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  • Writer's pictureRobin Thomas

4 Ways to Build Emotional Resilience

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

Nelson Mandela

Why do some people seem to bounce back from negative experiences while others become overwhelmed?

How can we build the emotional resilience to rise back up when faced with challenges?

I know what it is like to feel overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed is when you have such strong emotions about a situation, whether it is good or bad, you have trouble getting things done. You feel like you can’t think clearly, and feel stressed, worried and anxious.

In 2001 I was still working in the lab when my younger son had a major health crisis and we found ourselves suddenly homeschooling. I was juggling life in the balance. Long hours at work and working at home. Balancing his blood sugars, major digestive issues, medications with horrendous side effects, seizures and debilitating panic attacks. Yes, I understand what it’s like to feel overwhelmed.

In this article I am sharing some simple habits we can all incorporate in our lives to reduce overwhelm based on my personal experiences as well as constant study on these topics for the past 15 years.

4 Ways to Build Emotional Resilience

Start Your Day Quietly and With Intention:

Checking your email and turning on the news primes your brain for stress, and alerts us to look for things going wrong. Start your day instead with some quiet time to reflect on yourself and your own intentions for the day. Early in the morning is a great time to meditate, write in your journal, and do some gentle stretching. Making a daily ritual for yourself will help your brain develop a natural sympathetic/parasympathetic cycle that allows you to be more resilient to stress.

Change Your Mindset:

Yes, even through very challenging times, it IS possible to train your brain to become happier and more positive. When we repeat simple habits that bring our daily attention to gratitude, the neurons in our brain actually change in response to the repetition, and we feel less stress.

Here are 2 simple habits you will be able to incorporate in your daily life starting today:

  1. Focus on Gratitude. Each day write down 3 good things that you are thankful for before you go to bed. This starts the habit for your mind to look for good things and it will see them more and more often.

  2. Set a Notification Trigger. Put a short uplifting phrase into your phone as an alarm. Three times a day, my phone alarms BRING THE JOY. This reminds me to bring joy in the moment, and conditions my conscious and my subconscious mind to bring positive feelings into my everyday life. I particularly love this alarm at 3 pm- a time when my energy generally sinks.

Close Your Eyes and Breath:

Throughout the day when you feel the anxiety start to rise, take 2-3 minutes to breathe deeply. Sit comfortably, with your knees bent, and your shoulders, head, and neck relaxed.Breathe in slowly through your nose so that you are breathing deep into your abdomen. While taking each breath, consciously relax the tension in each part of your body: Shoulders, Neck, Face, Mind and Spirit. Say the words RELEASE, or RELAX as you breathe for 2-3 minutes.

Focus On What You Can Control:

Now is the perfect time to focus on physical resilience- the things we can control. Frequently we react to our anxiety by treating ourselves with special treats- snack foods, sleeping in, sugar, and alcohol. Our physical health has huge impacts on how we feel, how our minds function, and even our emotions. It impacts our energy levels and our ability to handle the daily problems that arise in life.

How are you taking care of your physical resilience? Are you...

  1. Sleeping well, but not too much?

  2. Drinking plenty of water?

  3. Taking deep breaths?

  4. Eating plenty of fresh, whole foods?

  5. Moving your body every day?

  6. Supplementing your diet with quality micro-nutrients?

I help individuals stop feeling powerless about their health by guiding them through ways to get started with healthy habits without becoming overwhelmed. This is a time for connection, not for “going it alone”. Please feel free to reach out to me if you’d like to talk.

Robin Thomas worked for 25 years in Medical Research at UNC. She left UNC to start her own Wellness Business in 2004 and founded Living Well Connections, a community for people whose passion is healthy living, in 2015. Learn more at

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