Resilience: how to bounce back from life’s challenges

Full length rear view of young man arranging while carrying orange bar graph against white background

Sometimes life comes at you hard. How do you react? Do you bend or do you break?

If it’s hard for you to recover from a difficult situation, you may want to work on enhancing your resilience, says Katie Valentino, a behavioral health peer support specialist with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

“Resilience is a skill that can be developed over time,” Katie explains. “It’s not something that you’re born with or without.”

WellTuned spoke with Kate to better understand resilience and how we can work to enhance it.

Understanding resilience

Katie Valentino: The American Psychological Association describes resilience as “the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences.”

Essentially, it’s bouncing back from a tough time. Resilience is being flexible in the face of a challenge—and finding a way to move forward and grow. It doesn’t mean that you don’t get upset or experience pain or stress. It just means that you don’t let it hold you back or keep you down.

How to bounce back from challenges

Katie Valentino: Because you can learn to be resilient, you can build on your ability to be resilient. Here are some strategies that will help you become more resilient:

  1. Build a support network. Strengthen your relationships with family, friends, and members of your community. Reach out, spend time together, and be open about your feelings.
  2. Practice self-care. Take care of your body, your brain and your emotions. Focus on getting exercise or moving your body on a regular basis. Eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep. Try to spend a little time outside every day, and never underestimate the value of laughing, too.
  3. Develop a positive mindset. Focus on the positive aspects of situations as much as you can and try to be hopeful. And practice gratitude. Keeping a journal to note the things that you’re thankful for can help shift your perspective.
  4. Set realistic goals. Start by setting small, achievable goals and celebrate your progress. Work towards larger goals by first breaking them down into manageable steps.
  5. Have a sense of purpose. Think about what means the most to you. Engage in activities that foster that sense of purpose. It might be volunteering or pursuing hobbies, but the important thing is that it’s meaningful to you.
  6. Be flexible. Flexibility is a sign of good mental health and resilience. Be aware of the times when you’re being rigid in your thinking, and consider the value of a different perspective. Embrace change and be open to new experiences.
  7. Nurture your self-confidence. Practice positive self-talk, especially when you notice negative thoughts creeping in. Build confidence in your ability to influence the events and outcomes in your own life.

How you know that your efforts are working

Katie Valentino: Your resilience-building progress can measured by how you feel and certain tangible signs.

  • Improved sense of well-being. You feel less stressed and more capable of handling life’s challenges.
  • Greater sense of control. You feel more in control of your emotions and less overwhelmed by external events.
  • Increased optimism. Your self-confidence has improved and you have a more optimistic outlook on life.
  • Behavior changes. You engage in more healthy behaviors, from diet and exercise to sleep and practices to help your emotional well-being.
  • Achieving goals. You’ve set realistic goals that matter to you, and you’re reaching them.

What to do if you feel overwhelmed

Katie Valentino: It can take time to build resilience. In the meantime, if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed by life, reach out for help. Reaching out helps you feel less isolated and can offer new solutions to problems. If you are feeling overwhelmed:

  • Talk to a friend or family member. Share your feelings with someone you can trust. This can provide immediate emotional support.
  • Seek professional help. A therapist can help you work through your feelings and provide strategies to help you navigate difficult situations.
  • Join a support group. A community of like-minded people can be a great source of understanding and encouragement.
  • Use a helpline. Hotlines can be a useful source of support when you need to talk to someone urgently.
  • Find an online community. Online forums can offer support and advice from people who’ve gone through similar situations.
  • Reach out to religious or spiritual leaders. If you belong to a faith community, consider seeking support or guidance from one of your leaders.

Katie Valentino’s story of addressing anxiety and depression

Jennifer Larson

Jennifer Larson is Nashville-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years of experience. She specializes in health care and family issues.

More Posts

Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.