be emotionally resilient, you need to be able to enjoy and accept the fact that you are the driver when it comes to your life.

While you can’t always change the world around you or how the people you interact with behave, you need to focus on the fact that you have full power over how you respond to situations.

Exercising this power can also play a significant role in shaping your future.

If accepting personal accountability and responsibility is a struggle for you, it would also be difficult seeing yourself as the one in control.

However, you can change this by reminding yourself that you have a choice each time you encounter setbacks and challenges.

From there, you also need to determine what your choices are and weigh your options.

Once you have decided on the path to take, you need to pursue it with complete conviction.

More importantly, you also need to accept that the outcome is primarily your responsibility.

You will be surprised by how liberating this mentality can be.

6.  Practice mindfulness exercises.

Many mindfulness exercises can also work as emotional resilience exercises.

For instance, body scanning meditations can be very useful when you struggle to sit down and identify your emotions.

Spend at least 5 to 10 minutes breathing slowly and deeply and move your attention from your head to toe.

As you go along, be mindful of how you are feeling, both physically and emotionally.

Ensure you don’t judge your emotions, rather simply observe them.

This can help emphasize that whatever it is that you are feeling is okay and this can help you regulate any of your responses to strong emotions.

You can also consider practicing mindfulness exercises that are specifically focused on developing emotional resilience. 

For instance, you can imagine filling your body with warm, liquid gold that melts all of your stress and worries away.

Return to the same imagery repeatedly to feel more empowered and to help you develop more control over how you respond to life.

7.  Forgive yourself regularly and move on.

Lack of emotional resilience often develops when you hold onto regrets and grudges.

This type of mentality can also bring about feelings of helplessness, anxiety, and self-loathing.

When you forgive yourself for past mistakes and let go of the past, you are also giving yourself permission to move forward.

Get in the habit of forgiving yourself for your mistakes and make sure you learn from your mistakes and do better next time.

Forgiving yourself for your shortcomings will also give you a clean emotional slate and help you diminish the fear of the unknown and cope with stress accordingly.

In time, compassion for yourself will become second nature.


Challenges and setbacks are a part of life. While people would rather not experience them, they can give you the opportunity to challenge yourself, get out of your comfort zone, and become a better version of yourself. Developing emotional resilience can also help you let positive energy in so you can bring about positive results.

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