How to build emotional resilience for challenging times ahead

Sometimes life challenges come along out of nowhere, and there is no way to foresee or prepare for them. But even if we do get warning signs, we can’t always stop those difficult events from happening – and sometimes we don’t have the resources mentally, emotionally or practically to be able to minimise their impact.

Things can be so overwhelming that our reserves run dry. And that is when external support is fundamental to helping us get through whatever we are facing.

The world seems an especially uncertain place at the moment, and this autumn and winter could prove particularly unsettling. Finding a place of control in the midst of this uncertainty is key to our wellbeing.

So what can we do now to help us prepare for the coming months?

Build up your emotional and mental reserves

This sounds simple, but it works. Sleeping enough, exercising often and eating as well as possible really can help build up our reserves so that when a challenge comes, we can cope with it a bit better. Sticking to a simple routine and having pockets of certainty in our day and week can also help us to feel like we have some control, encouraging us to feel safe.

Our brains and our nervous systems can deal with only a certain amount of change and challenge. Moments of relaxation, closing our eyes and breathing deeply, listening to some music and being outside in nature can all help us to distract our brains from worry and escape from our concerns for a short time, giving our brains a break.

Feeling supported

Stigma and shame are two terrible obstacles to us reaching out for support and help when things are difficult. We are conditioned to believe that we “should” be able to cope with whatever life throws at us and that if we can’t then there is something “wrong” with us. This is nonsense.

When things are overwhelming and there are huge practical or emotional changes in our lives, we need support. It can be hard to vocalise this for fear of judgement from others, but if we do get that support early, we can save ourselves from a lot of suffering and sadness.

Ensuring that we are surrounding ourselves with people who are true friends, who lift us up and who are actually there acting to help rather than just talking about it, can really help us to persevere. Kindness, love and care are all important components to being able to get through challenges.

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Get practical

Sometimes, when there is a chink of light showing the way to a solution, or a partial solution, or even just to feel a bit better, is there any information you can find or any organisations you can get in touch with for advice or support? When you feel overwhelmed, it can be helpful to break things down into moment-to-moment decisions. Is there anyone you trust who can sit down with you and work through the challenges?

Life is uncertain and none of us can predict what will happen next – all we can do is try to look after ourselves as best as possible in each moment, to do our best in each moment, and try to do the best we can for those around us. Know that by doing this, especially during uncertain and challenging times, that you are incredible.

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