Woman sitting on couch feeling anxious

Develop Emotional Resiliency

Physical preparedness is only part of being prepared. Emotional and mental preparedness are also important in being able to handle difficult and challenging situations. Just as we can take steps to physically prepare, we can also develop and cultivate emotional resiliency.

Recently, Craig and I signed up for a class on emotional resiliency from the menu of self-reliance classes being offered by our church. We are learning strategies for coping with the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty in the world. I would like to share what we are learning to help any of you who might be struggling. I will do this over several posts.

Gratitude—Start Here

The first principle of emotional resiliency is gratitude. It will help us begin to feel less anxiety and stress if we develop of mindset of being grateful. Each of us, no matter what our circumstances, have many reasons to be grateful. But sometimes the stress and challenges in our life keep us from focusing on the good in our life. Being grateful helps put things in perspective. It helps build positive thinking.

Keeping a Gratitude Journal

A gratitude journal is one way to practice gratitude. Robert Emmons, a psychologist and researcher at University of California, Davis, is a leading social science expert on gratitude. His work and the work of others suggest that keeping a gratitude journal will build emotional well-being. Research suggests that it is important to take time to think deeply about what you are grateful for. And although writing daily may help develop the habit, writing once a week may give you time to do more than “go through the motions.” If you are looking for a way to develop emotional strength, consider beginning a gratitude journal. If you already follow this practice, perhaps take time to expand on the things you feel gratitude for.

Become Aware of Your Thinking

Metacognition is the awareness and understanding of your own thinking. Another way to put it, metacognition is thinking about your thinking. We can identify unhealthy thinking if we take time to consider how and what we think. Once we are aware of unhealthy thought patterns we can take steps to correct them. It is healthy to challenge our thinking and look for ways to displace inaccurate thinking patterns with correct thinking patterns.

Challenge Your Thinking

Look at the list of unhealthy thinking patterns. Honestly evaluate your thoughts. Thinking that is self-destructive prevents growth and limits happiness.

Identify Unhealthy Thinking

  • Focusing on the negative
  • Discounting the positive
  • Black and white thinking—thinking something is all or nothing
  • Fault finding, placing blame
  • Magnifying something out of proportion, exaggerating, “catastrophizing”
  • Using emotion to judge situations
  • Mind-reading, making assumptions without evidence
  • Over-generalizing from one situation to another
  • Unrealistic expectations, setting up a losing situation
  • Name calling, minimizing others
  • Self-blaming, comparing your weaknesses to others’ strengths

Develop Healthy Thought Patterns

The way we think influences our emotions and determines our behavior. If we recognize unhealthy thought patterns, the next step is to replace them with healthy positive thoughts. Identify those things that trigger negative thinking. Challenge the thinking error and then choose a different, more accurate thought. Ask yourself if the thought is helping you or hurting you. Be honest with yourself and be kind to yourself.

  • Practice Healthy Thinking
  • Assume good will
  • Believe that people are doing the best they know how
  • Practice looking for what is good
  • Give yourself a time limit on any negative thinking
  • Make a list of positive affirmations and repeat them daily
  • Choose positive activities to occupy your time
  • Get moving, exercise
  • Practice meditation and mindfulness

Practice Good Self-Care

Self-care is the practice of intentionally taking care of our physical, mental, and emotional health. These are the things that are good for us and make us feel good. Self-care activities begins with basic things like being proactive about our health, eating a nutritious diet, exercising, having good hygiene, and getting enough sleep. It also includes practicing relaxation and spending time with people we enjoy.

I like the advice from mental health experts that we should plan at least one pleasurable thing into our day. Even just considering what that might be can be pleasurable.


There are many things we can do to practice self-care. We can each choose things that are meaningful to us. A few ideas are listed here:

  • Take a quick nap
  • Visit with a good friend
  • Take a deep breath and slow down
  • Stand in a warm shower
  • Take a soaking bath
  • Read a book
  • Listen to favorite music
  • Create something
  • Take a walk
  • Enjoy a nice meal
  • Dance
  • Sing
  • Practice relaxation
  • Write in a gratitude journal
  • Serve someone

Patricia Spigarelli Aston
Author of
Crisis Preparedness Handbook, Third Edition

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