Want to bounce back better? Build your emotional resilience. “Resiliency is like a scale, with negative and positive experiences acting as counterweights.”
When it comes to adversity in the time of coronavirus, the numbers don’t lie.
Since the pandemic’s advent, one in four US adults have lost their jobs and another third have had to dip into retirement savings to survive. The case numbers also keep climbing, into the hundreds of thousands per day. Intermixed with it all is a chronicle of collective trauma, chronic stress that shows no signs of relenting anytime soon.
In the face of widespread adversity, it’s normal to feel like you’ve lost control.
Because you have.
Your loss of control, however, has not taken away your ability to respond.
And one of the ways you can do so is by building resilience.
Why Is Emotional Resilience Important?
As the capacity to mentally and emotionally cope with a crisis and quickly bounce back from it, resiliency is like a scale, with negative and positive experiences acting as counterweights.
During abundant times, weight is evenly distributed across your resilience scale. Unemployment benefits and robust options on the job market pad job loss. Your existing friendships and a dearth of opportunities to meet someone new soothe the sting from the end of a romantic relationship.
Austere times, however, unload plenty of one-sided setbacks. Job loss spirals into expired unemployment benefits and nary the replacement job to show for it. An unexpected disease outbreak leads to political unrest, social isolation, and economic turmoil.
Like with real scales, too much adversity creates strain. Strain that, if left unaddressed for too long, can lead to A-list health issues, such as autoimmune disorders and PTSD.
Also like real scales, balance can be restored.
How, you ask?
By offloading excess weight with resilience, or more specifically, the 3 Ps.
What Are the 3 Ps?
Coined by psychologist Martin Seligman after studying how people respond to adversity, the 3 Ps encapsulate how you see the world and how your viewpoints affect your ability to quickly bounce back from hardship.
To summarize decades of research, Seligman found that thought patterns around 3 Ps can make or break your recovery.
As a common cognitive distortion, personalization relates to how you perceive external events. In other words, who do you blame in response to upheaval and inconvenience? Yourself or factors beyond your control?
As a fancy term for “everywhere,” pervasiveness is the belief that a bad situation will ripple across all areas of your life.
To use a personal example, I was let go from my day job in October 2020. After examining my thoughts around pervasiveness, I realized that my job loss was an isolated incident. It didn’t apply to my fledgling writing career and it didn’t mean I was bound to lose my friendships or material possessions.
As the final and most important ingredient in effective emotional resilience, permanence is the belief that a crisis will last forever.
When left unchecked, permanence morphs into catastrophizing, or the assumption that the worst is yet to come.
To use my personal example again, my job loss flung me into uncertain waters. I have no idea how or when a new job will manifest, and this is okay. Because I understand that nothing lasts forever.
How to Start Building Emotional Resilience
Now that you’re familiar with the 3 Ps, you’re probably wondering—how can I get in on the secret to emotional resilience, especially when I recognize the 3 Ps in my own thoughts?
The answer lies in utilizing a Cognitive Behavioral exercise, where all you’ll need is a pen, paper, your mind, and a quiet space.
To get started, write down three ordeals you’re currently facing. Once finished, follow up by asking yourself—how can you apply the 3 Ps to each situation?
Conclude by altering your point of view. How can each experience be impersonal, impermanent, or specific?
Here is an example:
From there, let your impersonal, impermanent, and specific conclusions become self-affirmations, to-be repeated whenever you feel hopeless. Try incorporating your self-affirmations into your daily routine, by repeating them out loud for five minutes in the morning, afternoon, and evening to promote emotional resilience.
With consistent practice, your emotional response to hardship will shift. And in turn, so will the weight across your emotional resilience scale.