Mental Health Awareness Week: Building resilience – Bringing your best to your personal and professional life

Did you know that your resilience – or ability to “bounce back” when life hands you lemons – can make a big difference to your mental health? The great news is that resilience is a skill that can be learned and refined.

While there’s no “secret formula” for handling challenging situations, resilience isn’t just a matter of luck or genetics. Even if you don’t think of yourself as particularly resilient, you can train yourself to be a person who can bounce back.

Here are four research based things resilient people do that you can practice too:

  1. Be more self-aware, practice self-talk. 
    • Are you a positive thinker or a catastrophic thinker? Optimistic thoughts can lead you to an optimistic, often more realistic approach. It can be hard in the midst of bad news or frustration to find gratitude. When you have negative thoughts, ask yourself if you have any basis for your worry or doubts; if not, or things are not as catastrophic as your original appraisal suggests, try to replace early thoughts with a positive alternative.
    • Try keeping a journal, or open a note on your smartphone, and write down three good things that happened to you each day.
  2. Nurture
    • Good relationships can potentially reduce health risks. Not socializing can do the opposite – isolation has been found (or can be) actually as bad for your health as smoking, high blood pressure or obesity! So it can really be worth investing time in good relationships.
    • Each week, schedule an activity that will build one of those good relationships. Find ways to make new connections too – perhaps through clubs, or by volunteering on committees or boards.
  3. Practice
    • Your lifestyle, exercise and nutrition habits can build physical strength and resilience. Exercise can improve a mood. Your food choices can not only affect your physical health, but your mental health too. One study even showed that a poor diet led to a 60% higher likelihood of depression.
    • Set goals for yourself. These goals don’t have to be big or overwhelming. They might include fitness (walking 10,000 steps a day), or nutrition (packing a bag lunch two days a week). 
  4. Set 
    • Setting boundaries can help you focus on what you can control, and accept the things you cannot control. The boundaries that you set between your work and personal life will likely be different from others around you. Some prefer a highly integrated model where work and personal time frequently overlap, and others prefer a more segmented model, where there is rarely overlap. Research suggests that while it is important to determine what your boundaries are, it is equally or more important that you feel in control of them.
    • With technology, the lines between work and home can be blurry. To help set your boundaries, decide when you will be available digitally outside of your work hours – and stick to it. Decide for yourself where your own boundaries lie – otherwise, you give up control over your time, feel helpless, and can burn out. 

Being resilient enough to bounce back from misfortune is a skill – but one worth practicing. It can help you manage negativity, overcome obstacles, accept what you cannot change, and protect your mental and physical health. With practice, you may be able to develop (or enhance) your resilience and be better equipped to cope with demanding situations.