#1 – Take care of yourself.At the most basic level, no one can be emotionally strong if they aren’t physically strong. I am not saying you have to join Crossfit and do the Whole 30 and go to therapy every day. I do mean to take care of your body. Eat well, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, be kind to others, do what makes you smile. Feeling healthy and strong will give you good strong roots at the base of your emotionally healthy tree. Roots that will make it so that you won’t blow over in a storm. So do it. Take care of yourself. Create a healthy base on which to cultivate your emotional strength.
#2 – Challenge your thoughts.You know those pesky thoughts that incessantly course through your head? You know the ones. The ones that tell you aren’t pretty enough, not smart enough, not successful enough. Yes, those thoughts. The thoughts that are holding you back. They are keeping you emotionally weak. It’s time to change those thoughts. It won’t be easy but with a little determination you can bring about big change. One of my clients had spent a lifetime telling herself that she just wasn’t worthy of love. Her life experience had led her to believe this to be true and because her thoughts consistently reinforced this idea she just wasn’t emotionally capable to finding and keeping love. I challenged her to challenge those thoughts. To talk back to the negative thoughts and provide evidence that they just weren’t true. I encouraged her to make a list of those who had loved her. Her various boyfriends, her parents, her friends, her kids, the barista guy who had flirted with her for years. Those people who liked and loved her. She kept this list easily accessible and when those dreaded thoughts reared their ugly head she referred to the list. Gradually those thoughts, being starved of reasons why it was true, became much quieter. And then, because she no longer felt emotionally weakened by her thoughts, she flirted back with that barista and it looks like she just might live happily ever after.
#3 – Don’t take things personally.Taking things personally can be the death of emotional strength. When something happens to us the only way that we can process it is through our own internal system. And that internal system only truly understands OUR experience. As a result we often times personalize things that have NOTHING to do with us. I have a client who was in a dispute with her landlord about damage done to her apartment and she was very upset. She couldn’t sleep. She couldn’t enjoy her everyday life. She took the dispute personally. She felt that the landlord was questioning who she was as a person in his pursuit of keeping the damage deposit. She felt less than because of this. I suggested to her that a more likely explanation for his actions was that he wanted more money from her NOT that he didn’t like her as a person. In that moment my client let go of everything that she had been holding on to. Of course it was about the money, not about how she was as a tenant or a person. It’s always about money. In that moment she learned about the importance of not taking things personally and grew her emotional strength.
#4 – Give of yourself to others.Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can help build emotional strength more than doing something for someone else. Truly, nothing. When I was going through my divorce my emotional strength was at it’s lowest. I started volunteering weekly at the local food bank. Four hours a week of helping other people get food to eat, for themselves and their families, made me feel so good. And not because I felt lucky that I wasn’t in their position but because I knew that I had made a substantial, positive difference in their lives. It made my heart sing. Many of us don’t have time to volunteer but we can make a difference in other ways. Hold the door open for someone, buy that homeless person sitting outside the grocery store a sandwich, reach out to a friend you know is going through a hard time, give up your seat on the subway. There is nothing like being on the receiving end of a smile of gratitude to build up your emotional strength. So try it. Reach out and make a difference in someone’s life today
#5 – Do that thing you think you can not do.There comes a time in one’s life when one is presented with an obstacle that seem insurmountable. For me that obstacle was rebuilding my life after my divorce. I never wanted a divorce but it was forced upon me and I had to deal. I had to deal with no longer being a wife, greatly reduced financial stability and the prospect of being alone forever. I DID NOT WANT TO DEAL. But I had to. I had to pick myself and move forward. And I chose to pick myself and move forward in the strongest possible way. I wasn’t going to let this situation ruin my life so I didn’t. How? I got into therapy. I surrounded myself with people who loved and supported me. I educated myself about the divorce process so that I could get what I needed to take care of myself and my children. I didn’t back down in the face of his anger and derision. I stopped taking his actions personally and realized they were his issues not mine. In short, I came out on the other side of my divorce a different woman. I went into it a woman who was scared of her own shadow, as I had been at the end of my marriage. I emerged someone who knew that she could take care of herself and her children, who was no longer a wife but a woman and who didn’t give a damn about being alone because I was very happy with my own company. The BEST way to ensure your emotional strength is to DO THAT THING YOU THINK YOU CAN NOT DO. By doing so you will truly see your own strength. Nothing and no one will be able to convince you otherwise.
We are born into this world emotionally strong people. Life experience can drain that strength until we are left a shell of who we formerly were.It doesn’t have to be that way. Take care of yourself, don’t take things personally, challenge your thoughts, give unto others and face challenges head on. Regaining your emotional strength is not only possible but probable with a little intention and effort. You can do it. I did. And, let me tell you, it feels amazing!
If you have read this far you must be wanting to get emotionally stronger.
Let me help you do so, NOW, so you can start living the life of your dreams.
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.