It’s been one year. Let’s talk resilience.


It’s been one year, and what a year it’s been.

We’ve likely heard more about resilience in the past year than we imagined we’d hear in a lifetime.

What is resilience, really? Do we have it? How do we get more?

A lot of people equate being resilient with being strong, sucking it up, and powering through. The danger in this is that this interpretation may inhibit us from reaching out or getting support when we could use it.

Let’s take a look at what science says about resilience, then see how it applies to us.

In chemistry and engineering, resilience refers to flexibility or elasticity—the ability of a substance to regain its shape.

So one way to think of resilience is our ability to bounce back from adversity. But we want to do better than “bounce back.” How do we keep ourselves steady in the face of adversity, and move forward, growing beyond the event and improving?

In engineering, stress is the amount of resistance a material applies to being reshaped or reformed. In physics, resistance impedes electron flow.

As in nature, the biggest impediment to resilience in humans is resistance. Resistance increases stress and impedes resilience.

Think about it. In the face of an adverse event, if our reaction is “oh no!” it’s unlikely we’re seeing a clear path forward. What we want to do instead is cultivate response flexibility, an ability to remain calm, engaged and respond deliberately rather than reflexively or reactively.

If you’re thinking, easier said than done, you’re right. Below are five resilience-building strategies, but first here are some ways to think about resilience.

• People with emotional resilience experience increased positive emotions in the face of challenge, along with the associated brain patterns for reward and positive motivation. These people have a “bring it on” attitude in a crisis. As you’ll see, this acceptance attitude is a resilience-building strategy.

• When we’re mentally resilient, we recognize adversity as an event apart from ourselves, without internalizing or owning it.

Motivational resilience helps us find meaning in setback and exploit them as an opportunity to improve.

• When we respond to challenging events deliberately, we strengthen neurological resilience, reinforcing resilience neural pathways that subdue a reactive response to an adverse event

What are some ways to cultivate resilience and response flexibility?

1. Say “Yes” to what is. Why it works:

  • Removes blame from the landscape

  • Obviates resistance, which compounds / amplifies a challenge or situation

  • Acceptance gives us the ability to see solutions and move forward

2. Shift perspective Why it works:

  • Creates emotional distance

  • Challenges (paralysis)Opportunity (growth)

  • Dissipates the emotional charge and generates mental clarity, focus

  • Proactively play with differing perspectives

3. Ask clarifying questions Why it works:

  • Overrides assumptions. “This is like that” brain connections lead to erroneous conclusions and errors in judgment

  • Ask open-ended, objective (nonjudgmental) questions

  • Cultivate curiosity

4. Take charge of what is in your control; park situations beyond your control. Why it works:

  • Removes the stress/anxiety of a difficult situation

  • Ask: Am I doing all that I can in this moment?

5. B.A.R.R, combines the strategies above and helps us cultivate response flexibility. Why it works:

  • Breathe: interrupts the stress response and calms the mind, promoting clarity in a challenging situation

  • Accept: Shifts us from “oh no!” [resistance] to “OK, now what?” [acceptance]. Shifts our response from tension to motivation

  • Reframe/Respond: puts the event into perspective so that we can choreograph a fitting response

Regardless of how you experienced this past year, you undoubtedly built resilience. Next time you face an adverse event, or notice your resistance to a situation, take a moment to pinpoint the action or attitude that is most instrumental in helping you recover from that event. By bringing awareness and attention to your resilience actions and attitudes, you reinforce your response flexibility, and have a clear tool for facing adversity moving forward. Then all someone to share.

Keep thriving,