How To Build Resilience And Why It’s Important

By Julia Thomas

Updated December 19, 2018

Reviewer Lori Jones, LMHC


Life is full of ebbs and flows. Even if you are a generally happy, lucky person, it is inevitable that you will encounter difficulties at some point. When going through a hard situation, you generally have two options. The first is to let the disappointment, sadness, frustration, or anger you are feeling stop you in your tracks. When confronted with a difficult situation, some people become paralyzed and put their lives on hold while they process their negative emotions.

But, there is another option. It is not easy, but you can let the difficulties you encounter motivate you and serve as a chance for self-improvement. The ability to bounce back from hard times stronger than ever rather than letting failures or disappointments keep you down is known as resilience.

What Is Resilience?

Resilience is the certain quality people have to turn hard times into motivators to improve themselves. They do not let their frustrations, challenges, or disappointments define them; rather, they learn from them. Resilience is an extremely important quality and skill to have because it allows you to continue to push forward in life even when things get tough.


The Qualities Of Resilience

According to psychologists, resilience involves qualities such as optimism and a generally positive attitude. These are traits that some people embody naturally, while others struggle to maintain a positive outlook. But, just because you do not inherently possess the qualities associated with resilience does not mean that you cannot foster them.

If you are not someone who naturally can maintain a sense of optimism, taking action by working with a counselor can help you learn strategies for how to handle negative emotions and view things in a more positive light.

Emotional Regulation And Resilience

Still, resilience is different from optimism. Just because you cannot be happy all of the time, especially when going through a hard time, does not mean that you cannot be resilient.

One of the most important skills involved in resilience is the ability to regulate emotions. Emotional regulation builds on emotional awareness. Emotional awareness is simply the process of honestly acknowledging your emotions, both positive and negative, rather than "pushing them down." Emotional regulation means not only acknowledging your emotions but being able to control them so that they do not overwhelm you and dictate your behavior.


When practicing emotional regulation, you can recognize that you are feeling a certain way, understand what sparked this emotion, and then simply let it go. This way, you can move on rather than wallowing in a negative emotion or letting it interfere with your life. The key to emotional regulation is not to let your feelings obstruct your thinking, which is an extremely important aspect of resilience. By being able to view your emotions without letting them overwhelm your mind objectively, you are more likely to bounce back from situations that produce emotions such as disappointment or sadness.

Self-Esteem And Resilience

Another important component of resilience is self-esteem. Self-esteem, or lack thereof, can make a huge difference in your quality of life. One of the main reasons why self-esteem is so important is that it is closely related to resilience. Self-esteem helps you feel more positive overall and more confident in all areas of your life. This includes in social situations, career endeavors, and other areas that require taking risks or putting yourself out there.

The positivity aspect is especially important when it comes to resilience. When life gets hard, it is easy to give up and succumb to the negativity simply. But, someone with a high degree of self-esteem will be able to view the situation more positively and feel confident that they can overcome it. When it comes to resilience, sometimes simply believing that you can get through the situation and grow from it is the most important battle.


Self-esteem can fluctuate over the course of your life or even your day. It is natural that sometimes we feel more confident, sure of ourselves, and proud of ourselves than we do at other times. But, if your self-esteem has been low for a while, it can become problematic. In and of itself having low self-esteem is not considered a mental health condition, but chronic feelings of low self-esteem are often tied to mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Chronic low self-esteem can lead to feelings of hopelessness, guilt, or even self-hatred.

Not unlike depression or anxiety, low self-esteem is something that you can work on. Working with a counselor is a great way to start improving your self-esteem. Talk therapy can help you see your problems more objectively, and a counselor can help you devise strategies that will help improve your feelings of self-worth. Building a solid foundation of self-esteem is crucial to mastering emotional resilience.

How To Become More Resilient

As mentioned above, before you can focus on becoming more resilient, you need a foundation of two important things: emotional regulation and self-esteem. Both of these things can be greatly increased by talking to a therapist or counselor, building up your social connections, or utilizing mindfulness practices such as journaling or positive self-talk.

Some people maintain a high level of self-esteem and emotional regulation, but still, struggle to feel resilient in tough times. Resilience is an important life skill to keep you from getting stuck and letting hard situations put a pause on your life and goals.There are many ways in which someone can build resilience even if it is not something they naturally possess.


Find A Healthy Outlet

Everyone goes through difficult times. Feelings of loss, disappointment, guilt, dread, anger, and frustration are essentially unavoidable in life. But, no matter how great the challenge, what matters most is how you handle it.

Finding an outlet for your negative emotions- as well as the positive ones- can help you speed up the rate at which you process and move on from any adversity. Different things work for different people. Your outlet may be going for a run, practicing yoga, or getting lost in the flow of experimenting in the kitchen. Others find solace in artistic endeavors such as writing or painting. The important thing is that you find something you enjoy that allows you to express your emotions without being completely enveloped by them so that you can move on from a negative experience feeling renewed and ready to begin again.

Build Connections

The importance of social connections when it comes to emotional well-being cannot be overstated. Not only do strong friendships boost self-esteem and overall happiness, but having people you can talk to during hard times is invaluable. A close friend or family member can serve as a sounding board when you simply need to vent about a frustrating experience and provide immense comfort during more severe situations.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have these types of close relationships. In this case, it could be very useful to work with a therapist or counselor, especially via a platform such as BetterHelp. In the absence of very close relationships, or even in addition to them, a therapist can be a wonderful person to talk to about any negative experiences or emotions. They are someone you can talk to without judgment, who are trained to help you feel better and come out of hard situations stronger. When going through a hard time, a counselor can make all the difference in whether you let it defeat you, or you channel your resilience and come out stronger.


Mindfulness And Journaling

Mindfulness exercises such as meditation and journaling are a wonderful way to build emotional awareness and calm your anxieties. Best of all, they are accessible to anyone. Journaling is a great way to not only let out your emotions but to view any problems you are having from a different perspective. It can help you clear your mind and return to a more level-headed state to move on from your problems.

Meditation can be strange or even difficult when you first begin, but once you develop a practice, the benefits are amazing. Meditation is extremely calming and can be especially useful for someone suffering from anxiety or dealing with a situation that makes them feel overwhelmed. Giving your thoughts a break and simply focusing on your breath is a great way to let go of any negative emotions you may be feeling. The sense of inner peace that arises from meditation can inspire you to overcome things that otherwise would have defeated you. If you are the type of person who tends to feel paralyzed by anxiety, meditation can be extremely useful for your resiliency during tough times.

Learn From Your Failures

Failures are one of the inevitable obstacles that everyone faces in life at one time or another. This can be a failure to get a job, the end of a romantic relationship, or receiving a bad grade on a test in school. Even the most accomplished people in the world failed at one time or another. It is extremely important to realize that failing at something does not make you a failure.

There is so much to be learned from failure. Each time that you fail, there is an opportunity to understand what happened so that you do not make the same mistakes again. In a certain sense, failures are necessary to get better at something. It is key that you do not beat yourself up for your failures, but rather make an effort to understand why the failure occurred so that you can better yourself. Taking the time to learn from your failures and mistakes so that you become better as a result of them is true resiliency.


Accept Change

Circumstances change all the time. If you are too attached to a person, situation, or item, you are bound to feel distressed when something about that changes. You need to accept that change is inevitable not to let situations of loss control you.

Of course, it is not always so easy. For example, in the case of the passing of a loved one, it is not expected that you simply accept it and move on. Grieving is normal, and important, even in situations not as severe as losing a person. But, eventually, accepting that things do change and life must go on is key to tapping into your resilience and coming out of these situations strong and with a renewed sense of purpose or zest for life.

Focus on Your Strengths

In hard times, it is very easy to start feeling down about yourself. Many people blame themselves for negative events in their lives, which usually makes the situation worse. If you find yourself in a situation like this and notice your self-esteem has dipped, take the time to focus on your strengths.

Psychologists recommend the following exercise to remind yourself of your strengths and boost your self-confidence to provide you with the resilience you need to get out of tough situations. Take the time to make lists of the following:

I have: The things in life that bring you joy and provide you with support

I am: The inner qualities you love about yourself

I can: Skills that help you in social situations, your career, and problem-solving

Reminding yourself of the support you have and all that you are capable of can renew your sense of self-confidence and give you the strength you need to be resilient when things get hard.



All of these strategies fall under the larger umbrella of self-reflection. If you currently feel you cannot be resilient, it is important to recognize why, and take steps to get there. When it comes down to it, resilience is truly an emotional skill. It takes emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and self-confidence to bounce back from a difficult situation stronger than before. The strategies discussed above help you build these three skills which you can call on when you need to be resilient.

Some people naturally are more unflappable than others. But, resilience is not a genetic trait that you simply have or do not. Everyone can practice strategies that make them more resilient in a variety of life's difficult situations. We all have it within us to be resilient; it is just a matter of tapping into our strengths.

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