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A Personal Strategy for Engaging and Building Your Resilience

How do we deal with difficult events that change our lives such as the loss of a job, serious illness, loss of a loved one, and other challenging life experiences? Many people react with a flood of strong emotions and a sense of uncertainty. Yet, people generally adapt well over time to life—changing situations and stressful conditions. What enables them to do so? It involves “resilience,” an ongoing process that requires time and effort, and engages people in taking a number of steps.


The American Psychological Association reports that “resilience” is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. Resilience is “bouncing back” from difficult experiences. Research has shown that resilience is ordinary not extraordinary and that people commonly demonstrate resilience. One example is the response of many Americans to the September 11, 2001 attacks and people’s efforts to rebuild their lives. Being resilient does not mean that a person doesn’t experience difficulty or stress. Emotional pain and sadness are common in individuals who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress. Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that resilience involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.


Many factors contribute to one’s resilience. Many studies demonstrate that the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. Relationships that create love and trust provide role models, and offer encouragement and reassurance help bolster a person’s resilience. The American Psychological Association reports the following factors regarding resilience:


Developing resilience is a personal journey. Individuals do not all react the same way to traumatic and stressful life events. An approach to building resilience that works for one person might not work for another. People use varying strategies with some variations that may reflect cultural differences. An individual’s culture might have an impact on how he or she communicates feelings and copes with adversity—for example, whether and how a person connects with significant others, including extended family members and community resources. With growing cultural diversity, the public has a greater access to a number of different approaches to building resilience. Some or many of the ways to build resilience discussed may be appropriate to consider in developing your personal strategy. Below are guidelines towards building your resilience:


Resilience involves maintaining flexibility and balance in your life as you deal with stressful circumstances and traumatic events. This happens in several ways, including:


Getting help when you are in need is crucial in building and maintaining your resilience. Beyond caring family members and friends, individuals often find it helpful to seek prompt and specialized assistance from the following:

  1. Psychologist (PsyD, PhD, EdD, DMH).
  2. Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).
  3. Marriage and family therapist (MFT).
  4. Psychiatrist (MD, DO).
  5. Self-help groups.
  6. Online resources and books.

“Resilience”…..an ongoing process that requires time and effort and engages people in taking a number of steps.