You might have heard the analogy that resilience is like a rubber band released after being pulled taut.
While that’s a simple comparison to help us understand the meaning of resilience, there’s way more to the resilience definition than that, of course. And then there’s actually building resilience and sustaining it.
In this post, we’ll walk you through the definition of resilience, followed by tips on both how to build resilience and how to sustain resilience, and finally leave you with some inspiration for staying resilient in the face of adversity.
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What is Resilience?
Resilience is the ability to both adapt to and bounce back from adversity, tragedy, stress, trauma, or other negative life circumstances.
You can face these stressors in all areas, including your professional, personal, and academic life.
Personally, you may face adversity through sexism, racism, or the death of a loved one. In your professional career, you’ll have everyday stress, but you may also have single moments of great stress, such as getting fired. And in your academic life, you could face tragedy when you fail an important class.
While we all can bounce back from these circumstances, real resilience means that you use that negative situation to your advantage, bouncing back and thriving because of it.
As Psychology Today puts it: “Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes.”
Now, ready to learn exactly how to build resilience to stress, adversity, problems outside of your control, and other issues?
Keep reading below!
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How to Build Resilience (and Sustain It!)
Here are a few easy ways to build resilience:
1. Take Care of Yourself
It may feel difficult to practice self-care when something great has gotten you down, but it’s one of the first things to go out the window when we’re in a slump.
Caring for yourself is really an umbrella term for a variety of actions, including eating healthily, getting enough sleep, getting adequate physical activity, and staying hydrated. Not only do these actions promote resilience, but they strengthen both your mental and physical health in the process. On top of that, rather than waiting to get back on your feet before you start taking care of yourself as you had before, practicing self-care may in turn help you to build resilience.
As today’s adversity is often more mental in nature rather than physical, practicing mindfulness techniques and meditation may further help alleviate your stress and build a resilient attitude.
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2. Practice Strengths‐Based CBT
If you want a science-backed method for improving personal resilience and relieving stress, the four-step “strengths-based cognitive behavioral therapy” (CBT) approach may be what you’re looking for. Published in 2012 by Christine A. Padesky and Kathleen A. Mooney of the Center for Cognitive Therapy in Huntington Beach, CA, their research goes into detail on how their CBT model promotes and strengthens resilience.
The four-step strengths-based cognitive behavioral therapy for developing resilience goes like this:
- Search for Strengths – Define the strengths that aren’t linked to negative areas to promote resilience.
- Construct a PMR – A PMR, or personal model of resilience, helps identify how your resilience in some areas can be transferred to resilience in problem areas.
- Apply the PMR – Consider how your resilience model can be used in those problem areas and apply them.
- Practice – Perform a variety of behavioral experiments to further practice and build a sustainable resilience.
For more on Padesky and Mooney’s four‐step strengths‐based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) model, see their article here.
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3. Be Grateful
Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook and the author of Lean In and Option B, said: “Finding gratitude and appreciation is key to resilience. People who take the time to list things they are grateful for are happier and healthier.”
She also says, “You are not born with a fixed amount of resiliency. Like a muscle, you can build it, and draw on it when you need it.”
When something difficult gets us down, it’s easy to wallow in self-pity and feel like everything and everyone is against us. However, if you take the time to be grateful that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, your gratitude will go a long way toward helping you become resilient now and sustain it for future situations.
For more, check out this video “How Gratitude Made Me Resilient” with Sheryl Sandberg, Malala Yousafzai, and Adam Grant:
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4. Don’t Go It Alone
If you’re facing a difficult situation or moment in your life, one of the things you might do is isolate yourself from your friends, family, and the world around you. I know I’ve done it on occasion, and it often feels easier than explaining over and over what’s the matter.
Staying connected with supportive people always makes things a whole lot easier, and that’s especially true during your most challenging times. If the loved ones in your life aren’t the right people to turn to in your moment of need (for example, if they don’t approve of your sexuality), seek out a support group or simply find a new group of friends and peers with whom you can release some of your burden.
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5. Accept Change
One of the easiest ways to feel stressed or overwhelmed is when significant change occurs. It could be your job moving to a new office, starting a new college class where you feel out of your league, or having your best friend start spending less time with you and more time with new friends.
Change happens, and it’s important to always keep this in mind. While undesired new situations can cause us to feel stressed or discouraged, don’t actively oppose the changes. Ask yourself why exactly you feel hesitant or resistant to this particular new development, and try to find some aspect of the change that you can get excited about.
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Great Quotes on Resilience & Bouncing Back Stronger
To end things on this post, I want to leave you with some inspirational quotes about resilience and bouncing back from adversity:
Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.Nelson Mandela
The human capacity for burden is like bamboo- far more flexible than you’d ever believe at first glance.Jodi Picoult
It is really wonderful how much resilience there is in human nature. Let any obstructing cause, no matter what, be removed in any way, even by death, and we fly back to first principles of hope and enjoyment.Bram Stoker
It’s your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself that determines how your life’s story will develop.Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Only those who dare to fail greatly, can ever achieve greatly.Robert F. Kennedy
Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.Steve Maraboli
Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.Elizabeth Edwards
I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.Maya Angelou
Resilience is very different than being numb. Resilience means you experience, you feel, you fail, you hurt. You fall. But, you keep going.Yasmin Mogahed
Like tiny seeds with potent power to push through tough ground and become mighty trees, we hold innate reserves of unimaginable strength. We are resilient.Catherine DeVrye
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Well, that’s our post on how to build resilience, and we hope you’ll be able to not just survive but thrive the next time you face adversity, tragedy, loss, trauma, or high stress!
Got any questions, feedback, or other tips for being more resilient to add to our list above? Let us know in the comment area below, and thank you for reading!