Insights into Psychology

What Is… Resilience (Insights into Psychology)

Insights into psychology: Resilience

In this series, I will dig a little deeper into the meaning of psychological terms.  This week’s term is resilience.

Wikipedia defines resilience as an individual’s ability to “successfully cope with adversity” and “bounce back from a negative experience with ‘competent functioning'”.  It’s considered a learnable ability that can vary over time rather than a static personality trait. That’s a positive thing, in the sense that if your resilience isn’t that great, improvement is possible.

Factors that affect resilience

Various biological factors can impact resilience.  The sympathetic nervous system is involved in stress reactions including fight/flight/freeze, and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is involved in the release of the stress hormone cortisol.  There is growing evidence that these systems are impacted by factors in the brain, including one called neuropeptide Y.

One study found six major predictors of resilience: 

  • positive and proactive personality
  • experience and learning
  • sense of control
  • flexibility and adaptability
  • balance and perspective
  • perceived social support

Other studies have identified additional factors that contribute, including supportive and loving relationships, the ability to make realistic plans, self-esteem, strong communication skills, and the capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses.

How to become more resilient

The American Psychological Association recommends 10 strategies to improve resilience:

  1. maintain good relationships with others
  2. don’t view stressful events as unbearable problems
  3. accept that some circumstances can’t be changed
  4. set realistic goals
  5. take decisive actions in stressful situations
  6. engage in self-reflection and self-discovery following losses
  7. build self-confidence
  8. take a long-term perspective
  9. maintain a hopeful outlook and visualize positive outcomes
  10. engage in self-care of both mind and body

Getting personal

I used to be at least moderately resilient, but when depression is doing its thing, I feel like I have no resilience at all, and the slightest little hiccup will knock me on my ass.

Looking at this information, what jumps out at me is my lack of interpersonal relationships.  Yet while it’s the most obvious factor that I’m missing, I’m not quite sure how to address it.  My inability to trust others was not learned overnight, nor will it be unlearned overnight.  But perhaps recognizing the connection between relationships and resilience will help motivate me to work harder at this.

Is resilience something that you have challenges with?

Source: Wikipedia: Psychological resilience

You can find the rest of the what is… series on the Psychology Corner.

Building resilience: A guided journal from Mental Health @ Home

Building resilience: A Guided Journal will help you to reflect on and build on your existing internal resources. It’s available from the MH@H Download Centre.

COVID-19/mental health coping toolkit from Mental Health @ Home

The COVID-19/Mental Health Coping Toolkit page has a wide range of resources to support better mental health and wellbeing.

Visit the MH@H Resource Pages hub to see other themed pages from Mental Health @ Home.

29 thoughts on “What Is… Resilience (Insights into Psychology)”

  1. argh I have very little resilience. Small problems seem like huge ones to me and I fall apart when stressed. But at the same time, I’m also stubborn and will try and try again until I get what I intend to achieve. Also I’m still alive so you know…

  2. Urghhhh! I have little to no resilience. I fall and don’t even try to get back up … I sob and hate the world. But, and here’s the big but … I’m getting better and I know that it IS possible as I am living proof. Sometimes admittedly I have a setback and resort back to my default setting of giving up, but I’m getting better, day by day, week by week. I’m getting tougher because I’m getting out there in the world, experiencing new things, failing occasionally but also gaining confidence from succeeding too. I’m becoming stronger. It’s a long old process though … and I’d often like to howl, give up and hide under the bed. Katie x

  3. I wonder how much nature vs nurture comes into play with resilience. Do you think there could be a nurture component to it? With how wonderful you are, it’s hard to not picture you with a huge slew of friends and support system. I hope you are able to make progress on interpersonal relationships. You deserve to have people in your life.

    1. Aw thanks❤️ I suspect nurture does play a role, and helped made me pretty resilient until the biology of my illness started trying to kick my ass.

  4. The self-care is something that is a real issue for me when the depression is at its peak. I could go for days without taking care of showering. I know that sounds disgusting, but when depression knocks you down as hard as it does, it is hard to care about much of anything. Luckily, I have been doing a little better with self-care in recent weeks. (Thank God). It’s still the motivation that gets in the way.
    Great post, Ashley.

  5. Yeah, I didn’t trust anyone (but my dad) for years after I was bullied at work. Years. And I’ve come to see that most people aren’t worth trusting. But a few people I let in. I think I’ve developed a pretty fine-tuned BS meter. When I like someone who’s not worth liking, my denial kicks in, but subconsciously, I create situations that bring out the truth. (My subconscious rocks!) I bet you’re being too hard on yourself with the interpersonal relationships issue. I have a handful of them now, but only one of them (not counting my dad) is “in person” so to speak. The rest are online only (due to geographic distance). But yeah, I guess my point is that you do need to be careful who you let in. If you’re on the fence about someone, pay attention to their actions. Actions speak so much louder than words.

    I think I have a lot of resilience…? I get upset over little things, go home, tell my dad about them, and feel better. Not sure how functional I’d be without him around to always make things better. I don’t worry about it or anything, but it’s worth noting that he smooths over a lot of the little things that go wrong in my day-to-day life.

    Great post!!!!!

  6. Yes, I do, resilient is surely not a word that I would describe myself with. I think I do have some resilience now, that I have learnt over time, but it’s still something I’m lacking quite a lot. Stress can literally eat me under some circumstances. However I think things have been improving lately, although the truth is also that I don’t live now in as much stress as I used to in the past. This is a very interesting post. Now it makes me wonder whether we actually have any equivalent of it in Polish, because honestly I can’t think of any that would mean just the same and be only one word, that’s strange, but maybe my brain is too stuck in English at the moment. 😀

  7. I struggle with this a lot,particularly in terms of bouncing back from criticism and mistakes. I blame myself for stuff I probably shouldn’t blame myself for, or at least more than I should blame myself for them. I wallow endlessly in guilt rather than bouncing back and moving on.

  8. That’s useful information. Thank you for sharing. I hope that one day you will have many good interpersonal relationships to help you feel more resilient 😃

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