9 Steps to Increase Emotional Resilience for Improved Mental Health

All around the country, individuals suffer from mental health issues brought about by various circumstances in their life. This is why many seek professional assistance to help them overcome their situation. Recovery, however, may come in differing ways and in varying speeds, as each circumstance is different. Regardless, what is important is that the client is able to get back on their feet and, hopefully, not regress. For those who were able to make a complete recovery, one factor is quite clear among them – they generally have greater emotional resilience than other sufferers.

About Resiliency

Resiliency is the ability to quickly or easily recover from difficulty or a change. If a person has emotional resilience, though they may still experience and struggle in tough situations (such as a battle with addiction, depression, or severe trauma), they are able to get better a lot faster than others in similar situations.

This is quite different from those with less inner strength as these individuals usually end up returning to their old ways, negating whatever progress was made in their therapy – much to the detriment of family and friends, and their bank account.

Many believe that emotional resilience comes about because of a person’s upbringing. If as a child the person was able to learn from someone resilient (e.g. a parent bravely dealing with their life issues) or if they encountered and solved troubles on their own, then chances are their inner toughness was strengthened. This is why it is easier for them to deal with big issues in their adolescent or adult years compared to their peers.

Others, however, realize that resiliency can be learned, even if one is already an adult. It just takes practice and focus in order to become mentally and emotionally tough.

9 Steps to Increase Emotional Resilience

Just like in other aspects of life, resiliency will not suddenly occur overnight. The person must purposely strive to achieve it. The following are nine important steps to become a more resilient person.

1. Strengthen Your Spirituality

Perhaps the biggest building block of resiliency is to truly have faith in a higher power. This is not just the casual church goer or having one’s named registered at the local church; this means being able to anchor one’s life around a set of beliefs that drives the person forward, regardless of their circumstances.

Many who have overcome difficulties like addiction, assault, depression, or domestic abuse attest that it was their faith that allowed them to believe that positive change was attainable and that God would empower them to achieve it. Such faith, however, did not mean that they could just sit back and watch God work to resolve their issues.

They still had their own part to play to remain sober, improve their attitude, change their environment, or mend their relationships. But it was their spirituality that allowed them to keep pushing forward despite emotional, mental, and even physical setbacks (e.g. withdrawal symptoms).

2. Discover Your Purpose

After strengthening one’s spirituality, it is necessary for the person to discover their purpose in life. Why are they here? How can they contribute to their family? their community? the world? What does God want them to do? What does God want them to do differently?

A person who is still figuring out who they are often has more difficulties recovering from major setbacks in life since they are still clueless as to what direction in which to head. Many times it becomes far easier for them to just give up and return to what they were before, believing they are useless.

But a person who knows their purpose is aware that there is still something more to be done. This makes it easier for them to pick themselves up and do what is necessary to fulfill God’s plan for them, even if they are still hurting inside.

3. Develop Compassion

The third important step to build up resiliency is to develop compassion for others. When a person is too self-absorbed, they often focus on their personal flaws and hurts while missing out on the small, yet good things happening around them. This is why they often wallow in their own sadness or bitterness as they wrongly believe that God’s blessings have been given to others, not to them.

Acts of compassion, however, redirect the person’s focus from themself to others. It is often in these small acts of service that the person begins to notice God moving in the background, touching lives, and making changes. This allows the person to now see the blessings they have in their own life which then builds up their inner strength and their appreciation for what God has given them.

4. Seek Mentorship

The next step towards emotional resilience is to seek mentorship, something that many people lack in today’s time. Nowadays, many believe the lie that they are strong if they can discover and do everything on their own; hence, the generation now proclaims the need for “independent living.” But life was not meant to be that way. This is why so many become frustrated with life because they shoulder their burdens on their own when they are supposed to be loving and helping one another.

A true mentor is someone who takes the individual under their wing to share invaluable insights about life. These insights greatly help the learner as they can avoid many pitfalls in life, as a life of trial-and-error is very difficult indeed. The mentor is also there to help pick the person up should they fall, making challenges easier to overcome. Their care and words of advice do much to build up the resiliency of the person.

While parents are often the first option, sometimes busyness or relationship issues prevent parents from doing a good job. Other than parents, one can also seek mentorship from other older relatives, teachers, bosses, pastors, or church elders.

5. Practice Discipline

The fifth step is to practice discipline. Sadly, with everyday mantras such as “Live for the moment,” “Seek your own happiness,” or “You only live once,” discipline has become something that people wish to ignore unless they are an athlete, musician, or soldier. Such thinking, however, is far from the truth as discipline is necessary for success, especially if one wishes to recover from mental health issues.

If a person has discipline, it becomes easier to follow helpful routines, such as eating right, exercising, and getting enough rest. Discipline also allows a person to better manage their work and leisure schedules to avoid conflict and burnout. Moreover, a disciplined person is able to keep their thoughts and emotions in check, making it easier for them to focus on and solve their problems.

6. Embrace Hard Work

The sixth step is to embrace the need for hard work. Similar to discipline, this is another trait that is missing today. In this world of instant food and instant messaging, many people, particularly the young, expect instant success.

Unfortunately, such thinking leads to much disappointment which is why lots of individuals suffer from mental health issues like anxiety or depression. And when they do try to recover from such issues, they sadly regress since they were expecting instant recovery as well.

But when a person understands that hard work is necessary to accomplish their goals, their heart and mind are better prepared to push forward despite the obstacles. When coupled with strong faith, understanding the importance of hard work also leads one to become more patient in waiting for God’s timing, rather than insisting that they see the fruit of their labor right away.

7. Become More Ambitious

The seventh step is to become more ambitious. In most cultures, people derive meaning from the work they do, so it is important to have ambition. An ambitious person is someone who wishes to accomplish something. Though a person may recognize their purpose in life (Step 2), if they do not have much ambition, they may not have many achievements which may greatly affect their self-esteem.

Such ambition, however, should not be solely focused on one’s career or financial status. It ought to also include other creative passions (e.g. art, gardening, music) and helping others in need (e.g. community work). As mentioned earlier, if a person has compassion for others (Step 3), they are better able to appreciate the small joys in life.

Though it may be possible that those who lack ambition are just lazy, oftentimes the deeper story behind it is that they do not believe in themselves which is why they do not seek newer challenges. So ambition is necessary to build up self-worth, increasing one’s resiliency.

8. Change Your Behavior

Another key step to building resiliency is to change one’s behavior. Those who suffer from mental health issues (or even just low self-esteem) have problems with how they think and behave (speech or actions). Instead of thinking or reacting positively, they do something different which may hurt their self-worth (e.g. blaming themselves for the wrongs) or hurt others (e.g. lashing out instead of keeping calm). While some are unaware of these aspects, others simply believe that that is who they are and that they cannot be changed.

Fortunately, behavioral changes can be made with the right help and if the individual desires to seek such changes. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), for example, is one method that seeks to make incremental adjustments in how the person reacts to situations, aiming for more positivity than before.

Though it takes time and much practice, the small adjustments in how they control their fears, words, and actions do make a difference. But again, it all starts with the individual making a conscious choice to change their behavior for the better.

9. Adjust Your Perception

The final step toward increasing emotional resilience is to adjust one’s perception. How a person views their world and their problems impacts their resiliency. If they believe all is hopeless, then the desire and energy to recover will not be there, causing them to regress or even develop more mental health issues e.

But changing one’s perception is easier said than done. It does take much time and requires a shift from how they view life to how God views it, which is why spirituality is so important. Once they are able to understand that the negatives in their life may actually be building blocks of character or possibly consequences of sin, they may have a better understanding about what life is really all about and be able to finally move forward, rather than dwell in the past.

Seek Christian Counseling to Increase Emotional Resilience

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2

The previously mentioned steps can really help a person build up resiliency that leads to mental health recovery. Conscious effort and patience are needed to help an individual achieve this, yet it can be done.

However, for those who have difficulty in achieving this as they may lack the willpower or wisdom to do so on their own, it is best to seek Christian counseling to help build up their emotional resilience.

In Christian counseling, the latest therapeutic techniques will be used to help the individual overcome any lingering mental health issues they may still be suffering from. The counselor will then be there, acting as a mentor, to help guide the person to achieve the steps needed for resiliency.

But most importantly, the faith-based counselor will seek to strengthen the person’s faith in God through a strong relationship with Jesus Christ which is very necessary for healing. The counselor will also answer any questions the person may have about their understanding of faith or about their personal walk with God, as many usually have such unanswered concerns. Once their faith has been truly strengthened, then resiliency and true recovery are possible.

If you or a friend is recovering from a mental health issue and stronger inner strength is needed, then seek Christian counseling soon. Full recovery will be possible once God is involved.

“Happy”, Courtesy of Matias Saw, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Happy Couple,” Courtesy of Arentas, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0); “Journaling,” courtesy of Hannah Olinger, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Admiring the View”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

The Practice of Renewing Your Mind Through Principles from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? How can it help you? In this article, I’ll answer these questions and more.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2

It is interesting, this idea of transformation by the renewal of your mind. What does it mean? Is it even possible?

The human brain is an amazing phenomenon. It is capable of so many incredible and complicated things, but it can also be a place of great struggle. Human beings fight battles in their minds daily. They battle cognitive distortions that can greatly impact emotions and behavior.

In fact, the Cognitive Triangle (a foundational principle in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) shows that thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are all interconnected and mutually impact the others. Cognitive distortions are the ways that one’s mind convinces him or her of something that is not true, rational, or even helpful. Some have identified ten cognitive distortions, but we will consider fourteen.

What are the Common Cognitive Distortions?

Filtering: when someone filters out (or even ignores) the good or positive aspects of a situation and focuses solely on the negative.

Black and White Thinking: when someone sees no middle ground or gray area, seeing all or nothing. Something is either this or that, there is nothing in between.

Overgeneralization: when someone comes to a general conclusion about something based on a single experience.

Jumping to Conclusions: when someone assumes that he or she understands the thoughts or behaviors or feelings of another person without evidence. This could also apply to situations, not just in relationships.

Catastrophizing: when someone thinks about the worst-case scenario in most situations. They put magnitude on situations that are more minimal. They get lost in the “what ifs.”

Personalization: when someone believes that situations or interactions with others are always related to something about them on a personal level. It becomes “all about them,” to an extent.

Control Fallacies: when someone believes the illusion of being in control of everything in their life (whether internally or externally).

Fallacy of Fairness: when someone is hyper-focused on what he or she believes to be fair and expects others to follow this. When something is “unfair,” a person with this distortion will often become angry.

Blaming: when someone holds others responsible for his or her emotions or emotional experiences.

Shoulds: when someone has a list of rules (dos and don’ts) that they believe they must follow for a certain reason. This person will tend to get angry when they, themselves or others do not follow these shoulds and often feel guilt and shame as well.

Emotional Reasoning: when someone believes that if they feel something, it must be true, instead of understanding that emotions are not always indicative of what is true or accurate.

Fallacy of Change: when someone feels the need to change others because the success of others depends entirely on this person. They often pressure others to change because they believe it is what is best from them.

Global Labeling: when someone generalizes one or two negative qualities about a person, group of people, environment, or situation to mean that the whole is negative.

Always Being Right: when someone constantly tests others in order to prove that he or she is right about a topic. For this person, being wrong is unthinkable. (from PsychCentral, 15 Common Cognitive Distortions)

Looking at this list can be a bit overwhelming because you probably notice that you struggle with several of these distortions, but it is possible to change the course of these thought patterns. It is possible to renew the mind, to travel down a different thought path that is more accurate, helpful, and true. This is where other principles from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can come in.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): What is it?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an evidence-based form of psychotherapy that focuses on thought patterns- what they are, how to evaluate them, and how to replace them with more accurate and helpful thoughts. The goal is for the altered thoughts to then positively affect one’s emotions and behaviors (as stated earlier about the Cognitive Triangle).

It not only focuses on evaluating and replacing thoughts but also on calming skills and other ways to cope with some uncomfortable emotions as well as some behavior therapy to manage unhealthy behaviors.

It is based on several core principles as found in the Cognitive Triangle (list from apa.org, What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy):

  1. Psychological problems are based, in part, on faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking. (Cognitive Distortions)
  2. Psychological problems are based, in part, on learned patterns of unhelpful behavior.
  3. People suffering from psychological problems can learn better ways of coping with them, thereby relieving their symptoms and becoming more effective in their lives.

Interventions for Cognitive Restructuring

Since the focus of this article is mainly on thought patterns, the interventions discussed will also focus on cognitive restructuring exercises. There are many other interventions that help one manage emotions and behavior, though, in CBT.

Identification of Cognitive Distortions

You will sometimes have automatic thoughts that pop into your head. You might even think, “Why am I thinking this thought?” or “Where did this thought come from?” These thoughts become automatic because they are the road most traveled in your brain.

For example, when you drive you have often thought about the possibility of being in a car accident, so now every time you get into your car, these thoughts of a car accident pop into your head and lead to high anxiety. Cognitive distortions can become automatic when you allow your brain to go too far down that path.

Part of redirecting thought patterns down a new and more helpful and accurate path of thinking is to simply pay attention to what those thoughts are and understand what distortions are present. Therefore, it is valuable to know what the common cognitive distortions are to be aware of what they are for you.

Identification of Feelings

Feelings and thoughts are interconnected, so it is vital to pay attention to the feelings you are having in a situation. Pull out a feelings wheel (easily accessible through Google), and then find the most prominent feelings that you are experiencing in a certain situation. Rate them. How intense are they on a scale from 1-100?

Evaluate the Thought Patterns/Distortions

This is when you would need to ask yourself some questions about the thoughts you have noticed in a situation. Is this thought accurate? Is this thought helpful? Is this thought necessary? Is there any evidence that supports this thought? Is there any evidence that does not support this thought?

Replace the thought with a more accurate, realistic, or helpful thought

After evaluation, it is necessary to replace. This is how you can literally renew your mind. This is how to train your brain to think differently. For example, instead of allowing yourself to automatically think about getting in a car accident every time you get in your car (which leads to anxiety), you could think something like this, “Well, I do not know anything that will happen in the future. All I know is that right now, I am safe.”

This is a more helpful thought. The more you replace unhelpful or inaccurate thoughts, the more your brain will stop going to those thoughts automatically and will start moving in a healthier direction.

Identification of Feelings after Replacing the Thought

Now that you have found a healthier way of looking at the situation, how you do feel? Has the intensity of your emotion decreased?

Identification of Behaviors

Now how do you act? Example: when you ruminate on your thoughts and fears about driving, sometimes you get out of the car and completely avoid driving. When you evaluate and replace unhelpful thoughts, your anxiety goes down and you can drive your car.

This is the basic structure of a thought log (or thought record) which is simply a chart that leads you step-by-step through this process. There are many examples of thought records on Google that you can find to help you.

Christian Counseling Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

However, people often struggle with this and find themselves stuck. A counselor who is familiar with or trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy will help you through this process. They can help you see things that you cannot see yet, and this therapy is proven to be helpful in treating many mental disorders along with other mental health issues.

If you are struggling with your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions in some way, CBT may be the right fit for you. Maybe it is time to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The growth and healing that can occur can be exponential.


“This Is Your Brain…”, Courtesy of Natasha Connell, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Prayer,” Courtesy of Ben White, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pointing the Finger”, Courtesy of Adi Goldstein, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Isolation”, Courtesy of Guilherme Stecanella, Unsplash.com, CC0 License