55 Easy Ways to Build Your Resilience

Resilience is the word of choice these days for what differentiates between college students who thrive and those who just survive.

Resilience is process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress. It means bouncing back from difficult experiences.

A plant that can grow out of something that’s NC State red? RESILIENT.

Common characteristics of resilient people

  • Caring and supportive relationships within and outside her family
  • A positive view of herself and confidence in her strengths and abilities
  • Skills in communication and problem solving
  • The capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses

How does one build resilience?

There are loads of ways to build resilience. We’ll give you 55 of them.

Build resilience by making connections

Connection builds resilience. Especially at sunset by water.

Physical Connections

  • Dance, swim, walk, run, play – preferably with others
  • Connect physically in ways that feel safe: a hug, a kiss
  • Take vacations with family and friends

Psychological Connections

  • Let folks know different aspects of you
  • Engage your intelligence n a new area – go to an art museum, history exhibit, sports event, auction, theater performance
  • Practice receiving from others

Emotional Connections

  • Spend time with others whose company you enjoy
  • Stay in contact with important people in your life
  • Identify comforting activities, objects, people, relationships, places and seek them out

Spiritual Connections

  • Spend time with nature
  • Find a spiritual connection or community
  • Spend time with children

Academic Connections

  • Take time to chat with classmates
  • Talk to your professors
  • Have a peer support group

Build resilience by learning to avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems, by accepting that change is part of living, by keeping things in perspective. Learn about yourself from the situation.

“Orange faced insurmountable odds when confronted by blue and wisely folded.”

Physical Problem Solving

  • Take time off when you’re sick
  • Get enough sleep
  • Wear clothes that you like

Psychological Problem Solving

  • Make time away from the computer
  • Make time for self-reflection
  • Have your own personal psychotherapy
  • Write in a journal
  • Notice your internal experience – thoughts, feelings, beliefs, attitudes – non-judgmentally
  • Say no to extra responsibilities sometimes

Emotional Problem Solving

  • Do not blame yourself for events you cannot control
  • Make note everyday of three things you appreciate
  • Have a period of quiet, reflective, non-goal oriented time every day

Spiritual Problem Solving

  • Be open to not knowing
  • Try at time not to be in charge or the expert
  • Be aware of nonmaterial aspects of life
  • Identify what is meaningful to you and notice its place in your life
  • Meditate or pray
  • Sing, listen to music

Academic Problem Solving

  • Make quiet time to complete tsks
  • Set limits with group projects
  • Balance your classes so that no one day is “too much”

Build resilience by moving towards your goals, even (or especially) in small steps, by taking action instead of “wishing it would go away”. Maintain hope: visualize what you want, rather than worry about what you fear. Nurture a positive view of yourself.

Move toward your goal and don’t be afraid to ask for help, young Stormtrooper.

Physical Baby Steps to Reaching Any Goal

  • Eat regularly (e.g., breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
  • Eat healthy
  • Exercise
  • Get regular medical care for prevention and when ill
  • Get massages

Psychological Baby Steps to Reaching Any Goal

  • Take day trips, or mini-vacations
  • Focus and take action on matters that have the highest priority for you
  • Write down daily affirmations of yourself, i.e., what you like and value about yourself

Emotional Baby Steps to Reaching Any Goal

  • Love yourself
  • Reread favorite books, review favorite movies
  • Allow yourself to cry
  • Find things that make you laugh
  • Express your outrage in social action, letters, donations, marches, protests

Spiritual Baby Steps to Reaching Any Goal

  • Be open to inspiration and grace
  • Cherish your optimism and hope
  • Contribute to causes in which you believe
  • Read inspirational literature

Academic Baby Steps to Reaching Any Goal

  • Identify aspects of class that are exciting and rewarding

How campus can help:

In Housing: Talk to your RA about activities on your floor that can increase feelings of connection, reach out to someone on the floor who is shyer than you are. Practice problem solving when conflicts arise with your roommate or others on the floor, talk with your RA about how to approach sensitive interpersonal situations in the residence hall.

In Campus Recreation: Participate in an intramural sport team, get a new buddy to go with you to work out. Establish a regular exercise routine. Take a yoga class, establish a workout program.

In Counseling and Psychological Services: Join a therapeutic group, resolve any personal issues that present a barrier to close connections. Talk to a therapist about negative feelings and mood before they become more troublesome. Learn about mindfulness and other relaxation skills; learn to meditate, develop emotional regulation skills.

In classes you take: Say hello to someone in your class, participate in a study group, try to get to know one of your instructors better. Use your classes to notice emerging strengths, pay attention to what is going right for you in class on a regular basis, instead of focusing only on what might be going wrong.

At University Career Services: Build the capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out, talk to a career counselor about your short-term and long term plans. Get help putting together your resume, plan on getting an internship.

In Academic Advising: Talk about choosing a major or how the curriculum for your major is going, use the Learning Center to help organize your academic work and prevent procrastination

In Student Wellness: Get information to help you understand a holistic perspective on health and wellness, and use this knowledge to make healthier and safer decisions in areas that are important to college students like stress, sleep, alcohol and drugs, sexual health, and financial wellness. Become a peer advocate for an issue you feel strongly about.

Written by Sara Stahlman, Marketing and Communication Coordinator for Campus Health Services and CAPS


Photo credits:

Resilience by Jimmy Hiliaro, Flickr Creative Commons

Connection by Adam Pomerinke, Flickr Creative Commons

Orange Folds by Bill Sutton, Flickr Creative Commons

Baby Steps by Kristina Alexanderson, Flickr Creative Commons

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