Life has its ups and downs. From time to time, we all experience stress, setbacks, and life-changing situations. Resilience can help us react to change in positive ways and emerge from difficult experiences stronger than before. Learning to become more resilient takes time and practice, but following a few simple tips can help you build this essential life skill.
What is resilience?
Resilience is the ability to adapt to life’s misfortunes and recover from trauma and adversity. It helps us bounce back from setbacks and challenges, such as a job loss, a serious illness, a natural disaster, or the death of a loved one.
Becoming more resilient can empower us to:
- Meet the demands of life.
- Cope with challenges and setbacks.
- Develop a sense of independence and self-worth.
- Have a sense of purpose in life and goals for the future.
- Know when to seek help.
What resilience isn’t
Resilience won’t make your problems go away or protect you from trauma. But it can give you the ability to manage stress and keep functioning, physically and psychologically. While some people are more resilient than others, resilience is an achievable trait. Anyone can learn behaviors and develop ways of thinking and acting that allow us to become more resilient.
7 ways to build resilience
Develop and maintain strong relationships.
Build connections with family members, friends, neighbors, and people who share your interests. Join a local group, take a class, or be active in a faith-based organization. If you can’t get together in person, find a group that hosts virtual meetings you can attend online. Strong relationships provide social support and can help you feel connected to something larger than yourself. Our friends and loved ones remind us that we’re not alone.
Change how you respond to situations.
While you can’t change circumstances beyond your control—like a pandemic or a life-altering diagnosis—you can change how you respond to difficult situations. Be decisive and proactive. Sometimes it helps to break problems down into manageable pieces. If a task seems overwhelming, focus on one thing you can accomplish each day. Taking initiative can help you stay motivated and give you a sense of purpose during stressful times.
Turn setbacks into opportunities for growth.
Experiencing a rough patch often reveals that you’re stronger than you thought. Resilience gives you the ability to rise to the occasion and learn new skills. Struggling with challenges and overcoming obstacles offers opportunities for self-discovery and growth. The experience can enhance your appreciation for life and remind you to be thankful for what you have.
Develop a positive outlook.
It’s hard to feel hopeful when life isn’t going your way. Your mindset plays a key role in your capacity to get back on your feet after being knocked down. Resilient people are less likely to dwell on problems or feel victimized or overwhelmed. At the same time, they’re more likely accept that change is part of life. In difficult times, focus on the beneficial aspects of the situation and visualize an encouraging outcome. Have confidence that good will eventually occur.
Maintain a healthy perspective.
How you think plays a big role in how you feel. Try to identify areas of irrational thinking and avoid blowing events out of proportion. Resilience can help you adopt a more balanced, realistic thinking pattern and see today’s challenges in a broader context. You may not be able to change events, but you can develop healthier ways to respond to stressful situations.
Take care of yourself.
Stress affects us physically and emotionally. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can strengthen your body and help build a strong foundation for resilience and emotional wellbeing. Give yourself the resources you need to stay strong. Eat a healthy diet. Get enough sleep. Exercise regularly. Stay hydrated. And avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms, like alcohol or other substances. It’s also important to find time to relax, whether through meditation, yoga, prayer, deep breathing exercises, or journaling.
Find ways to help others.
Volunteering your time and supporting friends and loved ones can help cultivate a sense of purpose and self-worth that builds resilience. Helping others gives meaning to your life and contributes to positive mental health. Even small acts of kindness can make you feel grounded and more at peace.
When to seek help
Building resilience takes time, patience, and practice. As you embark on your personal journey toward becoming more resilient, find strategies that work well for you. If stress or a traumatic experience makes it impossible for you to function in your daily life or perform basic activities, consider getting professional help. Your doctor can recommend a mental health professional or put you in touch with a support group.
American Psychological Association, Building Your Resilience
American Psychological Association, 10 Ways to Build Resilience
Mayo Clinic, Resilience: Build Skills to Endure Hardship