10 Ways to Build Resilience

Resilience refers to how well you can deal with and bounce back from the difficulties of life. It can mean the difference between handling pressure and losing your cool. Resilient people tend to maintain a more positive outlook and cope with stress more effectively.

Research has shown that while some people seem to come by resilience naturally, these behaviors can also be learned. Whether you're going through a tough time now or you want to be prepared for future challenges, you can build resilience by:

  • Finding purpose
  • Believing in yourself
  • Developing a social network
  • Embracing change
  • Being optimistic
  • Nurturing yourself
  • Developing problem-solving skills
  • Establishing goals
  • Taking action
  • Committing to building skills over time
1

Find a Sense of Purpose

Finding a sense of purpose can help you find meaning in life's challenges. Instead of being discouraged by your problems, with a defined purpose, you'll be more motivated to learn from past experiences and keep going.

Examples of purposes include:

  • Building a support system of loved ones
  • Giving a voice to a social movement
  • Leading a healthy lifestyle
  • Learning about different cultures
  • Making art or music
  • Serving your community

In the face of emotional hardship—such as the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship—finding a sense of purpose can be especially important in your recovery. This might mean becoming involved in your community, cultivating your spirituality, or participating in activities that are meaningful to you.

2

Believe in Your Abilities

Having confidence in your own ability to cope with the stresses of life can play an important part in resilience. Becoming more confident in your own abilities, including your ability to respond to and deal with a crisis, is a great way to build resilience for the future.

Listen for negative comments in your head. When you hear them, practice immediately replacing them with positive ones, such as, "I can do this," "I'm a great friend/mother/partner," or "I'm good at my job."

Research has demonstrated that your self-esteem plays an important role in coping with stress and recovering from difficult events. Remind yourself of your strengths and accomplishments.

3

Develop a Strong Social Network

It's important to have people you can confide in. Having caring, supportive people around you acts as a protective factor during times of crisis. While simply talking about a situation with a friend or loved one won't make your troubles go away, it allows you to share your feelings, get support, receive positive feedback, and come up with possible solutions to your problems.

4

Embrace Change

Flexibility is an essential part of resilience. By learning how to be more adaptable, you'll be better equipped to respond when faced with a life crisis. Resilient people often utilize these events as an opportunity to branch out in new directions. While some people may be crushed by abrupt changes, highly resilient individuals are able to adapt and thrive.

5

Be Optimistic

Staying optimistic during dark periods can be difficult, but maintaining a hopeful outlook is an important part of resiliency. What you are dealing with may be difficult, but it's important to remain hopeful and positive about a brighter future.

Positive thinking does not mean ignoring the problem in order to focus on positive outcomes. It means understanding that setbacks are temporary and that you have the skills and abilities to combat the challenges you face.

6

Nurture Yourself

When you're stressed, it can be all too easy to neglect your own needs. Losing your appetite, ignoring exercise, and not getting enough sleep are all common reactions to a crisis situation. Instead, focus on building your self-nurturance skills, even when you're troubled. Make time for activities that you enjoy.

By taking care of your own needs, you can boost your overall health and resilience and be fully ready to face life's challenges.

7

Develop Problem-Solving Skills

Research suggests that people who are able to come up with solutions to a problem tend to cope more productively with stress compared to those who cannot find solutions to problems. Whenever you encounter a new challenge, make a quick list of some of the potential ways you could solve the problem.

Experiment with different strategies and focus on developing a logical way to work through common problems. By practicing your problem-solving skills on a regular basis, you will be better prepared to cope when a serious challenge emerges.

8

Establish Goals

Crisis situations are daunting. They may even seem insurmountable. Resilient people are able to view these situations in a realistic way and then set reasonable goals to deal with the problem.

When you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by a situation, take a step back to simply assess what is before you. Brainstorm possible solutions, and then break them down into manageable steps.

9

Take Action

Simply waiting for a problem to go away on its own only prolongs the crisis. Instead, start working on resolving the issue immediately. While there may not be any fast or simple solution, you can take steps toward making your situation better and less stressful.

Focus on the progress that you have made thus far and planning your next steps, rather than becoming discouraged by the amount of work that still needs to be accomplished.

Actively working on solutions will also help you feel more in control. Rather than just waiting for things to happen, being proactive allows you to help make your goals a reality.

10

Keep Working on Your Skills

Resilience may take time to build, so don't get discouraged if you still struggle to cope with problematic events. Everyone can learn to be resilient and it doesn't involve any specific set of behaviors or actions. Resilience can vary dramatically from one person to the next.

Focus on practicing these skills, as well as the common characteristics of resilient people, but also remember to build on your existing strengths.

Press Play for Advice On Building Strength

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.

Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts

9 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.
  1. American Psychological Association. Resilience.

  2. Ronen T. The role of coping skills for developing resilience among children and adolescents. The Palgrave Handbook of Positive Education. 2021:345-368. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-64537-3_14

  3. Schaefer SM, Morozink Boylan J, van Reekum CM, et al. Purpose in life predicts better emotional recovery from negative stimuliPLoS One. 2013;8(11):e80329. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0080329

  4. Wågan FA, Darvik MD, Pedersen AV. Associations between self-esteem, psychological stress, and the risk of exercise dependenceInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(11):5577. doi:10.3390/ijerph18115577

  5. Scheuplein M, van Harmelen AL. The importance of friendships in reducing brain responses to stress in adolescents exposed to childhood adversity: a preregistered systematic review. Current Opinion in Psychology. 2022;45:101310. doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2022.101310

  6. Guerrini Usubini A, Varallo G, Granese V, et al. The impact of psychological flexibility on psychological well-being in adults with obesity. Front Psychol. 2021;12. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.636933

  7. Narasimhan M, Allotey P, Hardon A. Self care interventions to advance health and wellbeing: a conceptual framework to inform normative guidance. BMJ. 2019:l688. doi:10.1136/bmj.l688

  8. Tan CS, Tan SA, Mohd Hashim IH, et al. Problem-solving ability and stress mediate the relationship between creativity and happiness. Creativity Research Journal. 2019;31(1):15-25. doi:10.1080/10400419.2019.1568155

  9. Wolsink I, Den Hartog DD, Belschak FD, Oosterwijk S. Do you feel like being proactive today? Trait-proactivity moderates affective causes and consequences of proactive behaviorPLoS One. 2019;14(8):e0220172. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0220172

Additional Reading

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.