Resilience is the ability to successfully navigate through, or overcome, adversity or challenging situations in life.
A person’s level of resilience can change as they adjust to the pressures and challenges they are faced with in life. Everyone can be resilient, but it can take care and practice to develop and strengthen it. Resilience is a learned skill, it’s not something you are born with.
Characteristics of resilient people
Resilient people have common characteristics that make them resilient. If we can learn to develop these characteristics in ourselves, it can help us feel more equipped mentally to deal with challenges that come our way.
Some of these common characteristics are:
- They are mindful and aware
- They can reflect and learn
- They are empathetic
- They are grateful
- They can ask for help
Practical tips on how you can start building resilience
You can develop these characteristics by practising skills every day to help you build them.
When you block your emotions because they are overwhelming or conflicting it tends to cause stress on the mind and body and can make those feelings stronger. It can be helpful to acknowledge the feelings and thoughts you are having and not “beat yourself up” about them. Sometimes this asks us to embrace a new level of honesty, stopping and simply saying or writing down what we’re feeling. Saying internally “I am noticing a lump in my throat, I am feeling rejected and disappointed”. Once you’ve acknowledged what’s happening in your heart, mind and body, then ask yourself, “What do I need right now?”
Start practising noticing how you feel at any given moment to start learning how to recognise how your thoughts and feelings interact with each other.
For survival, our brains have been programmed to consider worst-case scenarios and always be on the lookout for the negatives. This has helped us stay safe as a species back in the day. However, constantly looking for the negatives can be hard on our mood. By training our brains to scan for the positives, we can rewire our brain and shift our outlook on life.
At the end of each day, ask yourself “What are three things that went well for me today?”. Keep them specific to things you did on that particular day, such ‘my peace lily bloomed’, ‘I wrote 100 words on an assignment’, ‘I had a meaningful conversation with a friend’.
When we empathise with others, we see things from their perspective. Doing this allows us to act compassionately, build deep connections with others and build our own emotional intelligence. Importantly, helping others make us feel good by releasing oxytocin (a chemical that makes us feel happy) in our brains.
Start thinking about others and how you can help them, even if in very small ways like making a loved one a cup of tea or making them a small gift. Observe how it makes both them and yourself feel.
Practising mindfulness is about bringing focus to the current moment. The aim is not to stop thinking, but to bring your attention to one specific thing (such as the breath, or sounds you can hear). Doing this for 5 minutes a day decreases stress and increases focus. A useful tool when trying to block out distractions and concentrate on study!
Use your 5 senses to bring your attention to the present moment. Pick one sense and focus on that for 2 minutes. For example, you might pick touch. Notice your body in the chair you are sitting in, notice the parts of your body that meet the chair, notice how your clothes rest against your skin, notice what your hands are touching, notice your feet in your shoes. Try this with each of the senses.
Resilient people know who their support systems are and they use them when they need them. The science around having strong social relationships is huge but essentially having someone you can turn to or even who you know is there for you, has strong impacts on our minds and bodies, lowering stress and regulating hormones.
Think of three people who you know you can turn to if you need help. If you don’t have someone you can talk to, speak to one of the Wellbeing Mentors at the Health and Wellbeing Centre.
Alternatively, think about someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Can you give them a call and see if they’re doing ok?
- Health and Wellbeing Centre: Call or drop-in to the Health & Wellbeing Centre located at Peribolos East Ground Floor (PE101), Bundoora Campus, which operates Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm. The Health & Wellbeing Mentors are available to offer drop-in sessions, provide information on accessing supports within the university including mental health, counselling, accessibility support and learning plans.
- Emergency: In an emergency ring 000 and then security 9479 2222
- Use our La Trobe University Crisis Line for Out-of-Hours Mental Health and Wellbeing Support. Phone 1300 146 307 or text 0488 884 100. This service operates 5pm-9am on weekdays and 24 hours during weekends and public holidays.
- TRP App - The Resilience Project - daily wellbeing journal aimed to develop emotional literacy, engage with the positive things in life and be actively present.
- Acknowledging thoughts and feelings - The Observing-Self - Youtube
- Gratitude - The 90 Day Gratitude Journal
- Mindfulness - Five Senses - YouTube
- The desk: a free online program aimed at providing Australian tertiary students with strategies and skills for success and wellbeing during their time at university or TAFE