Types of Emotional Resilience

Resilience is one of those words that we use, often without defining or explaining which type of resilience we are referring to. For many, resilience is about ‘having grit’, pushing through against the odds, keeping your emotions to yourself, never letting go, and never giving up. This image of resilience is both incorrect and harmful to the individual.

With this in mind, below I have outlined five different types of emotional resilience that anyone can practice daily.

Cognitive Resilience:

Cognitive resilience relates to an individual’s capacity to adjust to and manage cognitive pressures. For instance, cognitive stresses can include biases, self-doubt, and negative thinking patterns. . Learned helplessness is another example – cognitive stresses see people shutting down before rather than attempting to do something.

Developing cognitive resilience is about cultivating a growth mindset, recognizing that our perceived limitations are only as enduring as we permit them to be. “I am not smart/skilled enough” quickly becomes “I am not smart/skilled enough yet”. To embrace a growth mindset, you can reframe any cognitive stress you encounter.

If you make a mistake, for instance, you can either engage in negative thinking patterns and use the mistake to justify your self-doubts, or you can view the mistake as a learning opportunity – you now know what not to do.

Emotional Resilience:

We may let emotions control our actions, or find a way to bottle them up and ignore them. Emotional resilience is instead about understanding our emotions and finding healthy ways to process them, allowing us to bounce back from setbacks and maintain a sense of well-being amidst the ups and downs of life.

Understanding your emotions starts with mindfulness; taking the time to sit down and analyse the ‘why’ of your emotion. What is triggering you? Why? The answers to these questions can assist you in formulating healthy coping mechanisms.

Spiritual Resilience:

Spiritual resilience speaks to finding meaning and purpose in ourselves and our lives. It often also refers to finding a connection with something greater than ourselves, though not always in a religious context. Spiritual resilience provides an individual with a feeling of inner strength and tranquility, which can support us during challenging times.

In practice, this means finding meaning, connection, and guidance, for which many people turn to religion, but becoming an active participant in any community, or engaging in community-building, will often do the same.

Physical Resilience:

Arguably the easiest form of resilience to understand, physical resilience is about one’s physical health and well-being. We all understand the usefulness and benefits of regular exercise, a healthy diet, managing chronic health conditions, etcetera.

Good physical health can also aid in coping with cognitive and emotional stresses, as these often impact our physical bodies.

Social Resilience:

Just as important as our ‘internal’ resilience is our ‘external’ resilience — “no man is an island”, we are all part of a larger community. Establishing healthy connections with others involves creating a support network that you can rely on when you need it.

Core to social resilience is seeking support from friends and family, and giving others that support when they need it, too. In many cultures, individuals are discouraged from seeking help, yet when you are reaching your limits or nearing a breaking point, asking for help may be the most beneficial action you can take.

The “Helper’s High” also plays into this; when helping someone, our bodies block the flow of cortisol (the ‘stress hormone’) and release an extra dose of oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine (all ‘feel good hormones’). This instinctive trait is so strong that simply watching someone help another person is enough to give a person the “high”. In other words, helping other people is healthy, so ask for help.

It is crucial to note that while each form of resilience is effective on its own, their impacts are magnified when used together.