Bouncing Back: 8 Expert Tips for Building Resilience

We all face pain and hardships. Whether it’s a career setback, breakup, or health scare, building resilience is crucial for navigating life’s challenges. While you can’t always control your initial reactions to tough situations, you can learn how to build resilience to help you recover and move through challenges faster.

What is resilience?

Resilience is our ability to bounce back from life’s curveballs. Resilience isn’t avoiding difficult situations or pretending everything’s fine when it’s not. It’s handling tough times by staying mentally flexible and emotionally flexible—and it’s a skill we can get better at with practice. 

Why is building resilience important?

Learning how to build resilience is important because it empowers you to navigate life’s challenges with greater ease, recover from setbacks, and feel better. “Setbacks are one of life’s certainties and a universal part of the human experience, but research and likely your own experience show that resilience can help you bounce back, reduce the effects of stress,” said Joe Grasso, PhD, vice president of Workforce Transformation at Lyra Health.

How to build resilience

Good news: Everyone can build resilience with practice and support.

#1 Practice acceptance

During difficult times, it’s natural to feel disappointed or frustrated, and worry about what’s to come. These emotions can be uncomfortable but they’re normal. “While your instincts may tell you to avoid, eliminate, or suppress difficult feelings, that can actually make things worse,” said Dr. Grasso. “Instead, try mindfulness as a way to accept what’s happened.”

Observe your thoughts and feelings without trying to change them or labeling them as good or bad. Pay attention to your physical sensations as well. Is your jaw tight? Are you clenching your shoulders? Noticing, identifying, and not judging signs of physical distress can help you accept what’s happened without having to approve of it so that it can pass.

#2 Focus on what you can control

When you think decisions are out of your hands, it can feel like you’re drifting. Focusing on what you can control and recognizing your ability to change course can be empowering.

“Adversity can undermine confidence in your ability to change your circumstances,” said Dr. Grasso. “For example, if you feel blindsided by a negative performance review, you may start to worry that no matter your efforts, you’re destined to fail. But those worries aren’t only inaccurate, they can lead to dangerous inaction.”

Building resilience can involve shifting your perspective. For example, you could respond to a negative performance review by recognizing that it doesn’t define your future success and reframing it as an opportunity for growth rather than a confirmation of failure. 

#3 Work toward a new goal

Another resilience strategy is setting a new goal. Maybe you want to hone a new skill, find a different job, start dating again, or mend a relationship. Is there a hobby, cause, or interest you’ve neglected? Working toward a goal can help you refocus on your values and inspire you to move forward.

#4 Think optimistically

Your attitude matters when you’re learning how to build resilience. Some people think you’re either naturally pessimistic or optimistic, without much ability to change, or that optimism is just a naive view of the world. The truth is optimism is based on how we make sense of what happens to us. Some positive psychology researchers describe optimism as the three Ps

  • Personalization – Acknowledge your efforts and successes and understand setbacks involve multiple factors.
  • Pervasiveness – View setbacks as disappointing in one area of life rather than defining your identity.
  • Permanence – Recognize hardships as temporary and changeable, focusing on positive qualities and potential for improvement.

#5 Connect with others

Building resilience isn’t something we tackle alone. Our connections with friends, family, and colleagues are important in helping us get through tough times. It’s not just having trusted people in our lives, it’s genuinely connecting with them so they can validate our attempts, reframe challenges, and encourage us. 

“When asking loved ones for support, it helps to be specific about your needs,” said Dr. Grasso. “You may ask friends or family to offer words of encouragement, keep you accountable, or even lend a helping hand as you pursue new goals. Asking for concrete types of support will help reduce ambiguity about how people can best help you and improve the chances that their attempts are worthwhile.”

#6 Take care of yourself

Prioritizing self-care helps to reduce stress, enhance emotional well-being, and maintain a positive outlook. By investing in self-care practices like getting plenty of sleep and doing things you enjoy, you “fill your tank” so when tough times come around, you’re not facing them “on empty.”

#7 Work on problem-solving skills

Problem-solving skills empower us to tackle challenges and find solutions rather than feeling overwhelmed. Examples of problem-solving skills include breaking down complex issues into manageable steps and seeking different perspectives. A Lyra mental health coach or therapist can help you learn and build problem-solving skills for building resilience.

#8 Get professional help

Talking to a mental health professional can be a powerful resilience strategy. “Resilience doesn’t mean that you should be able to withstand major stressors without professional help,” said Dr. Grasso. “A therapist can help you address the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors fueling your distress and support you in building a life that’s defined by your goals and values, rather than by your adversity.”

You can do this

Building resilience can help you move through difficulties and thrive in the face of adversity. “Sadness, anger, grief, frustration, and disappointment are inevitable,” said Dr. Grasso, “But resilience can help you cope with those emotions and motivate you to take the right steps.”

Overcome setbacks and achieve your goals with resilience

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About the reviewer
Lauren Cunnningham

Dr. Cunningham has over a decade of clinical and administrative behavioral health experience. She received a doctoral degree in counseling psychology from Ball State University and has authored publications on crisis prevention in schools and sexism toward women in the military. Previously, she held several mental health-focused roles in the United States Air Force, receiving many honors including the Air Force Commendation Medal for Meritorious Service and the Air Force Achievement Medal. She also served as CEO of Blackbird Psychological Services, providing and supervising psychological evaluations for the Department of Defense and Veterans.

Clinically reviewed by
Lauren Cunnningham
By The Lyra Team
1 of May 2024 - 4 min read
Mental health at work
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