Flexing Emotional Muscles Helps Build Resiliency that Lasts

People that are able to keep their cool under pressure are considered to be resilient – the ability to cope with problems and setbacks. Resilient people utilize their skills and strengths to cope and recover from problems and challenges.

Feelings of fear, frustration, anger or sadness have been felt by all of us at one time or another. These emotions arise from a threat, situation or tragedy in one’s life and these emotions are toxic to the body, specifically through the release of the stress hormone cortisol.

Those who lack resiliency may become overwhelmed by such experiences. They may dwell on problems and use unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with such challenges. Generally, these individuals are slower to recover from setbacks.

When you write or talk about your thoughts and feelings, as well as implement the one-minute gratefulness exercise from the Corporate Athlete course, you provide an outlet and pathway to re-frame your experience in a positive way.

One's resiliency is revealed and reflected in the ability to expend and recover emotional energy. As one of the four energy dimensions in the pyramid, emotional capacity is defined by the quality of energy. Capacity in the physical and emotional dimensions are connected. If demand on our physical energy reserves becomes depleted we begin to feel a sense of emergency.

Emotional intelligence is the capacity to mange emotions skillfully in the service of high positive energy and full engagement. The emotions or "muscles" that fuel positive emotion are self-confidence, self-control, interpersonal effectiveness and empathy. Smaller, supportive emotions or "muscles" include patience, openness, trust and enjoyment.

Each person will have their own emotional capacity where demand is able to be tolerated before turning negative. As adversity presents itself, pushing to expand your emotional capacity by training and "flexing" your "muscles" of self-control, empathy or patience during these storms, your ability to adapt to and interpret these storms in a positive way may result in becoming more resilient in any future storms you encounter.

Engaging in recovery activities provides one the opportunities to perform under pressure. And creates a balance between exercising the resiliency "muscles" and seeking renewal and recovery. A key to renewal in the emotional dimension is participating in activities that one finds enjoyable and treating the time invested as sacred or untouchable. Activities that bring you enjoyment, fulfillment and affirm positive emotions, like singing, gardening, playing a sport, dancing, attending a concert or simply spending quiet, reflective time alone are some ways to recover emotionally.

For additional information on resiliency, download the Building Resiliency: The New Business Imperative white paper.


The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr, co-author, Simon & Schuster, 2003.