How Strong is Your Coat of Armor?

Strategies for Boosting Your Psychological Resilience Factor

When we think of resilient people, famous examples of people with high resilience, such as Nelson Mandela and Anne Frank, spring to mind. But resilience can be seen in ordinary people on any ordinary day.

Building resilience is a personal journey. And the great news is that anyone can do it! We all have the capacity within us to become more resilient.

Resilient people tend to have these characteristics in common:

  • Adaptive coping skills; they learn how to develop coping strategies and apply them to new future situations
  • The capacity to make realistic plans, then take steps to carry them out
  • A positive view of themselves, and confidence in their strengths and abilities
  • Good communication and problem solving skills
  • An ability to manage strong feelings and impulses

How do you develop these qualities in yourself? Here are some strategies that will boost your resilience factor:

  1. Forge connections. Close, positive relationships with family members, friends and others are critical to boosting your resilience factor. Accept help from positive, supportive people who care about you and will listen to you. You may find that being active in civic groups, faith-based organizations, or other community groups provides social support and instills you with optimism. And helping others in their time of need will also help you! I find that many people don't have a good support system and don't know where to start. Going to therapy can be the starting point. It provides a safe place for you to learn how to build a healthy connection and teach you how to do that with other people.
  2. Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can't always stop stressful events from happening, but you can change how you interpret and respond to those events. It's helpful to look beyond the present… focus on the ways in which future circumstances will be better. Pay attention to what makes you feel better, as you deal with trying situations, including small, seemingly insignificant subtleties that make you feel even a little bit better. Journaling can help here. Write down what you're doing when you feel better, and what you were doing when you didn't feel so hot.
  3. Accept that change is a part of life. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed will leave your mind free to focus on circumstances that you can change, and on strategies for changing the way you respond to adverse events. Some adverse situations may mean that certain goals are simply no longer realistically attainable. True coping skills help you get to the root of the problem and focus on changing what you can change, and make peace with what you can't. The concept of "surrender," which is the first step in 12-step programs, can be helpful as you recognize areas that are not in your control.
  4. Take decisive action. When confronted with an adverse situation, take decisive action as soon as possible, instead of detaching from the situation, avoiding it, or denying that it's a problem.
  5. Keep moving toward your goals. Develop realistic goals, and perform goal-oriented tasks regularly — even if you're only taking one small baby step at a time. (As any parent will tell you, babies eventually get where they're going, once they've made up their minds!) Don't try to tackle too much. Ask yourself: "What's one thing I know I can accomplish today that moves me closer to achieving my goal?"
  6. Seek opportunities for self-discovery. In times of adversity or loss, we learn something about ourselves, and there's usually an opportunity for growth. Going through tragedy and hardship can strengthen our relationships, increase insight and our sense of self-worth, and allow us to walk away from the experience with a heightened appreciation for life. Many people talk about the joy they experience when they're able to share what they've learned during hard times to help other people. Having the perspective that life's challenges help us grow and can help others endows you with a more positive outlook.
  7. Nurture a positive view of yourself. When you solve a problem, take a moment to congratulate and reward yourself, and do the same for others in your life. Part of building resilience is developing confidence in your ability to solve problems, and learning to trust your instincts. Keep the problem in perspective. Even when you're facing painful events, try to view the stressful situation in a broader context. Take a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing any single event out of proportion.
  8. Maintain a hopeful outlook. Very often in life, we get exactly what we expect to get! An optimistic outlook means that you will begin to expect good things to happen in your life. And guess what? You'll attract more good things into your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.
  9. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Exercise regularly. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Taking care of yourself helps keep your mind and body recharged and ready to deal with situations that will require resilience.
  10. Identify strategies that strengthen your own personal resilience. Resilience strategies vary from person to person, so it's important to be aware of what works for you. For example, it may help you to write your deepest thoughts and feelings in a journal, particularly thoughts that are related to stressful events in your life. You may find that meditation and spiritual exercises will help you get plugged in, build connections and renew hope and optimism.

If you feel overwhelmed by stress, please feel free to contact me at 408.250.2166 or


©2009 Maria Lloyd, LMFT MFC38399. All worldwide rights reserved.
Maria Lloyd is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist located in the Silicon Valley area— San Jose / Santa Clara County, California. Maria provides individual counseling for women for: depression and stress management, post-partum depression, anxiety and panic disorders, bipolar disorder, interpersonal relationship issues, self and identity issues, co-dependency, anger management, and managing grief and loss.