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Self-Care Awareness Week: developing Resilience

19 November 2014

By Hilary Green, Sessional Staff Counsellor

I recently did some research on resilience for our staff counselling workshop, ‘Building Your Resilience’, and want to share something that I found particularly useful.

I came across the website of the American Psychological Association (APA). The APA asked a group of top psychologists to take a look at the evidence on features associated with resilience. They’ve put together a ‘top ten’ list of things you can do to enhance your ability to cope with the ups and downs of life.

So, here are those ten tips – these are things that ‘resilient people’ do.  If you think your own resilience could do with a boost, ask yourself how you might make some changes in your own life, personalising the suggestions in a way that will work for you.

Start with small changes that you are likely to be able to sustain – I’ve suggested a few ideas further down.


Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience. Some people find that being active in civic groups, faith-based organisations, or other local groups provides social support and can help with reclaiming hope. Assisting others in their time of need also can benefit the helper.

Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events. Try looking beyond the present to 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.

Accept that change is a part of living. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.

Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals. Do something regularly — even if it seems like a small accomplishment — that enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?”

Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.

Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle with loss. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality and heightened appreciation for life.

Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.

Keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.

Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualising what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.

Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.

Additional ways of strengthening resilience may be helpful. For example, some people write about their deepest thoughts and feelings related to trauma or other stressful events in their life. Meditation and spiritual practices help some people build connections and restore hope.

The key is to identify ways that are likely to work well for you as part of your own personal strategy for fostering resilience.

Reproduced from the website of the American Psychological Association.


If you’re having a particularly tough time at the moment, and the list feels a bit daunting, how about starting with one of the following:

Have you neglected some social connections recently?  If so, could you prioritise reconnecting with a particular friend, or social group, that you haven’t contacted for a while?

Do you exercise regularly? If not, what small step could you take from this week onwards?  E.g.  incorporating a walk into your daily routine, attending one exercise class, going for a run at the weekend, organising some physically active time with your family.

Do you eat healthily? If not, or if your diet needs improving, what small change could you incorporate this week?  E.g.  Bringing some fruit with you into work, making sure you have breakfast, aiming to eat one more vegetable a day.

How well are you sleeping? Do you have a fairly consistent bed time and getting up time, do you avoid watching TV/going on the Internet while you are bed? Are you allowing yourself to wind down before you sleep?  Is this an area you know you need to work on?

Good luck with your own journey towards resilience!