They’re backed by science, easy to adopt, and guarantee a strong (and resilient) start to the new year.
1. They don’t just set emotional boundaries—they fiercely protect them
These psychological demarcation lines help define how we behave in our relationships with others—and what we will and won’t accept in return. “The way you allow others to treat you is a barometer of how you treat yourself,” explains therapist Ashley McGirt. The biggest mistake people make when creating a boundary, however, is assuming it’s a one-and-done proposition. “In fact, it’s a two-step process,” says psychologist Guy Winch, PhD, author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts. “First, you let the other person know what the boundary is, and second, you repeat the message every time that boundary gets violated thereafter.” An evergreen example: You’re scheduled to take a vacation, and your boss tells you an urgent new project needs to be finished next week, when you’re away. To enforce your boundary, you might say, “I understand the urgency, but I will be on holiday starting next Tuesday. I can ask someone else on the team to help you.”
And now for the follow-up. You’re sitting on a chairlift catching snowflakes on your tongue as your 5-year-old bursts into giggles, when your phone starts vibrating and doesn’t stop until you almost reach the top. You nervously pull off your mittens and discover a flurry of urgent emails your boss has fired off to five people, cc-ing you. Instead of replying, put your mittens back on, glide to your next run, and let your OOO message do the heavy lifting for you. “I am out of the office on vacation this week. Please contact [the employee you delegated project to, along with their email and phone number] with any urgent questions in my absence.” Wheeee!
2. They focus on the bounce-back, not the setback
As Ernest Hemingway so eloquently put it, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” Life is hard and sometimes cruel and inexplicable. And yes, bad things do happen to good people. But emotionally healthy women realize that setbacks—nay, gut punches—are inevitable and rise to the occasion. “True strength and resilience are defined by how you bounce back after challenging events, not how you respond in the moment,” says Winch. It’s okay to cry or scream, but then what? Do you fall apart and feel like a victim, or do you burn a giant sage ball, listen to a positive-psychology podcast, and manifest abundance? “Being upset and expressing hurt or anger in the moment has little to do with whether one accesses their resilience, perseverance, and grit thereafter,” he adds. “Emotional strength is only visible over time, not in a snapshot.”
3. They don’t spiral—or get sucked down the drain with someone else
The definition of brooding is constantly replaying negative events, worries, or memories in your mind without gaining new insight or perspective. “Each time we do it, we activate our stress response and get upset all over again,” says Winch. New research shows that playing emotional quarterback to a chronically unhappy friend can be just as damaging. Women, especially younger women, are more likely to participate in co-rumination, according to a study in the journal Child Development. This maladaptive social behavior occurs when friends vent extensively about problems—the nosy in-law, the toxic boss, the “fiancé” who still hasn’t filed for divorce from his first wife—without pivoting to problem-solving or action. “Hearing and seeing the stress of others can have a tremendous impact on your health and well-being,” says McGirt. The antidote is simple, says Winch: “Strike a balance between bonding over hardships and changing the flavor of the conversation to focus on solutions. This way you offer both support and agency.”
4. They cut themselves a break—and then some
Women who treat themselves with kindness and empathy experience less stress and lower rates of depression, per a Brazilian study of female corporate leaders in the research journal BMC Health. “Many people have an internal voice that is far harsher and more self-critical than anything we direct at others,” says Winch. “Self-compassion means treating ourselves the way we would treat a dear friend, both in actions and words. It isn’t about avoiding taking responsibility for your actions or compromising your goals; it’s about telling yourself, I may not be perfect, but I am trying my best. And I can learn from this situation and grow as a person.”
5. They remember that Walt Disney was fired from his first job for “lack of imagination”
Rejection is a part of life for everyone, but that doesn’t make it easier for anyone. “It can be extremely painful, so much so that we often try to make sense of it by finding fault in ourselves,” says Winch. Clearly, there’s something unworthy or unlovable about us, we reason. It doesn’t matter who does the rejecting, either, he adds. “Studies have found that we feel hurt even if it’s someone we despise.”
The best way to ease the sting? Honor aspects of yourself that you value. “Loyalty, compassion, creativity, a strong work ethic—whatever the attributes are, make a list and write a short note about why each quality is important to you,” says Winch. And if you need more of a pep talk, remember that ultimately, being rejected isn’t about you—it’s about someone else’s loss. As Dita Von Teese once said, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”