On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness news for all Oklahomans.

Ways to be More Emotionally Resilient

28 September 2023

Posted in

Everyone handles emotions differently, but what we can all agree on is that an onslaught of feelings (of any kind) is exhausting. It can be confusing to feel a lot of things at once and for some people it might even be scary. There’s no wrong way to feel your feelings, after all, they’re yours. However, if you find that you struggle with controlling your emotions or can’t quite find the best coping strategy when you get overwhelmed, here are some tools to try out to help keep your head above water during those tough times.

Building up your emotional resilience means taking the time to work with yourself and practice rebalancing your mental state. Just like a muscle, this can take time and effort and you probably won’t be perfect right off the bat. Everyone has the ability to master their emotions with some diligence, but it’s important to remember that resources like therapy and medication are also an option.

Being resilient matters because, for some people, a tidal wave of negative feelings can throw off an entire day (or even a week!). If you find that sometimes, after negative thoughts start brewing, that you can’t focus on anything else, you’re limited in your day-to-day activities or responsibilities or your relationships are being negatively impacted, you might consider the following exercises to help keep your emotions in check.

The fastest way to get your nervous system under control is through steady, measured breathing. When we get scared or angry, our nervous system reacts as if we are in danger (even if that’s not the case). This triggers a release of hormones like adrenaline that can make it even harder to relax during an emotional episode. Slowing down your breath and honing your focus on it communicates to your nervous system that you are safe and that there is no need to go into fight-or-flight mode. Try this breathing exercise next time you feel anxious:

  1. Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth.
  2. Count to four while you inhale, hold your breath for two and exhale for six.
  3. Empty your lungs all the way and make sure you breathe from your belly instead of your chest.

If you feel like your emotional challenges come from external factors (like news or social interactions), consider limiting your exposure to those things. For example, if you scroll your phone for five hours each day reading news stories about global tragedies or increased crime rates in your neighborhood (this is called ‘doomscrolling’), stop and check in with yourself: Do you feel like your heart rate has increased? Do you notice a change in your mood? Do you feel restless? Make sure that you aren’t putting yourself in unnecessary, uncomfortable situations.

Doomscrolling is known to worsen exiting mental illnesses like depression or anxiety. The National Institutes of Health studied it and shares this insight “…uncertain stimuli like pandemics and outbreaks lead individuals to get stuck in uncontrollable and uncomfortable thoughts which can be eased by getting related answers about the unknown...This urge to get all the facts to protect ourselves from danger and to have a feeling of control over it has kept us engaged with scrolling our phones long hours for more information and news, which are primarily negative. Constant exposure to negative news on social media and news feeds could take the form of “doomscrolling” which is commonly defined as a habit of scrolling through social media and news feeds where users obsessively seek for depressing and negative information…”

But the control we initially seek by doomscrolling is often quickly overtaken by the compulsive need to scroll more. And more. The psychological distress created by doomscrolling can negatively affect well-being indicators like life satisfaction, mental wellbeing and harmony in life.

If you sometimes feel like you are not in control, consider using a routine to set the pace for your own life. Things like exercise, control of your environment, picking up new hobbies and finding a creative outlet are all ways to create a routine. Routines are beneficial because they give us something to rely on; if you know almost exactly what your day will look like, you have less room to panic about the unknown.

Sometimes, we find ourselves stuck in problematic cycles of thinking. These can be things like extrapolating, creating problems that aren’t there, all-or-nothing thought patterns or paranoia. Spending your time imagining the worst outcome does zero good for your mental health and often doesn’t change your reality either. It’s easier said than done but try imagining the best possible outcome and see how your mood changes! 

Also, be sure to stop yourself the moment you notice this type of thinking so you don’t snowball into even worse feelings. Keep the things you know to be true at the forefront of your mind, not the things you assume or project onto the situation. Additionally, you might try replacing catastrophic thoughts with a positive or calming mantra to repeat over and over to yourself. This can be something as simple as “I am OK.” The repetition of a phrase can be soothing in and of itself and adding a positive message is even better.

Another trick to keep your mind grounded in reality is keeping a morning or evening journal. Some people keep gratitude journals, where they write down everything they are grateful for in their lives each day. The list doesn’t have to be super long, you can just start with one or two things and they can be as simple as wearing your favorite shirt that day. Keeping your mind on things that make you happy or proud each day can help set the tone for your entire mood and mindset, which can help you build your emotional resilience over time.

Learning to deal with complicated emotions is a skill we all have to learn at some point and whether you suffer from clinical mood imbalances or have gone through something traumatic, we can all agree that being human gets messy sometimes. Try practicing some of these tricks next time you feel like your emotions are taking over, but don’t be afraid to reach out to loved ones or seek professional help if you are experiencing serious depression, anxiety or anger. 


For more health and wellness content, visit the INTEGRIS Health For You blog.

How Joy Affects the Body

22 Ways to Be a Little Bit Happier Every Day in 2022

On Your Health Blog