Resilience: Bouncing Back

How regulating your emotions helps you become more resilient in stressful situations.

By PT Staff, published October 22, 2004 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Life has a bad habit of throwing challenges and frank disappointments our way. There's not only an art to surviving them but a science as well. And both the art and science point to a single fact about landing on your feet-regulating your emotions may be the key to resilience.

When things go wrong, do you persevere? Or, are you more likely to buckle? If you are able to overcome adversity and rebound after a big disappointment, then you are indeed resilient.

Some people seem to be born with a fair share of resilience, while others crack at the whisper of a setback. So it appears that some have it, and some don't.

But the truth is that everyone comes out of the womb with some resilience. It's just that certain people actively apply it, day after day. These people don't look at themselves as victims, they're problem-solvers. They don't moan about what happened to them, they look ahead and work out the issue at hand.

Resilient people are also good at regulating their emotions and staying calm under pressure. That allows them to draw on what they know when they need it most.

People who practice self-regulation are often successful at managing their relationships at home and at work. Those who lack these skills have a rougher time in life in general.

Quiz Yourself

How good are you at regulating your emotions? When under stress do you become emotional, panic and lose control? To find out, take this little quiz, adapted from The Resilience Factor, by Karen Revich and Andrew Shatte.

Use the following scale to rate each item:

1=Not true of me

2=Sometimes true

3=Moderately true

4=Usually true

5=Very true

  1. Even if I plan ahead for a discussion with my spouse, my boss or my child, I still find myself acting emotionally.
  2. I am unable to harness positive emotions to help me focus on a task.
  3. I can control the way I feel when adversity strikes.
  4. I get carried away by my feelings.
  5. I am good at identifying what I am thinking and how it affects my mood.
  6. If someone does something that upsets me, I am able to wait until an appropriate time when I have calmed down to discuss it.
  7. My emotions affect my ability to focus on what I need to get done at home, school or work.
  8. When I discuss a hot topic with a colleague or family member, I am able to keep my emotions in check.

Calculate Your Results

Add your score on these items:

3 + __ = __

5 + __ = __

6 + __ = __

8 + __ = __

Positive total __

Now add your score on these items:

1 + __ = __

2 + __ = __

4 + __ = __

7 + __ = __

Negative total __

Positive total minus negative total = __

A score higher than 13 is rated above average in emotional regulation.

A score between 6 and 13 is inconclusive.

A score lower than 6 is rated below average in emotional regulation.

If your emotional regulation is below average, you may need to master some calming skills. Here are a few tips:

  • When anxiety strikes, your breathing may become shallow and quick. You can help control the anxiety by controlling your breathing. Inhale slowly through your nose, breathing deeply from your belly, not your chest.
  • Stress will make your body tight and stiff. Again, you can counter the effects of stress on body and brain if you relax your muscles.
  • Also try positive imagery; create an image that is relaxing, such as visualizing yourself on a secluded beach.

Resilience is within your reach.