How to build resilience in tough times

Caroline Harper
Clinical Lead for Mental Health, Bupa UK
01 November 2021
Next review due November 2024

When you’re feeling low, anxious or stressed, it’s important to have tools you can use to help you cope. Resilience – your ability to deal with and respond to challenging times – is key. Here I’ll explain what resilience is and how to build it in to your life when times feel tough.

What is resilience?

Resilience is all about how well you adapt to challenging situations and how quickly you can bounce back from them. Challenging circumstances can include a whole range of scenarios, for example:

Why is resilience important?

When you’re feeling low, dealing with stresses and pressures can feel harder than they usually would. Developing resilience skills can help you navigate the rough seas and even improve your life. Having resilience does not mean that you’ll never feel stressed or go through difficult times. But it does mean that you will be able to cope better – and quicker – when they do happen.

How to develop your resilience

These eight tips can help you build your resilience.

1. It’s ok to have feelings

Whatever you’re feeling, know that it’s ok to feel that way. Allow yourself to feel a variety of emotions, be that frustration, fear, sadness or tiredness. You may want to push the emotions away, but instead try to accept and sit with them. Know that you’re more resilient than you may think.

2. Remember your past resilience

The last few years have been really challenging for everyone. Don’t forget to remember how you’ve coped and adapted in a huge variety of ways in the past. Human beings are very adaptable. Try and think of this as a new phase of adaptation and remind yourself of how well you’ve coped so far.

3. Stay connected with others

Having a support network can be a source of help when times are tough. This can be family, friends, or loved ones. Or it can be other people who are going through similar things. There are forums, networks and charity support lines that can be helpful. Check in on others – this can help you feel connected and purposeful. And ask for support at work if you need to as well. If you’re worried about your mental health, make an appointment with your GP.

4. Look after your physical health

Do everything you can to look after your sleep, diet and exercise. Taking care of yourself – even in small ways – can really help. For example, going for a walk each day can help reduce stress levels. Try and go somewhere in nature if you can and pay attention to what you can see and hear.

5. Try relaxation techniques

Make a list of the activities that you know help you relax and allocate time in your day to do them. This might be having a bubble bath, spending time on a hobby, reading, listening to music, cooking, or a few minutes just sitting and breathing with your eyes closed. Carving out space to take a step back from stress can help you feel calmer and ready to move forward again.

6. Take a tech break

Social media and the news can be overwhelming at times and accelerate feelings of anxiety. Take some time away from your phone or the TV. Check the news once a day but try not to keep looking if it’s adding to your worry levels. Turn your phone off for an hour or choose to spend an evening not watching the TV and doing something else to relax instead.

7. Give yourself a break

Keeping yourself going and looking after each other is what’s important in the world right now. If you’re dealing with low mood or stress, give yourself a break. Don’t feel down on yourself if you’re not achieving big goals at the moment. Take the pressure off yourself and acknowledge that you’re doing the best you can in a difficult situation.

8. Be kind to yourself

Remember, to be patient and kind to yourself. Reward yourself for small achievements, nourish your mind and body with healthy activities, spend time in nature and give yourself permission to recharge when you need to.

Caroline Harper
Caroline Harper
Clinical Lead for Mental Health, Bupa UK

    • Building your resilience. American Psychological Association., last updated 1 February 2020
    • Developing resilience – tips. Mind., published November 2017
    • Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak. World Health Organization., published 18 March 2020

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