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Building resilience

Agile, adaptable, pliable, flexible, buoyant, bounce-backable. These are all words and phrases that convey resilience to me. I love the quote by author Robert Jordan The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.

I like to think about how to be more willow-like. By looking at the characteristics and strategies of resiliency we can start develop these in ourselves and then help our children, family, colleagues and friends to develop them too. The more resilient we are, the better we will be able to work through difficult and stressful times, learn from them and therefore be able to handle challenges, failures, disappointments and set backs in the future much better.


There are different types of resilience and these may or may not be be present in different areas of your life. For example, you might have good emotional resilience at work with colleagues but struggle when it comes to dealing with certain family members or you may have good physical resilience when doing things for others but find it difficult to muster the energy to keep yourself fit. For each of the types of resilience below consider if you need to strengthen these at work and / or at home.

  • Emotional resilience

  • Physical resilience

  • Social resilience

  • Mental resilience

  • Community resilience


If you’ve been able identify the types of the resilience you need to strengthen and where, then congratulations, as self- awareness is one characteristic of resilient people. Others, as identified by Conner and Davidson (2003) can include those listed below. Consider which ones you are strong in and which you need to strengthen.

  • Viewing change as a challenge or opportunity

  • Commitment

  • Recognition of limits to control

  • Engaging the support of others

  • Close, secure attachment to others

  • Personal or collective goals

  • Self-efficacy

  • Strengthening effect of stress

  • Past successes

  • Realistic sense of control/having choices

  • Sense of humour

  • Action-oriented approach

  • Patience

  • Tolerance of negative affect

  • Adaptability to change

  • Optimism

  • Faith


Mind, body and emotions are an interconnected circle with no beginning or end. I think starting with strategies that are the opposite to area you really need to work on is a good way to go. For example, if you really need to work on your mind or emotions start with body strategies because once you feel stronger in your body it will be easier to work on your mind or emotions and vice versa. In addition, body strategies will generate some feel good hormones.

Sleep well

Good quality sleep goes a long way to helping mind, body and emotional issues. See my sleep article here for tips.

Eat for optimal nutrition

We are all individual and you need to eat for your unique conditions and stay well hydrated – book an appointment with me for dietary help or find a herbalist / nutritionist in your area.

Move daily

Do some form of movement daily. It reduces stress and anxiety by producing feel good hormones. This could be anything from a short walk to dancing in your kitchen whilst the kettle boils, to a sport, yoga, tai chi etc.

Strengthen your relaxation response

Identify where in your body you feel stress, for example head, stomach, back, neck. Now think of activities to help with these areas such as yoga stretches for back and neck, meditation for headaches, herbal teas for stomach aches. List down what activity you want to start learning to do to address your stress and seek out a class, book, podcast or video to help you learn and apply it. You might also want to seek out a practitioner / therapist to help you.

Work on your emotions with flower essences and aromatherapy

Both therapies can be used as catalysts for positive emotional change.

  • For flower essences see our page here

  • For aromatherapy advice contact our clinic to be directed to the best practitioner for you.

Reframe the situation

Widen your view. Rather than focusing on the negatives, can you find at least one positive in this situation, no matter how small?

Pan in and out

  • If you are overwhelmed with what’s happening in the big world or your own, pan in on noticing the wonder of small things like the view from your window, the structure of the leaves on the plant on your windowsill, your breath.

  • If you are struggling with the minute details of your everyday work and routine then pan out to the bigger picture, what are these small details adding up to? What bigger picture will they make? How will this bigger picture benefit yourself or others?

Control what you can

When you feel like your situation is trapping you, find one thing you do have control over and take action on it.

Seek help and support

Identify your sources of support at home, work and in the community. Connect with these people regularly and ask for help when needed. If you feel need professional help, contact your doctor for advice.

See failure as a practise run

Thomas Edison said

“I have not failed. I have found 10,000 ways that don’t work." And Samuel Beckett said "Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Focus on your strengths

  • Recall a time when you did manage a challenge in your life. What strengths did you use? How were you resilient? How can you use this strength/s now in your current situation?

  • A useful tool for identifying your strengths can be found here

  • Make a list of your home and work accomplishments so far to help you feel more positive.

Try some mindfulness activities

  • What kinds of activities put you in the flow (things you do that you lose track of time with)? Can you incorporate one into your daily, weekly or monthly schedule?

  • Google mindfulness activities and try doing one a day, week or month.

Generate a purpose

Write down one or more purposes. This doesn’t have to be lofty, simply feeding your family or pets, growing your garden, developing your intellect or learning a new language can provide you with a purpose. Keep your written purpose where you will see it daily – on the fridge, on your computer, on the bathroom mirror, in your diary. This will help remind you of why you are focusing on being resilient.

Enhance positive emotions daily

Find some sources of joy to engage in daily such as stroking a pet, watching a funny video, looking a beautiful piece of art.

Start a gratitude practice

Either write down a few things daily that you are grateful for or go around the table nightly and ask each family member to say something they are grateful for. If you are stuck for things think of starting with I am breathing, I have food and shelter.

Use writing as a self-help tool

  • Write down what is stressing you out and ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? Will I survive it? What is the best that could happen? What would I tell a friend in this situation?

  • Use Julia Cameron’s morning pages technique. Though often used to spark creativity, they are also an excellent way to get all the noise out of your head in the morning. Find out how to do them here


Have a look at Apps such as:

MoodMission – tell it how you are feeling and based on introductory questions that you answer it will give you five strategies or missions to help you feel better and improve your wellbeing. It is based on CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) which is an evidenced based psychology therapy to help with anxiety and depression.

Chopra meditation and Wellbeing – provides meditations, self-care tools, tips and practices.

Mood Analytics – Mood tracker – a type of diary app to help you track how you are feeling to enable you to deal with negative thoughts and improve your wellbeing.


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