What Does it Mean to be Emotionally Flexible?

What happens when things don’t go as expected? How do you handle disagreements or conflict? Are you interested in other people’s opinions? Do you have a set way to do things that does not vary?

Emotional flexibility (or adaptability) is the capacity to adjust your reactions to the environment at hand. Your life is constantly shifting and changing, and it can sometimes feel challenging to be flexible in the face of change. It can be easy to slip into a rigid stance, rather than being willing to look at ways to adapt to the changes.

If you are inflexible, you may not be confident in your ability to adapt if a belief or a goal must change. You often fear the unknown, and want things to go your way without variance so that you feel safe. You may equate uncertainty with chaos.

An emotionally flexible, adaptable person has the confidence to adjust thoughts and actions depending on the circumstances. He/she is comfortable with stretching boundaries and learning new ways of doing things. He/she is open to hearing new ideas from others.

FlexibilityIf you fit the descriptions of inflexibility, there are some ways to eliminate the rigid thinking and grow.

You can develop more confidence in your ability to adapt if you practice healthy self-talk. Rather than saying to yourself, “This is not going the way I want it to…this must change,” try creating a few mental cues to help you, like “I can feel safe with the changes I see coming. I have tools to adapt.”

If you don’t feel you have the tools to adapt, you can develop some and have them in mind as needed. Try a mental rehearsal of how you can act or react in a situation with a friend or coworker. Practice what you would say or do in a conflict of opinions. If desired, get help from a therapist or counselor to help you come up with a healthy plan.

Become aware and mindful of your reactions to situations, notice them, and let them go. Learning how to let go allows for more flow, and therefore more flexibility.

Set easy-to-obtain goals to practice as well, like allowing someone else to make plans for the next outing, or cooking a meal a different way – simple everyday changes can help you build new habits and mindsets.

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