Mental HealthEmotional Fortitude: Unleashing Your Inner Strength for a Resilient Life

By Dr. Kamilah Stevenson, Licensed Counselor & Health Coach

Each of us has reserves of inner strength that can come to our assistance even when times seem darkest. By understanding what emotional strength is, as well as how to tap into it, you can unleash your resilience and step into your best future.

Understanding emotional strength

In my experience, many people misunderstand the true meaning of emotional strength. They seek to suppress their emotions, believing they can control themselves by denying what they feel. In reality, they are actually bottling themselves up in unhealthy ways.

True emotional fortitude accepts emotions. Only by acknowledging what we feel can we hope to care for ourselves effectively and promote overall well-being.

Indeed, being willing to observe and care effectively for our own emotions is one of the keys to coping with life’s challenges and bouncing back from adversity. When people work on building their emotional strength, they embark on a journey of personal growth that improves all aspects of their lives.

Cultivating self-awareness

In my experience, many people may take the time to turn inwards, only to use what they find as yet another chance to criticize themselves or feel inadequate.

The truth is that there are no right or wrong emotions. Emotions are signals from our deepest, most authentic selves that help point our lives in the right direction. In this way, even the most negative or difficult emotions can serve as gifts, so it’s vital to learn how to acknowledge them without judgment.

By viewing emotions as valuable sources of information, you can start identifying your triggers and patterns. When you learn what kinds of situations tend to upset you, you can better anticipate future challenges. This gives you the opportunity to prepare, enabling you to respond more effectively in stressful situations.

Toward that end, I recommend journaling and doing self-reflection exercises, which are excellent ways to deepen self-awareness and gain insights into your own emotional landscape. In particular, they can help you identify emotional strengths and areas for growth. This helps you develop appropriate goals and map out actionable steps for achieving them.

Building emotional resilience

Everyone goes through tough times. By building emotional resilience, however, you will not only minimize the pain of dark days, but also maximize the possibility of advantageous outcomes.

How can you develop your emotional resilience? Scientific evidence now supports many stress-management techniques, such as prayer, meditation, and deep breathing exercises, as well as somatic therapies like yoga-type stretching and dance. I also recommend self-care practices like regular exercise, adequate sleep, healthy eating, relaxation techniques, and engaging in activities that bring you joy.

Positive self-talk is another important coping skill. Too many of us have critical voices in our heads that hold us to impossible standards, but these litanies are rarely useful. Instead of motivating us to change or do better, they tend to have the opposite effect, making us feel demoralized and helpless. That’s why, every time your inner critic starts to lecture you, you should counter it with positive messages about yourself instead.

Practicing gratitude can also boost your mood and improve your life. We all have something to feel thankful for, even if it’s just the air we breathe. By acknowledging and appreciating the positive aspects of your life, you can promote a more positive outlook. Research shows that cultivating a gratitude practice not only improves your emotional state but also has a positive effect on your physical health and relationships.

Turn to others

Seeking social support is another vital way to increase resilience. Human beings are social creatures, no matter how independent we may believe ourselves to be. Indeed, research has indicated that people who reach out to others for support are more resilient than those who try to go it alone. Fostering meaningful connections with supportive friends, family, or community groups enhances emotional well-being and provides a sense of belonging.

Similarly, developing your capacity for empathy and understanding is crucial for building strong relationships. By being present while listening to others and trusting yourself to respond spontaneously at the moment, rather than worrying about what you want to say next, you can encourage others to open up to you and share their true feelings. This is the foundation of intimacy.

For those who may come from traumatic backgrounds, it may seem hard to trust others with honest communication. But the more you become willing to communicate and implement effective communication strategies, the more you can be confident in your interactions with others. That’s why it’s important to learn how to express emotions assertively and seek clarification when needed.

Adopt a growth mindset

To create a new future, we need to be open to trying new things. Flexibility has its rewards, including the ability to turn challenges into opportunities for growth.

That said, setbacks are inevitable, so don’t expect yourself to master coping skills and become resilient overnight. It’s normal to reach plateaus and even backslide at times.

What’s important is not to give up and realize that every apparent “failure” is actually a valuable learning experience. Cultivate a growth mindset, seizing the lessons in difficult experiences. Be grateful for the chance to tackle the issue again from a position of greater strength and superior knowledge.

Enhance emotional intelligence for a better future

The truth is within you in the form of your emotions. Rather than a scary terrain that must be subdued through force, your emotions present you with teachable moments. It is by learning how to accept and work with emotions — even the most difficult ones — that you can enhance your emotional intelligence and seize a better future.

Dr. Kamilah Stevenson is a published author and advocate for healthy living. She earned her doctorate in counseling and has over 10 years of experience helping others become the best versions of themselves. Kamilah understands that physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health are necessary for individuals to reach their potential and aims to provide guidance and support to those who need it most. As a counselor, she strives to build meaningful relationships with her clients and help them regain hope and purpose in life.

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