Everyone has some level of resilience. What’s really exciting about this is that your level isn’t static, but dynamic: you have the ability to learn and become much more resilient. In this article we’ll show you many of the strategies, skills and resilience activities which are proven to work.
With the Driven app you can access hundreds of resilience activities.
Why is resilience important?
Resilience building helps you turn adversity into advantage – the ability to advance despite adversity. This is what enables you to live a meaningful and fulfilling life, regardless of what happens along the way.
No matter how old you are, you can practice these skills and grow as a person. And there are many skills to practice! Some of us learn these skills naturally over time, while the rest of us need to make a conscious effort to practice.
This is important to know, since the people around you and even your parents are not resilience experts. We are not often taught these skills as part of school (even though we should be), so we need to actively seek this knowledge and pursue it. Which is why it’s awesome that you are here!
What are resilience strategies?
These are the various behaviours, thought patterns and skills that you can use to help you overcome adversity, or even manage it head of time. Through Driven, our AI resilience coach, we help people put these science-backed strategies into practice. Let’s explore these strategies across the 6 domains of resilience.
Purpose, meaning and goals (Vision)
The most important part of resilience – this is the very meaning of your life.
Define your purpose. Above all, this is the most powerful resilience tool. It will help guide your life, actions, decisions and values. This doesn’t need to be precise – something as simple as “make a big difference”, or “help people” are good examples of a purpose in life. Take some time to define your own.
Know what matters to you. Following from your purpose, you can identify the things in life that really matters, and what doesn’t. Take time to consider these, so you can be more decisive when things get tough.
Set goals. Giving the mind something to work towards is important. This is often where a feeling of fulfilment comes from – setting out to do something and then doing the hard yards to achieve it. Nothing beats the feeling of hard-earned success.
Clarify your goals. For you to achieve your goals, you need to know what they actually are. So often we set nebulous goals that we never really know when we’ve achieved them. Clarify them so you know when you have done what you set out to do.
Prioritise your goals. Got a lot of goals? Great! Now prioritise them so you know which ones to sacrifice if things get tough. If they are all important, then none of them are important. Be brutal with yourself if you need to and deprioritise what is not important enough.
Create congruence in your goals. Which of your goals really work towards your purpose? And can you find alignment between goals so that progress in one equals progress in another? If you can do this, you’ll achieve congruence – a highly rewarding state where all your actions lead towards what really matters. You will become unstoppable.
Build confidence in your own self-worth. As you challenge yourself through goals and defining your purpose, you will build a deeper sense of confidence and sense of self-worth. Recognise that you are enough, and it is your pursuit of a meaningful life that makes you a worthy and valuable person, regardless of what might have happened in the past.
Avoid perfection. Nothing can ever be perfect, so avoid aiming for it. Research shows that perfectionism is quite damaging to our mental health, so aim instead to just get things done & refine later.
Focus on getting things done. Following on from above, as the saying goes “Done is better than perfect.” Focus on how you can achieve goals efficiently and cut out the things that don’t really matter in the long run.
Celebrate small wins. Take a moment to acknowledge when you did something good. Even if it’s just a quick high five to recognise a good effort. Just a quick reminder that it’s all worth it!
Calm yourself at will (Composure)
Reacting with resilience requires an ability to manage emotions. Part of this comes from our beliefs and goals, but also from our knowledge of emotions and how to control them. In the Driven app, we always start by checking in first to help you regain a calm mind. This could be through a compassionate chat, or a meditation. This is just one of the many ways in which Driven helps people in the moment, and also over time to build resilience.
Learn about emotions. We all have them, even if you feel like you don’t! Quite often we can only readily identify two emotions – ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Though research shows us that if you can identify emotions more accurately (e.g. do you know the difference between envy and jealousy? Envy is when you want something someone else has, and jealousy is when you worry about losing something you have), then you can manage them better.
Learn how to respond to emotions. Once you can identify emotions, you can start to learn what to do when you feel them. Emotions are instinctive reactions. They may not always be helpful in the situation, but they are useful in that they tell us something about our beliefs and expectations. If you find you often have emotions that are not helpful in the moment, then it’s time to do some deeper introspection on these.
Learn what triggers your emotions. Part of your introspection should be about noticing what triggers certain emotions. This will help you further identify where you can change your mindset, so you can better handle tough situations.
Know how to reinterpret emotions. Just because you feel one way doesn’t mean that’s the end of it. Research shows us that we have the ability to reinterpret disruptive emotions to be some more constructive. For example, feeling anxious can be reinterpreted to be feeling excited. Notice how it’s a similar level of intensity, meaning the reinterpretation feels more authentic. So, you can reinterpret boredom to be calmness, but not excitement.
Use breathing to control emotional reactions. Simple breathing techniques can quickly calm down the fight-or-flight response. Even surgeons use it. The hardest part can be remembering when to use it! That’s why it’s useful to practice it regularly, even in transport, at work, in a meeting, and so on.
Recognise when you have bigger emotional challenges to deal with. Sometimes there are things from our past haunting us, causing strong emotional reaction when it’s not helpful. Or may there is something else just making it hard to cope. It’s important to recognise these and seek help from professionals. Don’t feel that you need to struggle alone.
Practice mindfulness. You don’t need to be a yogi and do meditations all the time to practice mindfulness. At its heart, it’s about experiencing the moment without judgement. Practice doing this so you can turn it on at any moment, such as talking with a friend, enjoying a drive or a sunset. It’s useful in many situations, and can help teach your mind calmness, even when stressed.
Watch your interpretation bias. Do you always tend to expect the worst from situations? Research shows that this can make you six times more likely to develop symptoms of depression. Try to consider good things that can happen as well.
Critical thinking, resourcefulness and problem solving (Reasoning)
Resilience also involves a lot of critical thinking, introspection and planning. We have a big focus on helping people through preventative care, which is why Driven includes many proactive resilience building activities and tools that help reduce risk and even prevent issues entirely.
Explore your strengths – know what you are good at. Your strengths are something you can build on to go from good to great. Knowing your strengths well means you have accurate confidence in your abilities. This will help you manage situations better, and also recognise when you need help.
Explore your weaknesses – know what you can improve. No one is strong at everything. But the person who recognises and acts on their weaknesses can overcome any situation since they will know when to find the right help.
Explore your own beliefs. Most of our beliefs about the world, ourselves and others are formed when we are very young. Want to know a secret? These are often not accurate! That’s because we see the world through eyes of children who do not fully understand the world. As we grow older, we should continually question the basis of our beliefs. Why do I believe this? What is my evidence? Is this belief useful? Having more accurate beliefs means life becomes much easier to manage.
Identify risks and things that might go wrong. Do you often find yourself faced with another unexpected challenge, shouting “Not again!”? A lot of what we go through in life is predictable, if we took the time to think of risks. Don’t be in denial about things that could happen. Companies can fail. Relationships can fail. People can die. Recognise all these possibilities and you’ll be less surprised when they eventually do happen.
Prepare and plan for challenge ahead. Once you have identified risks, take time to plan ahead. What would it mean if it did happen? If it did happen, what might you have wanted to do differently?
Take action to avoid challenges before they happen. If you have identified things you could do, then do it now. Perhaps there are even things you can do now to totally avoid issues in the future. Such as flossing your teeth to avoid needing a root canal. Or servicing your car regularly to avoid it breaking down!
Explore alternatives. By looking at different ways of doing something and exploring the advantages and disadvantages, you will build confidence in your own position and decision. This way, if someone challenges your method, you will be ready with an answer.
Read about informal logic fallacies. This is always a fun one! So often there are little flaws in our thinking that affects how we come to conclusions. If we leave these flaws in our thinking, then it reduces the chance that we’ll be successful in life. So, take to Wikipedia and read through these – recognise any in your own thinking?
Embrace change. There will always be change, so start developing the ability to find opportunity in any change. Set your belief to expect things to change, and plan in advance for what might happen. Better yet, start instigating change yourself.
Become resourceful. Being able to solve problems in new and creative ways with less resources is a powerful skill. And here’s the good part – you can develop this skill simply by being willing to try different approaches and learning more about what options are available. Plus, there’s always Google to search through for ways to solve problems.
Persisting through adversity and staying motivated (Tenacity)
Things aren’t always going to be easy. In fact, they rarely are. Actually, is it ever easy?! Well, this is why we need tenacity – the ability to do what needs to be done regardless of how tough it gets. Here are some ways to do this.
Keep trying. Research shows that it’s not intelligence that results in success, but instead it is about your ability to get up and try again each time you get knocked down. This is persistence.
Never get offended. Offence is taken – never given. What does this mean? If means if you get offended by something, it is your choice to do so. And that choice is you giving someone else power over your emotional state. Instead if you build a deep sense of confidence in who you are, then you never need to give anyone else this power. To paraphrase the old saying, sticks and stones may break your bones, but words should never hurt you.
Be on time. Plan in advance how long it will take to do something, and how much additional time you need for all the little things around the task (like how much time it will take ready and drive somewhere so you can actually be on time). With good planning, there is less chance of something going wrong.
Be realistically optimistic. Know the path will be tough but be hopeful regardless. Research shows this is a more resilient way to stay motivated and achieve your goals, because you won’t give up if things get tough.
Be accountable for your decisions. Don’t blame others for the state of your life. Take charge and ownership of your decisions and drive your life in the direction you want. Sometimes bad things happen to you that truly isn’t your fault. In these cases you still control how you respond to it. Will you give up, or learn and grow from it so you become stronger than ever?
If it takes less than 3 minutes to do, do it now.
Use the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO method. Don’t feel like doing something, or getting out of bed? Start a countdown on the agreement with yourself that on GO you will do it. This is surprisingly effective, as you’ll feel your body get ready to take action.
Do high priority stuff first. Stop wasting time on small tasks that don’t matter while you put off important stuff. Recognise when you are doing this and shift your focus.
Learn from mistakes. We all make mistakes, but it’s only a mistake if you don’t learn from it. These are life’s lessons, so own up, fix it (if you can), and learn so you are better in the future. Also, don’t beat yourself up after. Everyone makes mistakes!
Forget motivation, develop discipline instead. Especially with something like exercise. If you are going to wait until you feel motivated to do exercise, then you might never do it. Developing the discipline to do something you need to without needing to feel motivated is powerful. This is how people stick to difficult goals in the long term.
Build meaningful relationships (Collaboration)
It makes a huge difference to have people that can support you when things are tough. Also, being there to support others through their own challenges is very fulfilling and adds to the meaningfulness of your own life. It takes time and investment to build these relationships. Here are some ideas.
Invest in your own social skills. None of use are born master communicators. It’s just that some of us start practicing earlier than others. If you feel you’re a bit late to the party, then start now! And you know what it takes to build better social skills? Do some research and then start practicing them with people. In Driven we have a whole list of these if you want to try it out!
Be true to your word. If you tell someone you are going to do something, make sure you are ready to more heaven and earth to do it. If you are not willing to go that far, then don’t make promises you can’t keep. People will remember if you are someone who follows through.
Watch what you say behind other people’s backs. If you tend to say bad things about other people when they are not there, then people might start to think you say things like that about them when they aren’t there. On the other hand, saying nice things about other people when they are not there is a big positive sign.
Match body language. If someone is leaning towards you and sitting with an open posture, but you are leaning back, arms and legs crossed, looking away, then you are sending a fairly clear signal you don’t want to talk. Research shows matching body language is a great way to build the feeling of connection between people.
Match voice tone. If someone is talking with an excited voice, and you talk back with a bored tone, then you are signalling that you don’t care much for their excitement. If done consistently, then people might assume you don’t care and stop sharing things with you.
Make time for people. It’s really easy these days to occupy ourselves with things that do not involve others – from games, to videos, or just staring at our phones. But you know what your brain craves? It actually craves personal contact with other people – the brain is wired for it and will make you feel good. Plus, it helps you build meaningful relationships that you can rely on when facing adversity.
Reach out. Is there someone you haven’t been in touch with in a while? Say hello!
Make an effort to catch up in person. Face-to-face is best. This is what the brain craves the most, as we even have specific areas in the brain to understand facial reactions and connect through deeper empathy, and these work best when we’re talking in-person (not video chat, although that’s better than nothing). This gives us the chance to build real trust with people.
Recognise toxic relationships. Not all relationships are good for you. We all go through hard times, but sometimes you get stuck with people who are truly toxic and drains your energy, or worse. If someone repeatedly shows themselves to be detrimental to your wellness, consider if they need to be cut from your life. Ask others for their opinion if you are not sure.
Resist pressure and follow your own path. Being part of a group is great, but take care that group pressure doesn’t force you into things that are against your own values. Have the confidence to say ‘no’ and forge your own path – a path where you appreciate your own worth.
Find a mentor. There are too many mistakes in the world for us to make them all ourselves. A mentor is someone that has already been through many of the same challenges, and might have already solved the problems you face. Find someone who you can learn from, and you’ll might even succeed sooner and achieve more.
Look after your body (Health)
It’s not just about your mind, but also your body. If you don’t look after it, then it might become its own source of disruption in your life!
Know your body. You only have one, so take time to learn about it. Learn what makes it work well, and what doesn’t. What you do to your body also affects your brain, meaning it affects how you feel and think. So, get to know it well!
Know your goals with health. Be honest with yourself where you are at. Maybe eating too many sweets? Too much alcohol? A medical condition bothering you? Or maybe getting older and the weight doesn’t seem to drop off as easily anymore? Know where you are and where you want to be, then work for it.
Get good quality sleep. Lack of sleep affects your body and mind is so many ways. It really just makes life so much more difficult. But with a good night’s rest, you’ll feel that you can take on any challenge. Take the time to get good sleep, you’ll love yourself for it.
Exercise regularly. Regular vigorous exercise has many benefits, including protecting against neurodegenerative diseases, improving memory, reduces risk of diseases, and just generally making you feel strong and ready for the world. Aim for about 4 sessions per week.
Eat whole foods. Sticking with a healthy diet is a sure way of keeping your body healthy and protect against diseases. One simple rule to eat healthy is to stay away from anything processed and stick with whole foods, like veggies, legumes and meats, and cut back on breads, pasta, etc which are all processed foods.
Cut out sugar. More and more evidence show that sugar is the real culprit in many diseases and medical conditions. And it sure finds its way into everything. Check the nutrition labels of foods so you can cut back, especially sugary drinks.
Stay on top of medical conditions. Most people end up having some medical condition that needs constant management. If you have one, take time to learn about it and stick to your medication.
Know about ergonomics. With us spending so much time on phones and computers, it’s easy to get into bad habits with bent necks and slouching shoulders. When you’re young, this might not seem to matter, but you’ll feel it when you’re older – chronic neck pain, back pain, etc is no fun. Start keeping good posture and ergonomics today!
Dealing with everyday challenges
Have you met people before who just seem to not get bothered by all the little things? Well, psychological resilience is useful for taking the little everyday challenges in your stride. This is where Driven can help prepare you for what might come and also help you in the moment when life is just a bit too challenging.
“Grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” This saying is useful as a reminder to not get too upset by small things and focus on fighting for what matters.
Know what matters so you can avoid problems that aren’t yours. Just because a problem lands at your feet, doesn’t mean it’s yours to deal with. Keep in mind your purpose in life so you can put things in perspective.
Avoid falling into a cycle of complaint. Often it is easy to complain about things – something annoys you, and you tell someone about it. It gives you something to talk about with passion. And often you receive some sympathy in return. It feels cathartic. But continually doing so slowly shifts your attention only to the negative, and people come to know you as someone who constantly complains. Over time, people might even start avoiding you. So, take a moment to notice what you tend to talk about, and start looking for the good things.
Develop the mental strength to shift your attention when needed. There is something enjoyable in every task. Stuck in traffic? Enjoy music! Need to clean the bathroom? Focus on the enjoyment of seeing clean surfaces! Need to do a boring task in Excel? Focus on fancy formatting and finding a more efficient approach! Where you focus your attention changes your emotions, so take care. If you can master this, then you can develop the ability to enjoy everything you do.
Learn to say ‘no’. Are people constantly giving you tasks that have nothing to do with you? Then master the art of saying ‘No’. You can just say you don’t have time, or something else. Recognise when your good nature to help others might be detrimental to your own wellbeing.
Have something to look forward to. Whether it’s a holiday or a catchup with friends, or even just a movie to watch. Have something you enjoy that you can shift attention to if the challenges of the day become a bit too much. Though be careful to not let this become a complete escape from reality. Sometimes if everyday life is getting too hard, then it might be time for a change.
- Learn from your past. You may sometimes forget just how much you have gone through and grown in the past. Look back and recognise your own strength that has been there all along!
Coping with major challenges
Beyond the little things, we have the really big stuff that many of us have to deal with. The unfortunate truth is that these things will end up affecting most of us, so it’s important know some strategies for these.
Major illness. Getting the flu is one thing, but getting a major diagnosis like cancer is another. This is truly a life altering event, and in some cases, the prognosis might not be good at all. The reality is that this happens to people all the time, but that doesn’t make it easy. In times like these we need all our resilience strategies to function together to keep us going in a literal fight for life. Remember that your life is worth fighting for, so don’t give up.
Relationship breakdown. Breakups can be really hard, such as your first relationship, or a marriage with children involved. In these situations, it is easy to turn love into hate. Though all this does is fuel more pain for a long time to come. Sometimes things don’t work out, and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean now you need to hate the other person. Practice letting go of the bitterness, and it might well help you find new love much faster.
Being a carer. Looking after a sick, disabled or elderly family member can be extremely tough. Often there is a dual responsibility of both working full time and then spending all your non work hours caring for someone else. Because of your absolute love for them, you may even feel guilty if you’re not there all the time, and the constant personal sacrifice takes a toll. Compassion fatigue is a real thing, so if you’re in a situation like this, remember to look after yourself s well.
Trauma. Many experiences can be traumatic, leading to ongoing emotional, social and personal challenges. If you notice you are struggling after an event like this, the most resilient thing you can do is to seek help. You don’t need to deal with this by yourself, and there are proven ways to overcome trauma, so seek help right away and find your way to post-traumatic growth.
Depression and anxiety. These are the most common mental challenges the world faces today. Many people deal with this as well, so you are not alone. If you feel that things just aren’t getting any better, then reach out to a professional. True resilience means being able to seek help when you need it.
Dealing with the death of a loved one. Loss and resulting grief are tough. Sometimes it’s sudden and unexpected, other times it’s drawn out, maybe due to a terminal disease. Resilience does not make the emotional impact any less, but it does help you get back on your feet faster. After all, those who have left us would want us to make the most of our lives ahead of us. So, take the time to mourn, talk about it until you can separate emotion from memory, keep your sense of purpose so you can move forward a live a meaningful life.
Dealing with suicide of someone you know. This can feel very senseless and cut very deep. Of course, we can write whole books about this, so here are just a few pointers. Avoid the thought traps “What if I did this differently, could I have prevented this? What if I noticed that? What if… What if… What if…” These are unanswerable questions that can haunt you forever. What’s done is done. Don’t do this to yourself. Same with asking “Why?” Maybe you can’t see the darkness they were dealing with, but at the end of the day, accept that this was their decision to end their own pain.
Dealing with the suicide of a partner, a child. Having someone so close to you take their own life is extremely personal. It can be one of the toughest events to overcome. Apart from the suggestions above, try to not to forget the people that are still alive. Sometimes the pain can withdraw you from others who still need you. Also, reach out to a psychologist that specialises in trauma. There are many complex emotions to work through with something like this, and it takes time. Even if you feel like you are coping, still reach out to someone to make sure.
We hear a lot of stories about people surviving great adversity, but we don’t hear about all the other people who never truly recover, going on to struggle for the rest of their lives. This is the hard truth – resilience is not a given. You must work for it. It starts with a daily decision not to give up, no matter how tough it gets.
The good news is that if you can make this decision every day, then ahead of you is a life of meaning and purpose.