Resilience training

Medically reviewed by Dr. Jerry Crimmins, PsyD, LP
Updated March 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Dealing with the harsh events that are a natural part of life can be emotionally and physically trying. These events can include tragedy, extreme hardship, and the death of a loved one or the loss of a job. These obstacles are never easy, but learning how to build resilience and handle obstacles better can significantly affect how you react and recover. Some people lack the coping skills and ability to deal with these events and cannot fully overcome these challenges. Yet others can recover quickly in the face of adversity time and again.

The ability to face and overcome life's hardships is called resilience. To assess psychological wellness and resilience, the Connor Davidson resilience scale is commonly used. Besides providing awareness of how resilient a person is, the test can also guide mental health professionals in determining which medication and therapy are best when a client is getting treatment. Resilience training programs and building resilience can improve your life and help you manage life's challenges more effectively by developing resilience skills, fostering positive emotions, and enhancing social support. This way, you can better maintain your mental health and stay healthy in the face of significant stress and setbacks.

Read on to learn how this skill can improve your life and help you to manage life’s difficult challenges.

A man is standing outside near a body of water and is practicing resistance training; he is stretching and has a serious expression.
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What is resilience training?

At some point, everyone will have to deal with an event that will test their emotional strength and stability. For some, it will be the loss of a loved one, an injury, or an illness. Trauma of any kind can cause extreme emotional distress and increases your risk for developing anxiety and depressive disorders.

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Resilience training gives you the tools to adapt to, manage, and recover from this kind of adversity. According to a current systematic review, developing resilience is associated with lower levels of psychological distress, anxiety, and depression.

There are several types of resiliency training programs available that serve various specific groups (i.e., cancer survivors, college students, military officers, LGBTQ+, etc.) with different forms of content, length, and delivery. Some strategies for helping people build resilience in these programs include:

  • Emotional control and mindfulness training

  • Building self-confidence and combating self doubt

  • Self-compassion skill building

  • Communication skills and the ability to connect with others

  • Goal setting and recognizing personal strengths

  • Stress-management techniques

  • Fostering community resilience

A resilience training program is typically short, requiring a few sessions of a few hours each. The content and length will vary depending on the program, but all of them will assess your resiliency factors and provide resources to develop resilience. Some resources include tools and advice to boost your coping skills and your support network, helping you improve how you process difficult events and experiences. After the training, it is ultimately up to you to employ these tools. Therefore, these programs generally recommend a strong support system combined with talk therapy during and after your training program to help address any negative thoughts and promote healing.

Resilience training benefits

People with low resilience tend to focus on negative outcomes and problems. Stresses can compound, and some will eventually feel overwhelmed. Using a coping mechanism that will aggravate problems, such as drinking or binge eating, is also a sign of low resilience. If you are unable to handle and move past problems, it will take a toll on your mental and physical health. This is where resilience training helps to give you the tools to practice self-intervention and effect a positive change in your life. 

After resilience training, people often report improved quality of life and a decrease in depression and anxiety following emotional events and other mental health benefits, including:
  • The ability to reduce negative emotions faster following an event

  • The ability to better manage chronic conditions

  • A decrease in negative thoughts

  • An increase in overall quality of life (joy)

  • The ability to identify “purpose” in life

Resilience is your threshold for adversity, giving you the ability to adapt and move past major stresses and trauma. Unlike an attribute like strength, the benefits of resilience are seen over long periods. It helps you maintain a positive quality of life after negative events, which helps you manage and reverse the long-term damage stress can cause. High resilience also allows you to feel more in control of your life and more able to affect an outcome.

Tools to build resilience

Resilience training aims to help participants embrace certain mentalities, become more self-aware, and develop skills to manage and bounce back from adversity. These objectives are accomplished through the following techniques:

Stress reduction methods

Resiliency training offers stress reduction techniques geared towards a variety of personalities, including meditation, yoga, exercise, visualization, deep breathing, and systematic muscle relaxation. In stress reduction technique, you learn how to avoid unnecessary stressors and minimize necessary ones.

Coping skills

Traditional coping skills like spending time with family and friends, spirituality, and therapy work for many people, but they may not necessarily work for everyone. Others find solace in hobbies as diverse as comedy or a form of martial arts. To increase your resiliency, find something that gives you a period of peace and tranquility from negative thoughts during stressful times.

Self-awareness

Knowing yourself can help you understand your strengths and weaknesses and help you to set realistic goals. Self-awareness also helps you improve and change parts of yourself that have a negative impact. Furthermore, healthy levels of self-esteem are associated with knowing who you are. With greater self-awareness, you will be able to keep things in perspective, helping you to stop catastrophizing minor situations and make things better where possible.

Take positive actions

When you cultivate hope and look for ways to move forward, you can learn to take positive steps instead of detaching from your circumstances. You may be able to take decisive actions that will improve the situation itself, or your actions may minimize the damage it causes you. Sometimes, it is good enough to simply be there for the people who depend on you. This alone can be a positive action that can help you cope with difficult times.

Building resilience in children

A growing body of work suggests that helping children practice resilience training can lead them to become more resilient and can better prepare them for sudden and traumatic shocks. These can have significant effects on their development and constitution later in life, but resiliency can minimize these effects. However, building resilience in children often goes beyond teaching resilience skills. Instead, the environment where a child is raised may need to be addressed.

Caregiver bond

A strong bond with their primary caregiver starts at or possibly even before birth. Skin-to-skin contact and attention reinforce these bonds. At about the age of five, the child needs to be given more control over their activities and should begin to solve their own problems. Learning to problem solve starts to build independence and shows that the caregiver trusts the child, both of which can build resilience.

Self-esteem building

While the debate over praising children can be heated, people who advocate for more resilience suggest that praise should be given only when due. They believe that constant praise may reduce a child's ability to incorporate praise into decision-making, thereby reducing its potency. To increase the effectiveness of praise, it's best to be specific. "You cleaned your room all by yourself and did such a good job picking up your toys!" is more helpful than "you're the best kid ever!"

You can also help your child build self-esteem by getting them involved in volunteer projects, constructive hobbies, or skill-based activities. The child will not only feel better about themselves, but they'll also learn empathy along with other skills they can use later in life.

Methods to increase resilience

If you are looking to build your own resilience, there are a few routes you can take. Here are some common methods:

The Master Resilience Training Program

The Master Resilience Training program was originally developed for the U.S. Army in collaboration with the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. This 10-day positive psychology program consists of seven modules and is a part of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. These modules include:

  • Building mental toughness

  • Identifying character strengths

  • Strengthening relationships

  • Enhancement (skills like those taught by sports psychologists and used in sports training)

The Master Resilience Training program was intended to help soldiers and their families preemptively cope with the stress of combat, loss, and PTSD, but it was also designed to be easily picked up and taught to others.

Self-education

Resilience training revolves around helping you become more self-aware and introducing you to various outlets to relieve stress. Some people can practice resilience training by reading, learning, and communicating with others. To help you better understand where to start, here are two resources:

This is a curriculum and handbook for teaching resilience classes. The 12-session course can be used in many different settings, often as a part of helper training, and is designed to help people overcome shame. The book contains both individual and group activities using cognitive-behavioral techniques.

The title refers to the fact that most of our lives require and are lived inside a plan B—a life we did not necessarily choose. The book aims to help you put situations into perspective and build mental toughness. It also has sections on recovery and how to enjoy life again.

Therapy sessions

In addition to resilience training programs or online courses, you may benefit from speaking with a therapist who is familiar with effective resilience training education or research. General therapy sessions are a common way to help work through and deal with life's challenging situations. If you need support, know that help is available.

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Thinking about how resilience training can change your life?

BetterHelp gives you support

Should you choose to participate in therapy, working with a licensed counselor at BetterHelp is both convenient and affordable. An online trained therapist can help you work through any challenges and increase the benefits you receive from resilience training or education. With a little help, you may learn how to optimize your training and better prepare for a healthier and more fulfilling emotional life. Online therapy with someone trained in resilience building may even help you build leadership skills, which may serve you well in a variety of work environments or in any organizations where you volunteer.

Beyond this, online resilience training has been proven to be effective in the majority of cases, resulting in strong positive effects for those involved. Online resilience training is just as effective as most in-person therapies and programs.

Below are some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people working through a range of life's challenges:

Counselor reviews

"I've been working with Nicole for a year now. During that time, I faced some of the toughest situations ever and she was there with me every step of the way. With her great advice and support, I saw the bigger picture and learned to appreciate myself more thanks to her empathetic approach. Always quick to respond to any message, always on time for sessions and always helpful. I'm absolutely sure that without her, I wouldn't have come as far as I did."

"As I maneuver through difficulties, Krista has made the experience a little bit easier, less lonely, and something of a challenge to overcome rather than a reason to be stagnant. I'm grateful for her professional skills and long-term partnership I have been fortunate to be able to build. Living this past year mindfully the best I can made me see my strengths and things I need to work on clearer. The resilience I've gained, and Krista helped me realize became a quality of mine I'm very proud of. I believe the skillset and tolerance I'll continue to gain living mindfully in my 20s will be an asset that will help me tackle any issues that come up in the future. Krista really understands my values and aspirations. She encourages me to pursue my passion and chase my dream no matter the many, long-lasting, face-scrunching hiccups along the way. I'm also thankful for Better Help. This is only possible online as I move and travel a lot."

Takeaway

In reading this article, you have already begun to create a more resilient you. By simply learning about resilience, you have built your knowledge base and have equipped yourself to better handle future stress. You may also find it helpful to speak with a counselor about ways to build resilience. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a licensed therapist who has experience helping people with resilience training. Take the first step toward getting help with building personal resilience and reach out to BetterHelp today.

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