Resilience – Coping with stress and becoming more effective

June 13, 2012 | By

ResilienceResilience refers to a person’s ability to adapt to stressful situations or crises. More resilient people are able to adapt to adversity without lasting difficulties. Less resilient people have a harder time with stress and life changes, both major and minor. It has been found that those who deal with minor stresses more easily can also manage major crises with greater ease. So resilience has its benefits for daily life as well as for the rare major catastrophe.

Emotional and physical resilience is, to a degree, something you’re born with. Some people, by nature, are less upset by changes and surprises. This can be observed in infancy and tends to be stable throughout one’s lifetime. Emotional resilience is also related to some factors that aren’t under your control, such as age, gender, and exposure to trauma. However, resilience can be developed with a little effort. If you know what to do, you can become more resilient, even if you are naturally more sensitive to life’s difficulties.

Characteristics of people with high resilience

Resilience is not a quality that you either do or do not possess. There are varying degrees of how well a person is able to handle stress. Still, there are certain characteristics that resilient people tend to share. Some of the main characteristics are:

  • Emotional Awareness. Part of resilience is emotional awareness. It is important to understand what you are feeling and why. Sometimes people feel overwhelmed with their emotions, and this frightens and immobilizes them. Knowing why you feel upset can provide valuable information about what needs to change in your life.
  • Perseverance. While many people know of coping strategies that can help with stress, the most successful individuals are those who maintain the effort for the long term. Don’t give up on your situation. Don’t stop working toward getting through it. Trust the process.
  • Internal Locus of Control. Resilient people believe that they are in control of their lives. While we can’t control our circumstances, we can control how we respond to those circumstances, and that makes a big difference in our attitudes and in the course our lives take.
  • Optimism. Being an optimist is more than looking on the bright side. It is a way of viewing the world where you maximize your strengths and accomplishments, and minimize your weaknesses and setbacks. Developing a more optimistic world view can help you become more resilient.
  • Support. While we ultimately face our own challenges, a supportive friend or group of friends can help lighten the load. Those with strong networks of social support tend to cope well with stress. Conversely, those with little support may find themselves more vulnerable, and those with conflicted and unsupportive relationships tend to fare even worse.
  • Sense of Humor. If you’re able to laugh at life’s frustrations, you can have increased immunity, if you will, to stress and adversity. Those with a sense of humor about life tend to experience life as less stressful. They are able to bond with others during difficult times, and experience the numerous benefits of laughter. If you can take a step back from difficult situations long enough to maintain your sense of humor, you will be more resilient, too.
  • Perspective. Resilient people are able to learn from their mistakes (rather than deny them). They see obstacles as challenges, and allow adversity to make them stronger. They can also find meaning in life’s challenges rather than seeing themselves as victims.
  • Spirituality. Studies have shown that those who are more spiritual tend to be more resilient as well. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be resilient if you are atheist or agnostic. But if you are open to it, reconnecting or strengthening your connection to your spiritual side can provide you with strength.

How To Become More Resilient

The good news is that emotional resilience can be developed. And because stress and change are a part of life the payoffs are significant. All it takes is an interest and commitment to the process, and possibly some coaching to develop and strengthen your traits of resilience.

You can test your own resilience in the Competency Scan.

Based on the article Cope With Stress and Become More Resilient By Elizabeth Scott, M.S. (

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