Resilience: How to Build Your Own Inner Strength
By Evelyn Cunico, MA, MS/LIS
Posted June 30, 2017
What is Resilience?
Resilience means being able to adapt to life’s setbacks. Resilience allows you to step back from misfortune, such as an illness, a job loss, or the death of a friend. When you are resilient, your anger, grief, or pain does not go away, but you are able to keep functioning in your everyday life.
You Can Learn How to Build Your Resilience
Research findings show that resilience is most often viewed as a process, rather than a personality trait. Resilience is a learned skill. Therefore, you can build resilience through the process of developing your own mental, physical, and social approaches to daily living. Practicing your own approaches can prepare you for challenges before they occur.
- Count your blessings. Mentally express gratitude for the positive things in your life. Enjoying nutritious food, restful sleep, a safe living environment, and time with friends are a few ways to feel grateful.
- Show compassion. Say Hello and smile to persons you meet. Open a door for someone who is carrying a heavy package. In a crowded store, excuse yourself if you inattentively bump another shopper.
- Learn from your mistakes. Think of them as learning opportunities to change your future behavior. Then, when you find yourself in similar circumstances, remind yourself of your past mistake, and practice your changed behavior.
- Remain optimistic and hopeful about the future. Do not seek perfection, but whenever possible, stay focused on positive emotions.
- Maintain your physical health. Exercise for 30 minutes each day, by walking, or gardening, or taking a yoga class.
- Make an appointment with your medical doctor for a wellness exam.
- Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Participate in activities that you enjoy.
- Get at least seven or eight hours of restful sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet. Practice relaxation techniques, such as prayer or slow breathing.
- Stay in regular touch with family and friends. If someone has not contacted you in a while, reach out for a brief talk or get-together.
- Create a daily sense of purpose. Write a letter or call a community leader about a local event. Volunteer to help a neighbor. Treat yourself to an hour of social relaxation.
- Seek social support for a challenge you are facing.
- Build strong positive relationships that you can count on when unexpected frustrations become overwhelming.
Becoming more resilient takes time and practice. Start with small steps. Most important, believe in your ability to build your own inner strength.
For more information, see the Selected Information Resources at the end of this blog post.
Disclaimer: The information presented in this blog should not replace the medical advice of your medical doctor. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease, illness, or other health condition without first consulting with your medical doctor.
Selected Information Resources
American Psychological Association. Resilience Guide for Parents and Teachers.
Summary Note: Guide includes tips on how to help children and teens build resilience. Separate sections focus on helping students in preschool, elementary school, middle school, and high school.
(Accessed 22 June 2017)
American Psychological Association. Resilience for Teens: Got Bounce?
Summary Note: For a teen audience. Includes Ten Tips to Build Resilience.
(Accessed 22 June 2017)
American Psychological Association. The Road to Resilience.
Summary Note: Brochure helps adults to find their own road to resilience. Defines resilience, describes strategies, and suggests Ten Ways to Build Resilience. Includes links to Related Reading and Geographic Search to find local psychologists.
(Accessed 22 June 2017)
Chawla, L., Keena, K., Pevec, I., Stanley, E. Health and Place. 2014 July;28:1-13. Green Schoolyards as Havens from Stress and Resources for Resilience in Childhood and Adolescence
Summary Note: Observational and interview study of elementary and high school students in Colorado and Maryland describes how green schoolyards can reduce stress and promote protective factors for resilience.
(Abstract accessed 26 June 2017)
MacLeod, S., Musich, S., Hawkins, K., Alsgaard, K., Wicker, E.R. Geriatric Nursing. 2016 July-August;37(4):266-72. The Impact of Resilience among Older Adults
Summary Note: An overview of the scientific literature on resilience reveals that resilience is most often viewed as a process, rather than a personality trait. Identifies key characteristics of resilience.
(Accessed 28 June 2017. From Abstract, link to Free Full Text via ELSEVIER Open Access)
Mayo Clinic. Tests and Procedures. Resilience Training. Resilience: Build Skills to Endure Hardship.
Summary Note: Defines resilience. Offers tips to help build resilience skills. Includes cartoon video [4:23] titled, A Very Happy Brain, narrated by Amit Sood, MD, MSc, Professor of Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, MN. Take-away message is that the pursuit of gratitude and compassion will make you happier than the pursuit of happiness.
(Accessed 27 June 2017)