Building Resilience

"Resilience isn't a single skill.  It's a variety of skills and coping mechanisms.  To bounce back from bumps in the road as well as failures, you should focus on emphasizing the positives." Jean Chatsky

Resilience is the ability to recover quickly after challenging life experiences.  Resilience isn't a trait that people either have or don't have.  Rather, it's a learned ability that can be developed by anyone. Resilient people view adversities as "temporary setbacks."  They don't focus on their challenges.  They instead focus on those things that are within their control to change.  When they experience perceived failures, they don't take it personally or believe that they themselves are failures.  They reframe difficult events into learning opportunities.  

You may have heard the ancient Chinese proverb, "The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in the storm."  Remaining flexible in the face of adversity is the key to resilience.  Remember that you always have a choice in how you respond to any given situation.  You can choose to have a sense of humor or optimism when things don't go your way, or you can choose to let those tough moments in life disempower and break you.  

We are all so individual and handle stress so differently that no single strategy or coping mechanism works for everyone. 

Below are a few different methods for building resilience:

1.  Accept that Change is a Part of Life.  The seasons change.  Every living creature has a life cycle.  Time stops for no one.  Change is an inevitable part of life.  If you learn to embrace this truth, life's ups and downs don't seem so unbearable.  You realize that what you're going through right now will eventually pass.  No circumstance will remain the same indefinitely. 

2. Build a Support System.  Even the most introverted and independent people need human contact and support.  Asking for support when you need it is a sign of strength, not weakness.  Having trusted and valued people in your life that you can turn to make the difficult times less challenging.  

3. Look for Opportunities in Your Challenges.  It's hard to see the silver lining amid crisis, but there's often an unexpected gift or valuable lesson that comes from hardship.  Maybe you've become a more compassionate and loving person.  Maybe you've finally found forgiveness or gained greater insight because of your challenge.  You may not always understand why something happens, but you can choose to focus on the positive aspects that exist as a result.

4. Surround Yourself with Other Resilient People.  Choosing to surround yourself with resilient people is one of the easiest ways to become more resilient.  Resilient people are more positive and pleasant to be around.  They don't waste precious energy dwelling on their struggles.  They handle adversity with grace and courage, and inspire others to become more resilient as well.


Think back to a significant moment in your life where you bounced back from adversity.  Perhaps you lost your job, your dream home, survived a painful divorce, or something else.  What personal strengths did you use to overcome your specific challenge?  What skills, tools or strategies do you now have that you didn't have then?