Understanding resilience

What is resilience, and how do you build it? 

We all know the saying, “Life is tough, but so are you,” but why do some of us thrive when dealing with challenging times and others crumble? 

Our individual ability to cope with change and life’s unexpected challenges is impacted by how resilient we are. Resilience can be defined as how well we bounce back and bounce forward after difficult times, how strong we are on the inside, how we stand up for ourselves and how well we deal with hardships and learn from our challenges. The stronger our resilience, the more likely we are to succeed in difficult times and maintain a positive mindset. But how do we know how resilient we are, and is there a way we can build it? 

Two teenagers engaged in conversatoin

We are all innately resilient; however, research* indicates there are many factors that influence our individual levels of resilience over time. These factors encompass our personality traits, environmental factors, and the learned capacity acquired through specific experiences. Additionally, emotions like fear, doubt, and insecurity can elevate stress and anxiety levels during challenging situations, potentially impacting our ability to access our resilience when it’s most needed.

Young people, in particular, require strong resilience skills in various situations. These include instances of illness, periods of transition or environmental changes such as moving schools or homes, managing conflicts within peer groups or family dynamics, and coping with shifts in relationships, such as divorce or breakups. The cultivation of coping skills in youth holds significant importance as they journey through adolescence and prepare to navigate life’s inevitable challenges and successes.

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach or a specific formula for building resilience in individuals, there exists a range of tools and strategies that can be adopted and promoted to foster a more resilient mindset.

Resilience is trusting yourself and your abilities

First and foremost, resilience is all about maintaining a positive mindset and having a willingness to grow and learn from setbacks. This starts with trusting in our own abilities to respond and cope. Having a strong sense of self-trust can help build confidence and make it easier for us to make decisions while at the same time reducing our stress levels. An actionable way to develop a stronger sense of self-trust is through goal setting and making time for personal reflection. Breaking down situations and actively sitting with our thoughts can make it easier for us to stay positive and be less deterred by everyday setbacks. A great way to do this is through tracking our daily moods, writing down achievable personal goals and setting time to reflect on these goals using a tool like YourCrew.

Resilience is celebrating progress, not just success

To build resilience we also need to pay greater attention to our journey, not just the destination. Celebrating only our successes can instil a belief that things only matter when we do well. Celebrating small milestones along the way, like how we overcame a hurdle, dealt with a situation we found personally tough or celebrating what we are personally proud of each day, can all foster stronger resilience when dealing with everyday challenges. 

A group of young people laughing together running up a hill

Resilience is allowing yourself to change the narrative 

Building greater resilience can also be achieved by embracing the flexibility to change and adapt. Reframing a problem or situation and looking at it from a different perspective can enhance our ability to cope more effectively. For example, when faced with a scenario where we fear failure. Rather than giving up or conceding defeat, encouraging ourselves to persevere and adapt no matter the outcome can improve our mindset and set us on a greater path to success. Increased confidence in our ability to withstand negative consequences makes us more open to learning from mistakes and trying new and more challenging things, which in turn can help build our confidence, self-belief and resilience

Resilience is relying on others for support

Another way to build resilience is through active engagement in trusted social networks. Having a strong social support network made up of friends, colleagues, trusted adults, and/or family members can help us adopt and maintain a better perspective during challenging times and leave us feeling less isolated. When we feel supported and have the opportunity to discuss difficult situations openly, we are more likely to push through setbacks and maintain optimism regarding the outcome. It’s important to set up a support network before we need it so that it is there for when we do – and the free YourCrew app is an excellent tool for this purpose, allowing us to feel supported at home and on the go. 

What’s important to remember is that even when we adopt strategies to build resilience and improve our ability to respond in tough situations, there are still certain circumstances where our personal resilience may not be enough, and we may require additional support. Our Professional and Urgent Help resources provide access to important third-party links and phone numbers for professional organisations that can support you or those you crew for when a situation becomes too big to handle on your own or with the help of your support network. 

* Pemberton, 2015, Resilience: A Practical Guide for Coaches, Open University Press