When going through a tough situation, what keeps us going? How do we bounce back continuously from the stressors of life? Resilience is our ability to more easily adjust to and accept change, even if it is negative change. Situations that can put people at risk for developing unhealthy patterns or mental health problems include a death occurring in the family, experiencing poverty, and other traumatic events. 1
As more research has been done about resilience, the more its meaning has changed. In the fledging phases of its development, it was thought to be a trait exclusive to children.1 Resilience also doesn’t stay within one psychological theory. It’s a broad concept that can be applied to many situations.1
Resilience isn’t an inherit trait that you either have or you don’t, it can be learned.2 Traits exhibited in groups with high levels of resilience are “intelligence, education, wide-ranging interests, and the ability to adapt to change.” 2
Being flexible can be difficult, but you can build that skill through mindfulness. Being present in the moment is a vital skill for flexibility. It’s also important to try to upkeep a positive attitude, foster your own independence, and have strong, well defined goals. 2 You should talk with your mental health provider about how to build your mindfulness skills. Outside of a mental health provider, it is important to have strong social support networks you can rely on during difficult times.
Fostering Resilience and Building Support
You can foster your own health and well-being by building your social support network and self-esteem to raise your resilience.3 Practice good health by eating well, sleeping well, and exercising. Socialization is important to our mental health, so make time to spend with your loved ones. If your social support network needs to be grown and developed, that’s okay. Everyone makes friends and connections at a different pace.
Be proactive, you can’t become friends with someone if no one makes the first move.4 Say hello, find a mutual interest, and start up a conversation! You can also give them a helping hand; it makes it more likely for the other person to be more inclined to help you in the future. 4
If you’re not sure what to say, try asking about a person’s pets. Many people love animals and the chance to talk about them. If they don’t have any pets, you can talk about what animals they find interesting.
This is an impersonal topic, so it can make a really good warm up until you feel more comfortable asking personal questions. You can also seek out clubs, sports teams, local classes, and volunteer work, where you can meet others with similar interests.
When you do talk about your problems with friends, be careful to find a healthy balance between discussing those and enjoying other activities and conversation types. Talking about problems in friendships too much could increase your levels of depression and anxiety. 5 Of course, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t reach out to our support systems when stressed, it just means we shouldn’t only be talking to our friends about our problems. That’s no way to have a healthy friendship. If you’re having continuous trouble building connections, your mental health provider can help you find socialization strategies that work for you.
Even people who are very good at being resilient and mindful can have bad days or rough patches. We can’t remain fully reliant on just ourselves, because if you run out of energy to help yourself, inevitably you’re going to get stuck. If you’re going through a difficult time, just know that it won’t last forever. You will be able to pull yourself up and get through it with the right support. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your mental health provider or your support network.
Resilience and Developmental Psychopathology 1
Kim-Cohen, J. (2007). Resilience and Developmental Psychopathology. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 16(2), 271-283. doi:10.1016/j.chc.2006.11.003
The trait and process of resilience 2
Jacelon, C. S. (1997). The trait and process of resilience. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 25(1), 123-129. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2648.1997.1997025123.x
RESILIENCE: RESEARCH EVIDENCE AND CONCEPTUAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER 3
Hoge, E. A., Austin, E. D., & Pollack, M. H. (2007). Resilience: Research evidence and conceptual considerations for posttraumatic stress disorder. Depression and Anxiety, 24(2), 139-152. doi:10.1002/da.20175
This article was written by Caroline Sebren, a senior at the University of South Carolina and current volunteer writer for Carolina Assessment Services, LLC. Caroline is a current Psychology major with a minor in Counselor Education and hopes to pursue work in the future as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.
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