When we hear the term ’emotionally strong,’ many of us mistakenly think it means ignoring our emotions altogether. But that’s not the case at all.
Emotional strength isn’t about suppressing your feelings; it’s about knowing how to handle them healthily.
- Facing Anxiety: Being emotionally strong when dealing with anxiety means learning to acknowledge and accept your anxious thoughts and feelings instead of trying to avoid them.
- Dealing with Grief: Emotional strength during times of grief involves allowing yourself to experience sadness and accept your loss rather than distracting yourself from it.
- Managing Anger: When you’re angry, emotional strength means recognizing and validating that anger, rather than denying it or being overly critical of yourself.
- Building Resilience: It’s not easy, but developing a healthier relationship with your emotions is possible. To become emotionally strong, focus on developing consistent habits that encourage a more accepting approach to all your feelings, even the painful ones.
If you want to become emotionally strong, Our team at Farnorthcoaster agrees that you should work to cultivate these 4 habits.
Focus Your Attention, Not Your Emotions
When faced with difficult emotions, our instinct is to try and control them, often in an attempt to escape or resolve them. This urge to control makes sense, given our ability to exert control in various aspects of life:
- You’re adept at managing and finding solutions at work.
- You can fix a leaky sink at home.
- You’re comfortable seeking assistance at the grocery store when you can’t locate an item.
In many situations, controlling things is beneficial and productive. However, there’s a crucial distinction:
Emotions are not directly controllable.
Try this experiment: Make yourself extremely happy right now. Or, if you’re feeling anxious, simply decide to stop feeling that way. It sounds absurd, doesn’t it?
The truth is, you don’t possess a happiness dial to adjust at will or an anxiety switch to flip on and off. Instead, you can influence your emotions indirectly, mainly through your thoughts and where you focus your attention.
- If you’re experiencing shame over a work mistake, obsessively replaying the error in your mind will intensify that shame. Conversely, shifting your focus toward rectifying the issue or learning from it can lead to quicker emotional relief.
Attempting to control emotions directly, like trying to control something beyond your control, only leads to more suffering in the long run.
Emotionally resilient individuals take charge of their attention and deliberately choose where to direct it. Rather than allowing their thoughts to wander, they practice concentrating on what truly matters and avoid being ensnared by unhelpful thought patterns like endless rumination or excessive worry.
To boost your emotional strength, acknowledge your emotions and master the art of controlling your attention.
Embrace Compassionate Self-Talk
Many people associate emotional strength with toughness and being hard on themselves. This belief stems from childhood, where we often learned that achieving strength in various areas, such as academics, sports, or music, required strict self-discipline and self-criticism.
However, this approach doesn’t work effectively when dealing with difficult emotions. The harsher you are on yourself for feeling bad, the worse your emotional state becomes.
- If you criticise yourself for being weak and not strong enough every time you feel anxious, you’ll end up feeling ashamed in addition to anxious. This intensifies your overall emotional distress.
- Similarly, if you judge yourself as selfish or self-centred whenever you feel sad, you’ll not only be sad but also burdened with guilt. Consequently, healthily moving past your sadness becomes much more challenging.
Here’s the key point:
When you respond to painful emotions with negative self-talk, you teach your brain to feel ashamed about experiencing these emotions.
Emotionally strong individuals understand that it’s far more beneficial to be compassionate and understanding toward themselves during tough times. In essence, they practice compassionate self-talk.
Now, if this sounds a bit abstract or new-age, don’t worry—it’s quite straightforward. Self-compassion simply means treating yourself with the same kindness and support that you would offer to a friend in a similar situation.
- If a friend felt sad for no apparent reason, you wouldn’t tell them to “stop being such a baby and get over it.”
- If a friend felt scared, you wouldn’t label them as weak and insist they “stop it.”
In truth, genuine emotional strength emerges from gentleness, not self-criticism.
Base Your Decisions on Values, Not Just Emotions
Emotionally resilient individuals heed their emotions but don’t let emotions dictate their actions.
Unfortunately, our society often views emotions in two extreme ways: as trivial and worth ignoring or eliminating, or as mystical guides leading us to ultimate truth and enlightenment.
In reality, emotions are more down-to-earth. They evolved as a survival mechanism over hundreds of thousands of years. While they prove highly beneficial in some situations, they can also be unhelpful in others.
- When you’re crossing the street, and fear suddenly makes you glance around, revealing an oncoming car, your emotional response is extremely helpful.
- However, if you’re in a meeting, eager to share a creative idea, but then anxiety about potential criticism causes you to hold back, your emotion is less helpful.
The key point is this:
Your emotions can either guide you correctly or mislead you.
Emotionally strong individuals understand that when facing tough decisions, it’s essential to acknowledge their emotions. However, they don’t let these fleeting emotional impulses dictate their choices. Instead, they rely on their values and rational thinking to guide their decisions, prioritising long-term well-being over momentary emotions.
- How often would you exercise if you only followed your emotions in the moment, ignoring your commitment to health and well-being?
- How many creative projects would you complete if you based your actions solely on your immediate feelings, neglecting your dedication to creativity?
- How many potentially great relationships would you miss out on if you let your fearful emotions about asking someone out override your commitment to putting yourself out there and finding meaningful connections?
Listen to your emotions, but don’t blindly follow their commands.
Emotionally resilient individuals can resist unhelpful emotions because they’ve taken the time to identify and clarify their values. This allows them to make decisions that serve their long-term interests, rather than impulsively reacting to whatever feels easiest at the moment.
Establishing and Maintaining Healthy Boundaries
Setting and enforcing healthy boundaries can be challenging…
It can be intimidating to inform your boss that you won’t stay late anymore to cover someone else’s work. It might feel uncomfortable and embarrassing to discuss changes you’d like in your intimate life with your partner. You may feel sadness when turning down a family member’s constant requests for money, especially when they never repay you.
However, living without proper boundaries is even more difficult…
- It leads to chronic stress and burnout when you constantly take on extra work and work late.
- It results in ongoing dissatisfaction and a lack of intimacy when your intimate life remains unchanged year after year.
- It fosters ongoing frustration, conflict, and resentment when you enable an unhealthy habit in a family member and expect them to change continually.
Unfortunately, setting and enforcing healthy boundaries is a classic short-term versus long-term challenge. Much like choosing a healthy diet over junk food, focusing on your studies instead of procrastinating, or wisely investing your money instead of spending it recklessly, what seems easy in the short term often fails to yield great results in the long run. Conversely, what feels difficult initially frequently leads to better outcomes in the end.
The same holds true for establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries…
- It’s tough to express your genuine desires.
- It’s challenging to decline requests from others and uphold those boundaries.
However, remember this important point…
Just because something feels unpleasant doesn’t mean it’s the wrong choice.
Saying no to an overbearing boss or a manipulative family member may feel uncomfortable at first. However, discomfort should not be confused with whether it’s the right decision.
If you aim to enhance your emotional strength, practice assertively communicating your needs and desires, and summon the courage to establish and maintain healthy boundaries.