What Does It Mean to Be Resilient?

Characteristics of Resilience

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Resilience involves the ability to recover and rebound from challenges and setbacks. Being resilient can be important for helping people deal with a variety of problems and bounce back from trauma.

What makes a person resilient? There are many factors that contribute to resilient behavior, including personality traits, upbringing, genetics, environmental factors, and social support.

If you want to become more resilient, learn about the characteristics of resilient people and when and how to ask for help building resilience.

What Does Resilient Mean?

Being resilient means facing difficulties head-on instead of falling into despair or using unhealthy coping strategies. Resilience is often defined as the mental reservoir of strength that helps people handle stress and hardship.

Resilient people are able to draw upon this strength to cope and recover from challenges. That's true even when they face significant traumas, such as job loss, financial problems, serious illness, relationship challenges, or the death of a loved one.

Resilience also means understanding that life is full of challenges. While we cannot avoid many of these problems, we can remain open, flexible, and willing to adapt to change.

Characteristics of Resilient People

Some of the main characteristics of a person who has resilience are awareness, self-control, problem-solving skills, and social support. Resilient people are aware of situations, their emotional reactions, and the behavior of those around them.

By remaining aware, they can maintain control of a situation and think of new ways to tackle problems. In many cases, resilient people emerge stronger after such difficulties.

While people vary dramatically in the coping skills they use when confronting a crisis, researchers have identified some key characteristics of resilience. Many of these skills can be developed and strengthened, which can improve your ability to deal with life's setbacks.

Sense of Control

Do you perceive yourself as having control over your own life? Or do you blame outside sources for failures and problems?

Generally, resilient people tend to have what psychologists call an internal locus of control. They believe that the actions they take will affect the outcome of an event.

Of course, some factors are simply outside of our personal control, such as natural disasters. While we may be able to put some blame on external causes, it is important to feel as if we have the power to make choices that will affect our situation, our ability to cope, and our future.

Problem-Solving Skills

Problem-solving skills are essential for resilience. When a crisis emerges, resilient people are able to spot the solution that will lead to a safe outcome. In dangerous situations, less resilient people sometimes develop tunnel vision. They fail to note important details or take advantage of opportunities.

Resilient individuals are able to calmly and rationally look at a problem and envision a successful solution.

Strong Social Connections

Whenever you're dealing with a problem, it is important to have people who can offer support. Talking about the challenges you are facing can be an excellent way to gain perspective, look for new solutions, or simply express your emotions. Resilient people have a network of friends, family members, co-workers, and online support groups to keep them socially connected.

Survivor Mentality

When dealing with any potential crisis, it is essential to view yourself as a survivor. Resilient people avoid thinking like a victim of circumstance and instead look for ways to resolve the problem. While the situation may be unavoidable, they stay focused on a positive outcome.

Emotional Regulation

Resilient people are able to regulate their emotions effectively. The ability to recognize that they are having an emotional response and to understand what is causing the response can help them better handle emotions and cope with the situation at hand.

Self-Compassion

Resilient people are also compassionate toward themselves. They tend to notice when they need to take a break and can accept their emotions, which is important for resilience. Self-compassion can help boost overall health and resilience and ensure you're ready to face life's challenges.

Examples of Resilient Behaviors

So what does resilience look like in action? Some examples of resilient behaviors and ways that you can show resilience include:

  • Trying to take a positive perspective on situations
  • Viewing challenges as learning opportunities
  • Regulating emotions and expressing feelings in appropriate ways
  • Focusing on the things you can control instead of dwelling on what you cannot change
  • Recognizing that cognitive distortions are false
  • Reframing negative thoughts to be more realistic and positive

For example, imagine that you get stuck in traffic on the way to work. For a non-reilient person, they might get angry, stressed out, and worried about how being late will reflect on them at work.

If you are resilient, however, you might choose to focus on what you can learn from the situation (leaving the house earlier for work), control your emotional response (using stress relief strategies to calm your mind and body), and avoid negative thinking (by reminding yourself that you are always on time and your employer will understand).

How to Ask for Help

While being resourceful is an important part of resilience, it is also essential to know when to ask for help. During a crisis, everyone can benefit from the help of psychologists and counselors specially trained to deal with crisis situations. Other potential sources of assistance include:

  • Books: Reading about people who have experienced and overcome a similar problem can be motivating and suggest ideas on how to cope.
  • Online message boards: Online communities can provide continual support and a place to talk about issues with people who have been in a similar situation.
  • Psychotherapy: If you are having trouble coping with a crisis situation, consulting a qualified mental health professional can help you confront the problem, identify your strengths, and develop new coping skills.
  • Support groups: Attending support group meetings is a great way to talk about the challenges you're facing and to find a network of people who can provide compassion and support.

Get Advice From The Verywell Mind Podcast

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how you can build inner strength and resilience.

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A Word From Verywell

Resilience is important for mental health and well-being, and luckily, everyone can learn to be resilient. While some people may be naturally more resilient, it's a skill that you can strengthen.

Start by practicing some of the common characteristics of resilient people and focusing on your existing strengths. Don't get discouraged; becoming more resilient may take time, but the investment will have big payoffs on your health and well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the seven resilience skills?

    They are competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping, and control. Pediatrician Ken Ginsberg, MD, created the 7 Cs of resilience model to help children and adolescence build resilience. However, these skills can be developed at any age.

  • What does non-resilient mean?

    Being non-resilient, or lacking resilience, often involves becoming overwhelmed by difficult or stressful situations, dwelling on problems, or using unhealthy coping mechanisms to cope with the challenges of life.

  • What does it mean to be stress-resilient?

    People who are stress-resilient have better coping strategies for handling stress. They can recover more quickly from the major and minor stressors that occur day to day.

8 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.