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:
- maintain good relationships with others
- don’t view stressful events as unbearable problems
- accept that some circumstances can’t be changed
- set realistic goals
- take decisive actions in stressful situations
- engage in self-reflection and self-discovery following losses
- build self-confidence
- take a long-term perspective
- maintain a hopeful outlook and visualize positive outcomes
- engage in self-care of both mind and body
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 will help you to reflect on and build on your existing internal resources. It’s available as a free download from the MH@H Store.
The COVID-19/Mental Health Coping Toolkit page has a wide range of resources to support better mental health and wellbeing.