Building Resilience

The Road to Resilience

How do we deal with difficult events?

The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, medical emergencies, terrorist attacks, and other traumatic events.

These can all trigger strong emotions. Yet, most of us adapt, eventually. What allows us to do this?


Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or other significant sources of stress (family or relationship problems, serious health problems, workplace or financial stressors).

Another way to put this is how well you “bounce back” from difficult experiences.

Resilience is an ongoing process that requires time and effort, but it is normal – not extraordinary.

Being resilient does NOT mean that someone never experiences difficulty or distress.

Resilience is NOT a trait that some people have and others do not.

It involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone – with practice.


Many studies show that the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supporting relationships within and outside the family.

Additional factors include the capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out, having a positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities, having communication and problem solving skills, and the capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses.

We do not all react in the same way to traumatic and stressful life events, so what may help you build resilience may not help someone else. Different strategies (one or many) should be considered in developing your own personal strategy.



  1. MAKE CONNECTIONS – good relationships with close family members, friends, or others. Accept help and support from those who care about you and will listen. Be active in civic groups, faith-based organizations, or other local groups to provide social support. Help others in their time of need.
  2. AVOID SEEING CRISES AS INSURMOUNTABLE PROBLEMS – You can’t change the fact that sh$t happens sometimes, but you can change how you react to those events. Try to look beyond the present to how the future can be better and note any ways in which you may already feel somewhat better.
  3. ACCEPT THAT CHANGE IS A PART OF LIVING – Accept circumstances that cannot be changed and realize that certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Focus on the things that you can change.
  4. MOVE TOWARD YOUR GOALS – Develop realistic goals. Do something regularly – even if it’s something small – that enables you to move toward your goals. “What’s one thing I know I can do today that helps me move in that direction I want to go?
  5. TAKE DECISIVE ACTION – Take action as much as you can, rather than detaching from your problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.
  6. LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES FOR SELF-DISCOVERY – Many who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality, and a heightened appreciated for life.
  7. NURTURE A POSITIVE VIEW OF YOURSELF – Develop confidence in your ability to solve problems and trust your instincts.
  8. KEEP THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE – Avoid blowing things out of proportion.
  9. MAINTAIN A HOPEFUL OUTLOOK – Expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want rather than worry about what you fear.
  10. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF – Pay attention to your own needs, health, and feelings.

Journaling, meditation, and spiritual practices may help some people build connections and restore hope as well.



Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What kinds of events have been most stressful for me?
  • How have those events typically affected me?
  • Have I found it helpful to think of important people in my life when I am distressed?
  • To whom have I reached out for support in working through a traumatic or stressful experience?
  • What have I learned about myself and my interactions with others during difficult times?
  • Has it been helpful for me to assist someone else going through a similar experience?
  • Have I been able to overcome obstacles, and if so, how?
  • What has helped make me feel more hopeful about the future?


Let yourself experience strong emotions, even if they are negative, but also realize when you may need to avoid experiencing them at times in order to continue functioning. This may involve stepping forward and taking action to deal with your problems and meet the demands of daily life, and also stepping back to rest and re-energize yourself.

Rely on others, and also rely on yourself.

In life, having perseverance and trust in your own ability to work your way around boulders and other obstacles is important. You can climb out of your raft and rest alongside the river, but to get to the end of your journey, you need to get back in the raft and continue.

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American Physcolgical Association. “The Road to Resilience”.

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