8 Ways to Boost Your Resilience in Life and at Work

“See how you can keep your enthusiasm in this time of crisis. This will show the valor, the strength, and the resilience that you are born with.”
— Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, global spiritual and humanitarian leader

What is resilience?

The dictionary defines resilience as “the capacity to withstand or to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” Although you’ve probably heard the word used before, do you really know what it means? According to the American Psychological Association (APA), resilience is the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands. Basically, it’s the ability to rebound from something like job loss, illness, disaster, or a loved one’s death.

The APA says a number of factors contribute to how well people adapt to adversities. They include:

  • Ways in which individuals view and engage with the world
  • Availability and quality of social resources
  • Specific coping strategies

Psychological research demonstrates that the resources and skills associated with more positive adaptation (i.e., greater resilience) can be cultivated and practiced.

While we all experience ups and downs throughout our lives, we can generally adapt – thanks to resilience. Times of difficulty or stress won’t go away. We will always face them. But according to the Mayo Clinic, having resilience can give you the ability to see past challenges, find enjoyment in life, and better handle stress.

Resilience in the workplace

When it comes to the workplace, a MetLife study, “Mental Health: A Path to a Resilient Workforce and Business Recovery,” found some fascinating statistics on resilience at work and the effect it has on mental health. When compared to the least resilient employees, the most resilient employees are likely to be holistically well (73% vs. 24%). Only 12% of employees who are most resilient are likely to be burned out vs. 55% who are the least resilient.

There are a few steps employers can take to build resilience and support mental health in the workplace:

  • Step 1: Make mental health a priority in the workplace and take tangible actions to encourage positive, holistic well-being.
  • Step 2: Build an open and supportive workplace culture that addresses mental health problems while also helping preempt them. 
  • Step 3: Create an ecosystem of support programs, from employee assistance programs (EAPs) to voluntary benefits.

Characteristics of resilience

According to Conner and Davidson (2003), resilient people have the following characteristics:

  • Viewing change as a challenge or opportunity
  • Commitment
  • Recognition of limits on one’s ability to control
  • Engaging the support of others
  • Close, secure attachment to others
  • Personal and collective goals
  • Self-efficacy
  • Past successes
  • A realistic sense of control/having choices
  • Sense of humor
  • Action-oriented approach
  • Patience
  • Tolerance of negative affect
  • Adaptability to change
  • Optimism
  • Faith

How to boost your resilience

Here are a few ways to boost your resilience at home and at work.

  1. Don’t be afraid to seek support: It’s essential to have a social support group – friends, employees, and mentors – in your personal life and in your work life. Foster relationships with close family members, friends, or others who can offer help and support. Finding people who will listen to you can help strengthen your resilience. When stress, adversity, or trauma strikes, you still experience anger, grief, and pain, but you’re able to keep functioning — both physically and psychologically. However, resilience isn’t about putting up with something difficult, being stoic, or figuring it out on your own. In fact, being able to reach out to others for support is a key part of being resilient. 
  1. Don’t look at setbacks as permanent: Few things in this life are forever, and that includes setbacks. Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable and maintain a long-term view toward the future. You will no doubt encounter highly stressful events, but it’s all about how you respond to them. Try looking beyond the present to see how future circumstances may be a little better. Note any subtle ways in which you might already feel somewhat better as you deal with difficult situations.
  1. Change is good: Remember –  the only constant in life is change. It is inevitable and part of our everyday lives. Life may throw you curveballs that will necessitate a need to shift gears. This includes revising certain goals that may no longer be attainable because of adverse situations. The important thing is to accept that some circumstances cannot be changed and focus on what you do have control over.
  2. Be realistic in your expectations: Focus on small steps and be realistic. Set small goals that can be accomplished on a regular basis and help you move in the right direction. Having one big task may seem unattainable and unrealistic, so instead focus on smaller tasks that will lead to a bigger goal. 
  1. Just do it: Your problems won’t be solved just by wishing them away. You have to take action – even if it is just one small step at a time. Inaction will only leave you paralyzed and unable to move forward. 
  1. Be open to compromise: Just like you must adapt to change, you must also be flexible and OK with compromise – especially in the workplace. It can’t always be your way or the highway. Recognizing the importance of being able to work with colleagues will make it easier to navigate stressful situations with your co-workers.
  1.  Keep everything in perspective: Even when facing very difficult events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.
  2. Take care of yourself: You can’t underestimate the importance of listening to your own needs and feelings. This includes participating in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. And don’t forget to exercise regularly. Not only can it help you relax, but can also be a great way to relieve stress. Meditation can also help you alleviate stress and become more mindful, so you’re able to frame your circumstances in a better light, a study from ScienceDirect found. A good night’s sleep can also leave you better enabled to handle whatever issues come your way. Taking care of your mind and body by taking care of yourself can help you be ready to face situations that call for resilience.

Putting the strategies into action

Now that you’ve got the basics down on how to boost resilience, Positive Psychology offers a few ways to put them into action:

  • Allow yourself to express and feel your emotions. Sometimes having a good cry can be emotionally cleansing.
  • Take a walk and get moving. Exercise and movement can help increase your energy level, and release endorphins into your system.
  • Talk with someone you love and trust. Have a meaningful and honest conversation.
  • Take some time off to recharge. Unplug the electronic devices and give yourself a moment to rest and reflect.
  • Think of people who exude resilience and model their behavior.
  • Go within and connect with your higher power through meditation or prayer.
  • Reconnect with others and help build their resilience.
  • Be kind to yourself. Have some self compassion and ease up on your expectations.
  • Listen to empowering music.
  • Take some deep breaths. Breathing deeply is very healing and cleansing.
  • Practice mindfulness in your day-to-day life. The more you practice being in the moment, the happier and more joyful you will feel.
  • The moment you start believing that you can bounce back is the same moment things will start going your way. Your belief is everything. You can learn to be more resilient.