How Can We Tap into Resilience During Difficult Times

Resilience is the
ability to adapt and overcome, rebounding from stressors and returning to a
balanced state of well-being. It’s key to living a positive quality of life – complete with joy, hope, and possibilities – regardless of challenges.

Physical and Psychological Resilience

Research describes
two types of resilience – physical and psychological. Physical resilience used
to be viewed as the opposite of physical frailty – but it’s more complicated
than that.

It’s defined as
one’s ability to withstand or recover from functional decline following acute
and/or chronic health stressors throughout the full lifespan.

resilience refers to a person’s ability to adapt well in the face of adversity,
trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress. It relies more
heavily on the external environment and social support than physical

Some people seem
born with resilience. They bounce back from tragedy, overcome obstacles, and
just keep moving forward no-matter-what. But a lot of people require help to
build it. They need to immerse themselves in a mindset and environment that
actively supports resilience.

Whole Person Wellness and Resilience

Supporting all the
dimensions of wellness – physical, social, emotional,
spiritual, intellectual, and vocational – is
part of the equation. They, of course, link together and overlap but understanding
them separately helps you support each one.

In the same way,
it’s important to understand individual components of resilience. Every person,
regardless of age or circumstances, has basic human needs. Some are concrete like
food, water, shelter and clothes.

But there are also
more abstract needs like having meaning and purpose, feeling competent and in
control, giving as well as receiving, and feeling of value to others. These
more abstract needs are critical to building and supporting resilience.

Behaviors That Lead to Resilience

Positive attitudes
and expectations (regardless of age) generate a sense of well-being, uplifting
hope, optimism, confidence, perspective, and mastery – which (by the way) are
building blocks of resilience.

Positive social
connections with family and friends, and/or a close-knit community of mutual
social support, build resilience, and a healthy active lifestyle is also
predictive of higher resilience.

Effective coping
strategies – like embracing a sense of
self-efficacy (I can face challenges with flexibility and adaptability.)
and a willingness to view challenges through a lens of optimism rather than
despair – impact happiness and well-being. To
activate resilience, seek to identify and solve challenges on your own and with

Past Resilience

One strategy known
to bolster resilience is reminding yourself how you’ve faced and overcome
previous challenges. Remembering specific times you’ve been resilient can
trigger a mindset of seeking adaptive strategies to keep moving forward – to
overcome rather than simply cope with challenges.


Practice optimism.
It’s important to avoid personalizing challenges (i.e., why me?). Life and
stress happen.

Recognizing stress
as a normal part of life and building yourself in ways to take stress breaks – short walks, mindfulness meditation – can help shift the
focus away from the stressor and towards what to do next.

re-writing the story to include triumphing over adversity helps build personal

Savoring Positive Experiences

A study done by
Mather Lifeways describes the value of consciously savoring positive
experiences to support resilience. They examined how some people tend to
amplify positive experiences by fully appreciating the experience, actively
choosing to share it with others, and feeling gratitude for it.

Comparatively, some
people tend more towards “dampening’ behaviors – i.e., thinking of ways an
experience could have been better, feeling disappointed that it will end soon,
and downplaying the overall value of its positive effect.

This study’s intervention
asked participants to intentionally focus on a happy experience twice a day for
one week. They were asked to fully embrace those feelings of happiness and
emotional well-being.

This simple
intervention had a positive effect on resilience primarily by helping people
who tended to downplay positive experiences become aware of their “dampening”
behaviors and helping them savor positive experiences.

It demonstrated
that even if you’re not naturally inclined towards a positive outlook, you can
use tools to support a shift in mindset – a strengthening of resilience.

Purpose and Resilience

Finally, having a
sense of purpose has been repeatedly shown to have a strong impact on building
both psychological and physical resilience. Purpose influences the building
blocks of resilience like optimism, mastery, and confidence which support the
ability to continue to move forward – regardless of challenges.

A strong sense of
purpose – especially when focused on giving support to others – also leads to improvement in physical health, making
individuals more likely to engage in healthy lifestyles, improving longevity,
and making the body more resilient against stressors.

If you want to learn more, download these free resources related to building family resilience and personal wellbeing.

What stress-reducing strategies are you currently using during this difficult time? Can you think of ways to reach out to others (remotely) to provide support? Please share one example of past resilience with our community.