Resiliency: Bouncing Back
What is resilience?
Resilience is being able to turn towards your personal strengths to transform difficult or challenging experiences into learning opportunities. Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. Each time you live through adversity, you learn something new about yourself and are more prepared for the next challenge you will face. Building resilience never stops.
You can learn to become resilient by paying attention to what is happening in your life and learning new skills and habits to help you cope with stress and challenges.
Being resilient doesn’t protect you from pain and suffering, but it can provide you better ways to respond so that you are able to face, overcome and be transformed from adversity.
You can learn resilience. But just because you learn resilience doesn't mean you won't feel stressed or anxious. You might have times when you aren't happy - and that's OK. Resilience is a journey, and each person will take his or her own time along the way.1
These resilience factors will help you draw from your personal strengths to better prepare for, live through and learn from adversity.
Trusting others and yourself is the foundation of being resilient. When you trust others, you let go of the need to control what other people do and say and instead focus on yourself. When you trust yourself, you feel better about you are and confident in the decisions you make.
Establishing your own identity based on what you value is vital to living through adversity. A sense of identity helps you know the limits of what you can and can’t handle and affirms your right and need to be your own advocate. Once you understand what you value, you are better able to make choices that align with who you are.
Having a sense of independence is empowering because you do not seek the approval or advice from others. You are comfortable in asking people for support but don’t expect them to solve your problems. Independence lets you take action based on your own needs, not the needs of others.
- Relationship/Support Systems
Relationships can become more important when we are faced with difficult times. Relationships that are based on trust, respect and appreciation are vital to being resilient. Good relationships can decrease the feeling that you have to face life’s challenges on your own.
- Initiative & Problem Solving Skills
It’s important to be able to recognize what your needs are and the steps needed to get them met. Moving into action and problem solving is vital in being resilient because it gets you unstuck. Being able to problem solve helps you learn to master the skills necessary to solve problems and also makes you more likely to share your thoughts and feelings with others, talk with others, use support systems (friends, family, professors, etc.), reach out for help and develop good social skills.
Develop a Resiliency Plan
Taking a moment to reflect and develop an achievable plan will help you prepare, live through and learn from a difficult situation. These questions can help you begin to reflect.
Prepare for a difficult situation
- What do I think is going to be the outcome of this difficult task/situation?
- Who will be affected by this problem and how?
- What are the obstacles that I need to overcome to deal with this problem?
- Who should know about the task or situation?
- Who can I ask for help?
- What strengths do I have that I can rely on?
- What skills and knowledge do I need to use to get through this task/situation?
Live through a difficult situation
- How am I feeling today?
- Have I taken time to practice mindfulness and meditation?
- How are the other people involved handling the situation?
- What new actions need to be planned or taken?
- What is going well? What is challenging?
- Fill in the blanks. What resilience factors will you draw on as you live through the problem?
- I have...
- I can...
- I am....
Learn from a difficult situation
- What did you learn about yourself?
- What did you learn about your friends?
- What did you learn about yourself when you had to ask for help?
- Why was this a meaningful experience for me?
20 Ways to Cope with Stress
Use our 20 ways to cope with stress as a tool to help you build your resiliency. As you use these tips, keep in mind that each person's journey will be different - what works for you may not work for others.
1 Resilience for Teens: Got Bounce? American Psychological Association, last accessed January 8, 2019. https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/bounce.aspx
Tapping Your Inner Strength, How to Find the Resilience to Deal with Anything, by Edith Henderson Grotberg, Ph.D. and some text adapted from American Psychological Association, last accessed July 13, 2017, http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx