What is resilience?

Resilience is a measure of someone’s capacity to withstand experiences that might cause stress.

Whilst some individuals may seem more resilient than others, resilience is a trait we all have. We can also all learn to be more resilient.

A realistic mindset and a mix of values, beliefs, strategies and techniques can help us avoid stress and mental ill-health and improve our personal performance.

300 heart patients were psychologically assessed following surgery.  Factors that most predicted recovery were high self-esteem and optimism.  Those patients with these factors were 3 times more likely to survive than those with lower scores.  (Helgeson and Fritz, 1999)

Resilient people:

  • Build and use support networks - friends, family and colleagues.
  • Find the meaning in negative experiences, rather than only feel angry or helpless
  • Believe in themselves – that they are effective, have some control over events, and do matter
  • Create meaningful goals
  • Face difficulties rather than use denial and avoidance
  • Take regular exercise

What can I do to improve my own resilience?

  1. Make connections. Good relationships with work colleagues, close family members, friends or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you, strengthens resilience.
  2. Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. Try looking beyond the present to how future circumstances may be a little better. Recognise that perceptions and the way we think about challenges drives feelings, not the situation.
  3. Accept that change is a part of living. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on the circumstances that can.
  4. Move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, "What is one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?".
  5. Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would go away.
  6. Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and find they have grown in some respect as a result of a struggle.
  7. Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps to build resilience. Step into your successes and acknowledge what you have done well.
  8. Keep things in perspective. Avoid blowing a stressful event out of proportion. Look at it in a broader context. Subject issues of concern to the chip paper test – will what is worrying you still be important tomorrow, in 3 months, in 6 months? How important really is it?
  9. Maintain a hopeful outlook. Being optimistic enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualising what you want and not worrying about what you fear.
  10. Manage boundaries between work and home life. Find ways to ‘switch off’. Take regular breaks when at work. Eat lunch away from your desk.
  11. Exercise daily. Everyone knows that exercise is important for good physical health, but exercise is also important for good mental health too. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise, five days a week can help to promote good mental health.
  12. Be proactive. Take control and focus on what you can change rather than focusing on what you cannot.
  13. Acknowledge your feelings. Acknowledge your own feelings and express them appropriately. An easy way to say this is: feel it, name it, and express it. Practising mindfulness is one of many ways in which we can become more aware of our emotions.
  14. Sleep. Typically you need an average of eight hours sleep per day.


University resources to help you improve your resilience

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)

CBT is offered to staff following a referral to Occupational Health. These one-to-one sessions focus on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle. CBT aims to help you deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into smaller parts. 

SilverCloud (online CBT)

SilverCloud offers online CBT using clinically proven tools to help you reflect and develop strategies to improve your resilience. My Resilience Star is a questionnaire available to complete that will show what areas of resilience you are strong in and areas that may require development covering Purpose, Self, Connections, Body and Mind.


HealthHero, our telephone and online Employee Assistance Programme, are able to provide support, guidance and information to help you develop personal resilience.

Wellbeing Directory

Our Wellbeing Directory entry on Resilience has a range of resources to help build and boost your resilience. 

Other resilience resources available

  • Developing Career Resilience (Online Course) – This course, provided by the Open University, will help you to understand the factors that influence career resilience and offer examples and tactics for you to develop yours further. The course lasts eight weeks, with approximately three hours’ activities each week.
  • Developing Resilience – Advice from Mind on how to be more resilient.
  • Professional Resilience: Building Skills to Thrive at Work (Online Course) – On this free online course provided by Future Learn from Deakin University, you’ll learn the meaning of resilience. You’ll explore the capabilities, skills, and self-care practices that contribute to resilience to build up your own resilience so you’re ready to meet challenges both professionally and personally. The course is for two weeks with around 3 hours of study per week.
  • Robertson Cooper's i-resilience tool – This personality-based questionnaire enables you to receive a personalised i-resilience report. Robertson Cooper are a company that promotes employee wellbeing in the public sector, and many Universities have worked with them. The feedback will tell you how your personality is likely to influence your personal resilience (coping with and bouncing back from setbacks) both generally and in a range of workplace situations. Your report is completely confidential to you and you will not be asked to share any of the detail with anyone else.
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Telephone: 01206 872399