Resiliency – Overcoming & Growing from Setbacks

We all face setbacks in our life. The term resilience (or resiliency) is our ability to adapt and bounce back when things may not go exactly as we had planned. Some of us may appear as if we handle those situations with more grace than others. We may even find ourselves admiring those who are resilient, wishing we could be too. What is important to know is that resilience isn’t necessarily a personality trait that only some people possess. Rather resiliency involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that anyone can learn and develop. This post is to help you learn more about resiliency and how you too, have the grace of resiliency living in you.

What is Resilience?

Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.

Those with high resilience may not spend a lot of time dwelling on the failure or set back; they acknowledge the situation, learn from their mistakes, and move forward. Being resilient doesn’t mean that a person won’t experience difficulty or distress. People who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives commonly experience emotional pain and stress. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress.

According to the research of psychologist, Susan Kobasa, there are three elements that are essential to resilience.  You can find her full quote and descriptions in an article on

  1. View Difficulty as a Challenge – People who are resilient look at their failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from, and as opportunities for growth, not as a negative reflection on their abilities or self-worth.
  2. Commitment & Purpose – Those who are resilient are committed to their lives and their goals, and feel they have purpose and a compelling reason to get out of bed in the morning. They commit to their relationships, their friendships, the causes they care about, their religious or spiritual beliefs, and to their work.
  3. Personal Control – Resilient people spend their time and energy focusing on situations and events that they have control over. Because they put their efforts where they can have the most impact, they feel empowered and confident.

10 Ways to Build Your Resilience

The good news is you can learn to develop a resilient mindset and attitude.  Here are some ways to incorporate some resilient behaviors into your daily life:

  1. Learn to relax. When you take care of your mind and body, you’re better able to cope effectively with challenges in your life. Develop a good sleep routine, try out a new exercise or use physical relaxation techniques, like deep breathing or meditation.
  2. Practice thought awareness. Resilient people don’t let negative thoughts derail their efforts. Instead, they consistently practice positive thinking. This means listening to how you talk to yourself when something goes wrong – if you find yourself making statements that are permanent, pervasive or personalized, correct these thoughts in your mind.
  3. Edit your outlook. Practice cognitive restructuring to change the way that you think about negative situations and bad events.
  4. Learn from your mistakes and failures. Every mistake has the power to teach you something important, so look for the lesson in every situation. Also, make sure that you understand the idea of “post-traumatic growth” – often people find that crisis situations, such as a job loss or the breakdown of a relationship, allow them to re-evaluate their lives and make positive changes.
  5. Choose your response. Remember, we all experience bad days and we all go through our share of crises. But we have a choice in how we respond: we can choose to react with panic and negativity, or we can choose to remain calm and logical to find a solution. Your reaction is always up to you.
  6. Maintain perspective. Resilient people understand that, although a situation or crisis may seem overwhelming in the moment, it may not make that much of an impact over the long-term. Try to avoid blowing events out of proportion.
  7. Set some goals for yourself. If you don’t already, learn to set SMART, effective personal goals that match your values, and that can help you to learn from your experiences.
  8. Build your self-confidence. Remember, resilient people are confident that they’re going to succeed eventually, despite the setbacks or stresses that they might be facing. This belief in themselves also enables them to take risks: when you develop confidence and a strong sense of self, you have the strength to keep moving forward, and to take the risks you need to get ahead.
  9. Develop strong relationships. People who have strong connections at work are more resistant to stress, and they’re happier in their role. This also goes for your personal life: the more real friendships you develop, the more resilient you’re going to be, because you have a strong support network to fall back on. (Remember that treating people with compassion and empathy is very important here.)
  10. Be flexible. Resilient people understand that things change, and that carefully-made plans may, occasionally, need to be amended or scrapped.

Building your resilience takes time and practice, like anything else. The Y is here for you on this journey.  Please check out our listing of local resources available as well as give our Y VirtuWell Coaches a call to help you set and establish SMART goals that fit your health priorities.