Top tips to build and strengthen mental resilience
By: Clare Hayes
Updated: 18 March 2020
“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
― Nelson Mandela
Resilience is the ability to cope with adversity and difficult life situations. It encompasses the skills needed to bounce back and adapt to life’s ever changing circumstances.
Adversity and difficulties are all a normal part of life. To fail is deeply human but rather than allowing failure to overwhelm us, it may become a chance for further growth and learning. Recognizing and accepting failure as part of the human journey can help us to continue to make new goals and adapt our strategies in order to achieve them.
Maintaining a positive attitude, being optimistic and regulating your emotions are important characteristics of a resilient person. To have hope means to aspire to be determined and have the motivation to pursue and reach our goals. Being emotionally resilient is being able to adapt and cope with a difficult or stressful time or situation, without it affecting us negatively in the longer term.
Stress can at times overwhelm us and impact our ability to cope with the demands placed on us. Developing the appropriate coping mechanisms can help to build resilience. It is a personal journey and is a set of skills that can be learned, developed and strengthened throughout our lives.
There are many advantages to fostering resilience. Resilience helps people face and manage positive and negative life events. Resilient people persist in the face of obstacles and, when necessary, accept circumstances that cannot be changed (Bonnanno, 2004). Resilience also provides a buffer to protect us from psychological and physical health consequences during difficult times (Rutter 1985, Yi et al., 2008).
Talk therapies can often help people to recognise and build on their own strengths and abilities. CBT and mindfulness training have been shown to be effective in enhancing skills and improving communication and relationships. They can also be helpful with motivation and goal setting as well as building confidence and helping to focus attention.
Top tips to build and strengthen resilience:
Stay connected – Identify your support network and nurture positive relationships with friends and family. Having a good social network increases the types of social support available to you and has shown to be a protective factor against the negative effects of stress.
Listed below are all four different types of support:
Emotional support is the offering of empathy, caring, trust and affection. This type of support allows an individual to feel valued.
Informational support in terms of advice, guidance or useful information.
Tangible support is any form of practical support and can take the form of financial assistance, material goods or services.
Esteem support takes the form of expressions of confidence and encouragement that can build on people's positive personal strengths.
Having sense of purpose – Create a life that is meaningful for you by taking decisive actions to implement the type of life you want to lead. Take part in activities and begin doing more of the things you enjoy. Begin to build on these positive experiences so that your life becomes more fulfilling and satisfying.
Learn or improve on healthy habits – Exercising regularly, having a balanced diet, getting enough quality sleep as well as making time for relaxation improve both physical and mental wellbeing.
Believe in yourself – Nurture your own positive self-view by building on your personal strengths and abilities. When you trust in your instincts and develop confidence in your ability to solve problems you will learn to move towards your goals with optimism.
Laugh often – Remember to take time to laugh and enjoy yourself when times are tough. Laughter has been shown to reduce the negative effects of stress and has positive effects on health.
Express your emotions - Emotional regulation is important in gaining emotional intelligence and building resilience. Emotional intelligence involves the ability to understand, use and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict.
Techniques such as meditation, mindfulness and stress management can help one take charge of negative emotions and improve one's response to emotional situations. These techniques can also provide other benefits, like improved mood, increased feelings of self-worth and increased empathy.
Be optimistic – Staying optimistic even when life is challenging, can help to reduce the impact of stressful events. Maintaining a positive outlook and accepting that life will throw up many challenges can help us to adapt to new or different situations and circumstances.
Keep perspective - Know and accept the things you cannot change and focus instead on the things you can and work towards changing them. It may take time, but by developing realistic and achievable goals and taking steps towards them, you may begin to regain a sense of control in your life.
Be imperfect – Allow and accept imperfections in yourself and others. We are all perfectly imperfect beings!
Learn lessons - Instead of questioning ‘why me’ or ‘how did this happen’, facing challenges may be a time of self-discovery. Try to accept it as a learning experience and an opportunity for growth. Many people who have experienced hardships or tragedies have reported better relationships, a greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, an increased sense of self-worth and a more spiritually developed and heightened appreciation for life.
Padesky, C. A., & Mooney, K. A. (2012). Strengths‐based cognitive–behavioural therapy: A four‐step model to build resilience. Clinical psychology & psychotherapy, 19(4), 283-290.
The road to resilience. (n.d.). American Psychological Association. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx
Additional Information taken from The American Psychological Association.
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