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Emotional Resilience: Finding the Meaning in Adversity

Emotional resilience is the ability to keep your sailboat steady amid a storm. It is the ability to see adversity as temporary, and use it to evolve, adapt, and stay the course.  Today's blog is about this set of skills because emotional health and physical wellness have interdependence. I am writing this today because I have now been working with people since 2015 on chronic weight management and for 20 years (!) on health in general. Many times, I hear from people that their health took a downturn during some personal crisis or challenge. Even if it is not one sentinel event, daily emotional health can be interdependent to daily physical well-being. 

What affects your emotional resilience? There are 3 building blocks:

The Physical Elements

This involves physical strength, energy, good health, and vitality. Physical health varies, and having a good medical evaluation and treatment plan is important. Then, daily attention to physical needs including nutrition, water, physical activity, sleep, and avoiding substances that interfere with health are crucial. In our current society, substances such as alcohol, caffeine, ultra processed foods, added sugars, and a sedentary lifestyle can impair the physical elements of emotional (and physical) resiliency.

The Mental or Psychological Elements

This includes aspects like adjustability, attention and focus, self-esteem, self-confidence, emotional awareness and regulation, self-expression, thinking, and reasoning abilities. In today’s society, things like social media, news cycles, and frequent exposure to electronic media specifically designed to arise a visceral emotional response can drastically alter emotional health and responses. 

The Social Elements

This includes interpersonal relationships (work, partner, kids, parents, friends, community, etc), group conformity, likeability, communication, and co-operation. In today’s society, social isolation, working from home, the transition from personal interactions to electronic ones, can impair the social elements of emotional resiliency. 

What can you do to improve your emotional resilience?

Emotional resilience has a nature and a nurture component. It comes more easily to some than to others, but it can be learned, trained, practiced, and improved. Think of it like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. With neglect, it atrophies and is not there when you need it. Here are some strategies, in addition to caring for the 3 building blocks noted above, that you can use to nurture your emotional resilience and avoiding emotional devastation:


The ability to tune into our own feelings, internal conflicts, and perception of the world. Through self-awareness, we gain a deeper understanding of how feelings contribute to our actions. Rather than looking for help outside, or blaming the world for our miseries, self-awareness gives us the courage to look for answers within ourselves. By making us more attuned to our inner world, building self-awareness helps us in becoming more capable and cognizant.


Resilience training helps a person develop the consistency and commitment to keep trying. Whether dealing with external stressors or handling internal conflicts, perseverance keeps the inner motivation alive.

Emotional Control

People with higher levels of emotional and self-control can redirect themselves and manipulate their feelings. They are less likely to be overwhelmed by stress or let it affect their lives. They think before taking the leap and won’t surge fast into drawing conclusions.

Flexible Thinking

Alice Boyes (2014), in one of her publications in Psychology Today, mentioned that flexible thinking is an essential aspect of mental health that contributes toward the personal and professional success of anyone. It is a powerful social skill that incorporates optimism, adjustability, rationality, and positive thinking. A person who has or has developed these skills through training or experience will definitely be more emotionally resilient and well-balanced in life.

Interpersonal Relationships

Having good personal relationships is both a by-product and a requisite for emotional resilience. If we have the power to build strong interpersonal bonds at the professional or the personal level, we have already taken one step forward for a resilient life.

Where are you starting? Here is a questionnaire you can take about your emotional resilience:

If your score is not where you want it, or if you just want to learn more, here is a link:

What is Rainier Medical’s role? We begin each program with an evaluation of your medical health. Sometimes, blood work shows something that needs adjustment. We also review your medications. Sometimes, a medication is causing side effects or not having the right therapeutic effect. Then, we guide you on a physical wellness journey. When using medical foods, you eliminate the additives in the typical American diet and fuel your body with consistent nutrition. When on a structured program, it also eliminates the ability to use food or alcohol as a coping mechanism. This creates the need to turn to more mature coping mechanisms for daily stressors. This is the behavioral benefit of using meal replacements. It changes the relationship with food and the triggers of emotional eating so that when you add back food, you have flexed other coping mechanisms to break that behavior chain. People typically start to feel better after about 3 weeks on the program, which can improve their self-confidence, sense of empowerment and control, and change their momentum. By seeing significant results in a short amount of time, it reinforces the changes they are making which leads to the intrinsic motivation to continue healthy habits. This is how undertaking a meal replacement program is more than just weight loss for many. 

Take Back Your Emotional Resilience,

Valerie Hope-Slocum Sutherland, MD

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