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Building your resilience. We all face trauma, adversity, and other stresses. Here’s a roadmap for adapting to life-changing situations, and emerging even stronger than before.

Life may not come with a map, but everyone will experience twists and turns, from everyday challenges to traumatic events with more lasting impact, like the death of a loved one, a life-altering accident, or a serious illness. Each change affects people differently, bringing a unique flood of thoughts, strong emotions, and uncertainty. Yet people generally adapt well over time to life-changing situations and stressful situations—in part thanks to resilience.


Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.


While these adverse events, much like rough river waters, are certainly painful and difficult, they don’t have to determine the outcome of your life. There are many aspects of your life you can control, modify, and grow with. That’s the role of resilience. Becoming more resilient not only helps you get through difficult circumstances; it also empowers you to grow and even improve your life along the way.


Being resilient doesn’t mean that a person won’t experience difficulty or distress. People who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives commonly experience emotional pain and stress. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress.


While certain factors might make some individuals more resilient than others, resilience isn’t necessarily a personality trait that only some people possess. On the contrary, resilience involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that anyone can learn and develop. The ability to learn resilience is one reason research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary.


Like building a muscle, increasing your resilience takes time and intentionality. Focusing on four core components—connection, wellness, healthy thinking, and meaning—can empower you to withstand and learn from difficult and traumatic experiences. To increase your capacity for resilience to weather—and grow from—the difficulties, use these strategies.

Prioritize relationships. Connecting with empathetic and understanding people can remind you that you’re not alone in the midst of difficulties. Focus on finding trustworthy and compassionate individuals who validate your feelings, which will support the skill of resilience.

The pain of traumatic events can lead some people to isolate themselves, but it’s important to accept help and support from those who care about you. Whether you go on a weekly date night with your spouse or plan a lunch out with a friend, try to prioritize genuinely connecting with people who care about you.

Join a group. Along with one-on-one relationships, some people find that being active in civic groups, faith-based communities, or other local organizations provides social support and can help you reclaim hope. Research groups in your area that could offer you support and a sense of purpose or joy when you need it.

Take care of your body. Self-care may be a popular buzzword, but it’s also a legitimate practice for mental health and building resilience. That’s because stress is just as much physical as it is emotional. Promoting positive lifestyle factors like proper nutrition, ample sleep, hydration, and regular exercise can strengthen your body to adapt to stress and reduce the toll of emotions like anxiety or depression.

Practice mindfulness. Mindful journaling, yoga, and other spiritual practices like prayer or meditation can also help people build connections and restore hope, which can prime them to deal with situations that require resilience. When you journal, meditate, or pray, ruminate on positive aspects of your life and recall the things you’re grateful for, even during personal trials.

Avoid negative outlets. It may be tempting to mask your pain with alcohol, drugs, or other substances, but that’s like putting a bandage on a deep wound. Focus instead on giving your body resources to manage stress, rather than seeking to eliminate the feeling of stress altogether.

Help others. Whether you volunteer with a local homeless shelter or simply support a friend in their own time of need, you can garner a sense of purpose, foster self-worth, connect with other people, and tangibly help others, all of which can empower you to grow in resilience.

Be proactive. It’s helpful to acknowledge and accept your emotions during hard times, but it’s also important to help you foster self-discovery by asking yourself, “What can I do about a problem in my life?” If the problems seem too big to tackle, break them down into manageable pieces. For example, if you got laid off at work, you may not be able to convince your boss it was a mistake to let you go. But you can spend an hour each day developing your top strengths or working on your resume. Taking initiative will remind you that you can muster motivation and purpose even during stressful periods of your life, increasing the likelihood that you’ll rise up during painful times again.

Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals and do something regularly—even if it seems like a small accomplishment—that enables you to move toward the things you want to accomplish. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?” For example, if you’re struggling with the loss of a loved one and you want to move forward, you could join a grief support group in your area.

Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often find that they have grown in some respect as a result of a struggle. For example, after a tragedy or hardship, people have reported better relationships and a greater sense of strength, even while feeling vulnerable. That can increase their sense of self-worth and heighten their appreciation for life.

Keep things in perspective. How you think can play a significant part in how you feel—and how resilient you are when faced with obstacles. Try to identify areas of irrational thinking, such as a tendency to catastrophize difficulties or assume the world is out to get you, and adopt a more balanced and realistic thinking pattern. For instance, if you feel overwhelmed by a challenge, remind yourself that what happened to you isn’t an indicator of how your future will go, and that you’re not helpless. You may not be able to change a highly stressful event, but you can change how you interpret and respond to it.

Accept change. Accept that change is a part of life. Certain goals or ideals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations in your life. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.

Maintain a hopeful outlook. It’s hard to be positive when life isn’t going your way. An optimistic outlook empowers you to expect that good things will happen to you. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear. Along the way, note any subtle ways in which you start to feel better as you deal with difficult situations.

Learn from your past. By looking back at who or what was helpful in previous times of distress, you may discover how you can respond effectively to new difficult situations. Remind yourself of where you’ve been able to find strength and ask yourself what you’ve learned from those experiences

Getting help when you need it is crucial in building your resilience. For many people, using their own resources and the kinds of strategies listed above may be enough for building their resilience. But at times, an individual might get stuck or have difficulty making progress on the road to resilience.


A licensed mental health professional such as a psychologist can assist people in developing an appropriate strategy for moving forward. It is important to get professional help if you feel like you are unable to function as well as you would like or perform basic activities of daily living as a result of a traumatic or other stressful life experience. Keep in mind that different people tend to be comfortable with different styles of interaction. To get the most out of your therapeutic relationship, you should feel at ease with a mental health professional or in a support group. World Mental Resilience Programs offers these services 24hrs a day.


The important thing is to remember you’re not alone on the journey. While you may not be able to control all of your circumstances, you can grow by focusing on the aspects of life’s challenges you can manage with the support of loved ones and trusted professionals.


Climate change, environmental degradation, water scarcity, disease, rapid population growth, unplanned urbanization: in today’s world, heightened risk and fragility are threatening to reverse major development gains. Shocks and stressors such as conflict, natural hazards and political instability can have a devastating impact. Children who are malnourished in their first 1,000 days of life may suffer cognitive and physical impairment. In times of war or disaster, schools are the first to close. Historically, humanitarian interventions have saved countless lives and restored the livelihoods of millions. But they have rarely tackled underlying vulnerabilities.


It is true that development programmes are hard to implement in fragile or deeply impoverished contexts, prone to recurrent crises. But evidence suggests that by embedding resilience in their interventions, development actors can lessen the effects of shocks and stressors, and thus more durably relieve human suffering. For its part, by adopting a resilience perspective, the mental health community can ensure that people rebuild better after disasters. Resilience measures, in fact, are cost-effective on two counts: they reduce the need to spend on cyclical crisis response, while helping overcome a legacy of development gaps.


Thanks to our expertise and experience, the World Mental Resilience Programs (WMRP) has acquired a comparative advantage in building sustainable resilience for mental health interventions. We have invested in early-warning and preparedness systems – including supply chain management, logistics and emergency communications – that allow individuals and communities to prevent crises or respond quickly when they happen. Our expertise includes vulnerability analysis and mapping, as well as support to social protection systems. In several of our operations, we have developed productive safety nets through community-based mental health programmes.


This growing body of experience has informed our understanding; it is now helping shift our practice. These days, wherever possible, a “resilience lens” is applied at the stage of programme design, and subsequently at all stages of the programme cycle. We have learned that no two settings are alike, and that long-term collaboration is crucial. In each distinct context, we must determine how our actions can be best layered, integrated, and sequenced with the strategies of national governments and the programmes of our partners. WMRP’s current transition to Country Strategic Plans, whereby national needs and priorities are jointly assessed and agreed with governments and local stakeholders, must be seen in this light: they provide a long-term planning framework that allows us to put resilience-building at the heart of our programmes.


Resilience: Build skills to endure hardship. Resilience means being able to adapt to life's misfortunes and setbacks. Test your resilience level and get tips to build your own resilience. When something goes wrong, do you tend to bounce back or fall apart? When you have resilience, you harness the inner strength that helps you rebound from a setback or challenge, such as a job loss, an illness, a disaster or a loved one's death. If you lack resilience, you might get stuck on problems or feel like a victim. You might feel burdened or turn to ways to cope that aren't healthy, such as drug or alcohol use, eating disorders, or risky behaviors. Resilience won't make your problems go away. But resilience can help you see past them, find ways to enjoy life and better handle stress. If you aren't as resilient as you'd like to be, you can learn skills to become more resilient.

Resilience means being able to cope with tough events. When something bad happens, you still feel anger, grief and pain. But you're able to keep going, both physically and psychologically. Resilience isn't about putting up with something tough or coping on your own. In fact, being able to reach out to others for support is a key part of being resilient.

Resilience can help protect you from mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. Resilience also can help you deal with things that increase the risk of mental health conditions, such as being bullied or having trauma. If you have a mental health condition, being resilient can help you cope better.

If you'd like to become more resilient, try some of these tips:

  • Get connected. Building strong, healthy relationships with loved ones and friends can give you needed support and help guide you in good and bad times. Connect with others by volunteering or joining a faith or spiritual group.
  • Make every day have meaning. Do something that gives you a sense of success and purpose every day. Set clear goals that you can reach to help you look toward the future with meaning.
  • Learn from the past. Think of how you've coped with troubles in the past. Think about what has helped you through tough times. You can even write about past events in a journal to help you see the patterns of how you behave and to help guide you in the future.
  • Stay hopeful. You can't change the past, but you can always look toward the future. Being open to change makes it easier to adapt and view new challenges with less worry.
  • Take care of yourself. Tend to your own needs and feelings. Do activities and hobbies you enjoy. Include physical activity in your daily routine. Get plenty of sleep and make bedtime rituals. Eat a healthy diet. Practice how to manage stress. Try ways to relax, such as yoga, meditation, guided imagery, deep breathing or prayer.
  • Take action. Don't ignore your problems. Instead, figure out what you need to do, make a plan and take action. It can take time to recover from a major setback, trauma or loss. But know that your life can improve if you work at it.

Getting more resilient takes time and practice. If you don't feel you're making progress or you don't know where to start, talk with a mental health professional. With guidance, you can improve your resiliency and mental well-being. World Mental Resilience Programs offers these services 24 hours a day, onsite and virtually.


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