Build Resilience to Manage Stress and Change

Build Resilience to Manage Stress and Change

Building mental resilience can help you handle stress and the ups and downs of life. That can lead to improved overall mental and physical health and a better quality of life.

Mental resilience is the ability to adapt to change, stressful situations, everyday problems, traumatic events and other types of adversity.

Strengthening mental resilience is a good place to start if you’d like to be a healthier you. It can help you adapt and respond when things go wrong. This inner strength can help you bounce back, rather than become totally overwhelmed. And it can be used for a range of setbacks, from sickness and loss to natural disasters.

Beyond adapting to hardship, resilience can help you build better mental health.

Resilience can help improve your ability to cope with mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Resilience can also help you better manage factors that increase the risk of mental health conditions. “If you have an existing mental health condition, being resilient can improve your coping ability,” says the Mayo Clinicleaving site icon

Building Blocks

There are many ways to build and maintain resilience.

  • Build strong relationships with family and friends. Consider volunteering in your community to gain supportive ties.
  • Look for meaning each day. Find ways to feel you have a purpose. Notice the ways you make a difference.
  • Learn from your life. Look back on how you've coped with past problems. Could you use those skills now? Make a note of things that helped or hurt when you handled hardships in the past.
  • Look to the future. Expect change and stay hopeful.
  • Treat yourself right. Take care of your own needs and feelings. Do things you enjoy. Get enough sleep, eat healthy foods and work in a walk or other physical activity every day.
  • Practice ways to handle stress. Find what works for you, be it prayer, deep breathing, meditation or other techniques.
  • Don’t brush off problems. Think over what needs to be done and start a plan of action.
Start Small

Taking small steps can sometimes make it simpler to get started. Mental Health America leaving site icon offers 31 simple ways to boost your mental health. You can do one per day. Among the ideas:

  • Use a journal to track three things you’re grateful for each day. And jot down something you accomplished while you’re at it.
  • Try something new. Be creative. And don’t worry about being good at what you try. Whether it’s crafting, painting, writing or trying a new recipe, trying new things can help give your outlook a boost.
  • Try a technology blackout. Put your phone down. Unplug from constant interruptions from texts and alerts.
Learn Relaxation Techniques

Being able to relax can help slow down your breathing, lower your blood pressure, and cut muscle tension and stress, says the National Library of Medicine. leaving site icon You can try progressive relaxation. That’s where you tighten and relax different muscle groups, sometimes combined with breathing exercises. Learning to focus on positive images in your mind is one more step you can take. Deep breathing exercises can also be helpful.

Involve the Family

The whole family can benefit from more resilience. Children often struggle during times of great change, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. leaving site icon But that also makes it a good time to build up relationships and model ways to handle feelings.

Children and teens can better deal with school and other stress with these tips from the American Psychological Association. leaving site icon Have them try to:

  • Make connections
  • Help other people
  • Stick to a comforting routine
  • Focus on what they can control
  • Learn the value of basic self-care
  • Move toward a goal
  • Trust themselves
  • Keep things in perspective and stay hopeful
  • Accept change
  • Respect and learn about their feelings
Get Help

Reach out if you are struggling with your mental health. Talk to your doctor or other health care providers. They may be able to help or suggest you see a mental health professional.

Sources: Resilience: Build skills to endure hardship, leaving site icon Mayo Clinic, 2022; 31 Tips to Boost Your Mental Health, leaving site icon Mental Health America; How To Improve Mental Health, leaving site icon National Library of Medicine, 2020; How to Help Children Build Resilience in Uncertain Times, leaving site icon American Academy of Pediatrics, 2020; Resilience guide for parents and teachers, leaving site icon American Psychological Association, 2023

Originally published 12/6/2021; Revised 2023

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