How to Build Resilience
By Kelly Burch
Resilience doesn’t mean being stress-free or having no mental health challenges. Resilience is not a thing you either have or don’t have, since you can be resilient in some situations and not in others and you can build your resilience over time. There’s no way to avoid stress and challenges in big transitions like this, but resilience helps you adjust, learn, and ask for help when you need it.
Resilience in school can mean you feel upset when you get a bad grade, but rather than let it get you down, you learn from it and figure out what you need to do better next time. Instead of beating yourself up, you study a little harder for the next exam, treat yourself with kindness, and prioritize sleeping, eating regularly, and taking breaks while preparing for the test. (In other words, you don’t sacrifice self-care!)
With resilience, challenging and positive emotions and experiences can coexist. The key is to find ways to manage them with healthy coping skills you learn and grow over time. New experiences and challenges offer opportunities to discover both where you are naturally resilient and where you need new skills. Resilience is like a muscle: you can build it.
Follow these tips to build your resilience.
Build Healthy, Supportive Relationships
Having people in your corner who support, love, and value you is essential to emotional health, happiness, and resilience. When we are down, having a hard time, or dealing with challenges, it is easier to face and get through them when we feel supported by people we can depend on. Spend time creating healthy friendships and family relationships. If you move away from home, that may look like keeping in touch with friends at home through weekly FaceTime calls; joining clubs or groups in your new home to begin building new connections; and having open, honest conversations with family members.
Practicing good self-care by making enough time for sleep, finding ways to move your body, and doing things that make you happy can help you become more resilient. Try scheduling these things in your daily routine and pick things you will do every single day, no matter how busy you get. Those things can be as simple as making time for a shower every morning or going out for a walk with your roommate.
Multitasking and saying yes to everything might make you feel like a productive, successful student or employee, but it’s a quick way to burn out and it might actually make it harder to get through your to-do list.
Do your best to focus on one thing at a time, and know you have the power to say no to things that don’t interest you or stretch you too thin.
Make time each day to put down your phone and computer. The constant stimulation from technology can be overwhelming for your brain and lead to burnout. Stepping away from technology and social media gives you time to reconnect with yourself and check in with your emotional well-being.
It can be as simple as thinking about what’s going well and what you’d like to get better at, or it could mean exploring your spiritual side or finding ways to help others. Feeling connected to something bigger than you can help you feel more motivated and, ultimately, build more resilience.
Having a growth mindset—which means you open yourself up to learning—can help you reframe challenges and see them as opportunities. Being curious is linked to happiness, empathy, and problem-solving success.
If you are in college, check out this resource about building resilience on campus. Remember, resilience isn’t a skill you can perfect overnight. Building resilience will take time, but it will help you throughout your entire life.
Sometimes you can be struggling so much that working on these skills or taking these steps feels overwhelming or impossible. When that happens, don’t beat yourself up. It just means it’s time to reach out for mental health support to get to a place where you can feel hopeful and make positive changes.