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January 2020

Weather Life’s Storms: How (and Why) to Become More Resilient

Loose sticks blow away in a storm. Rigid trees crack and fall. But willow, famously, bends gracefully to survive the most powerful gusts unscathed.

Older woman in yoga class

People, like trees, vary in their ability to handle setbacks. Those who possess resilience adapt well to adversity. Those who lack it, meanwhile, struggle to cope with stress or strife.

Of course, humans have advantages over foliage—and not just because we can seek shelter in a storm. Our capacity for resilience isn’t completely rooted. We can take active steps to hone our hardiness.

Persistence brings healthy payoffs

Resilience doesn’t remove pain and suffering from your life. But it does boost your ability to handle any challenges that come your way.

Resilient people tend to be happier, since they don’t let circumstances bring them down. Intriguing research suggests they’re healthier, too. Specifically, resilience is associated with:

  • Better mental health in people who have physical illnesses or have been through trauma

  • Improved function after hip fracture surgery

  • Reduced risk for hospitalization

  • Higher engagement in diabetes self-management

Experts aren’t completely sure why this is. Resilient people may take more positive action to manage their health. But biological factors, like genes and hormones, may also play a role.

Learn how to bounce back

Each person’s pathway to resilience looks different. Try one or more of these strategies to build your perseverance toolkit:

  • Recall your triumphs. In the midst of a tough time, call to mind a past challenge you’ve conquered. You were strong enough to handle that hardship—and you’re even stronger because of it.

  • See obstacles as opportunities. In the end, each setback represents a chance to shine. Many people report better relationships, more self-worth, and a greater appreciation for life after difficulties. You can seek out your own silver lining.

  • Take small steps. You might not be able to tackle a huge problem all at once. But making even one small move toward a solution can help you take steps toward bigger goals.

  • Practice self-compassion. Instead of judging or blaming yourself for your problems, treat yourself kindly. Consider how you would console a friend in the same situation.

  • Prioritize self-care. Proper stress management, rest, and exercise boost your ability to cope.

  • Seek support. Resilience doesn’t mean being strong enough to handle burdens alone. Rather, it involves reaching out for help when you need it.  

Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2019
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