Over the last few years, Victorians have faced more stress and uncertainty than we ever imagined. We have dealt with the health impacts of COVID-19, social isolation and long lockdowns, and financial uncertainty.
We often hear about the importance of building resilience to help us deal with these challenges. But what is resilience and what are some tips for how to build it?
What is resilience and why is it important?
Resilience is the ability to adapt well when facing adversity, threats, tragedy, or significant sources of stress – such as relationship and family problems, serious health issues, financial pressures, or workplace stressors.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back after you’ve experienced something difficult. When you’re resilient, it means you understand bad or challenging things can happen, but you know how to deal with them and adapt as positively as possible.
Resilience is important because we all go through stressful and challenging experiences in life. When we have resilience, we’re better able to cope and we can move on and recover quicker.
Building resilience is like building a muscle – it takes practise and time1. But when you’ve learnt how to build resilience, you’ll be better at coping with the challenges life throws your way. Here are five tips to help you build resilience.
1. Build better relationships
One of the most challenging aspects of the past two years is that we’ve had to stay physically isolated to stay safe. Social isolation can have a negative impact on both our physical and mental health.
Studies have suggested that positive social support can improve our resilience for coping with stress. By building on your current relationships and making new friendships, you can help build your resilience.
If you are struggling to meet people, you could consider signing up for a local class (e.g. pottery, dance, cooking) or joining an amateur sports team or club to find people with like-minded interests. Volunteering is also a wonderful way to give back to your community, while creating a social connection.
2. Try to be positive
When something goes wrong, it’s natural to think about that how it went wrong and go over it in your mind. However, dwelling on negative topics can lead to rumination which is a risk factor for depression and anxiety.
When you have a positive outlook on life, it can be easier to bounce back when things don’t go your way. When something bad happens, you could try writing about it and find three positive ‘silver linings’ from the situation. One study reported that people who did this daily for three weeks became more engaged and had reduced pessimistic thoughts.
3. Look after your body and mind
We know that eating well and doing physical activity is beneficial for our physical and mental health. However, it can also improve our resilience. Studies have suggested that physical activity is associated with higher resilience, fewer depression symptoms, and fewer negative emotions.
It’s also important to look after your mind. Practising mindfulness is one way you can reduce stress and build your resilience. Mindfulness is paying attention to our present thoughts and accepting them without judgment.
If you’d like to get started with mindfulness, you could try downloading an app like Smiling Mind, which helps you do guided meditation.
4. Find a purpose
Studies suggest when you have a purpose in life, you are more likely to recover emotionally after experiencing a setback. It’s also helpful to feel a part of something bigger in life. It makes sense – when you have meaning and purpose in your life, you have a reason to get up each day and do what you need to do.
Many people find their purpose in helping others. Think of ways you could help others in your daily life, either through volunteering (e.g. Volunteering Victoria), through your work, or even chatting with a neighbour and seeing how you can help.
5. Be proactive
When you have a problem, ask yourself if there is anything you can do to solve it. If the problem feels too big, break it into smaller parts, come up with a list of possible solutions, work through the pros and cons, select the best one and put it into action, and evaluate its success.
By working on our problem-solving skills, we may be able to find ways to cope with difficult situations, reduce worrying, and build resilience.
Ask for help
By following these tips, you may be able to build your resilience gradually. But, remember, if you’re struggling, it’s important to ask for help.
Our CAREinMIND counsellors are available 24/7 on 1300 096 269 or click the floating chat button on the right. The service is free for people in north, western and central Melbourne and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
 American Psychological Association. (2020, February 1). Building your resilience. https://www.apa.org/topics/resilience
 Leigh-Hunt N, Bagguley D, Bash K, Turner V, Turnbull S, Valtorta N, Caan W. An overview of systematic reviews on the public health consequences of social isolation and loneliness. Public Health. 2017 Nov;152:157-171. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2017.07.035. Epub 2017 Sep 12. PMID: 28915435.
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 Zach, S., Zeev, A., Ophir, M. et al. Physical activity, resilience, emotions, moods, and weight control of older adults during the COVID-19 global crisis. Eur Rev Aging Phys Act 18, 5 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s11556-021-00258-w
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 Schaefer SM, Morozink Boylan J, van Reekum CM, et al. Purpose in life predicts better emotional recovery from negative stimuli. PLoS One. 2013;8(11):e80329. Published 2013 Nov 13. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0080329