Building Resilience in the Face of Mental Health Challenges

building resilience

The Role of Resilience in Mental Wellbeing

A guest blog by pmac

Resilience, by definition, is our ability to overcome and navigate stress and adversity. Resilience is not about a lack of stress or difficulties, but about being committed to finding ways to cope and to find a way through. It is linked to positive wellbeing, and mental health versus mental illness.

For individuals who are committed to being resilient, problems and challenges often serve as opportunities for growth. Whilst many people have heard of post-traumatic stress disorder, few have heard of post-traumatic growth – that is positive psychological changes that occur as a result of experiencing highly challenging or distressing situations or trauma. Post-traumatic growth occurs in resilient individuals, who are often committed to finding or creating meaning from their traumatic experiences, and to use them as motivation to better themselves.

Fortunately, resilience is not a personality trait that you are either born with or you aren’t. Resilience involves behaviours that anyone can practise and benefit from. Being open-minded and adaptable, focussing on elements you can control and accepting things outside of your control, being proactive in managing emotions, challenging unhelpful and distressing thoughts, are just a few examples of actions that help improve resilience.

It is also important to know that resilience is not about “going it alone”. Resilient individuals are more likely to seek and utilise the support of others and professionals during times of adversity.

Building resilience takes time, patience and self-awareness, and it doesn’t mean that life is always easy. However, it does mean that when challenges arise you believe in your ability to find your own way through it, resulting in better mental health, wellbeing and overall quality of life. Resilience training can help with learning tools and techniques to build resilience in your professional and day to day life.


Strategies for Building Resilience


Resilience is not a destination, but a journey that you commit to for yourself, to help YOU to decide how circumstances impact you and your life. Here, we will discuss just a few strategies for you to try.


  1. Improve Emotional Awareness: Emotions can make our perspective on a situation feel like facts, or else why would you be so impacted by it? Being able to recognise emotions as they grow can help us to manage them as they arise, when they feel less overwhelming. Naming your emotions out loud or in a journal can help you to recognise emotions. This is a mindful technique that may help you to stay present and avoid “spiralling”.


  1. Work on Problem-Solving Skills: During times of overwhelm, it can be difficult to problem-solve, which adds to our stress! Practising problem solving day-to-day and practising addressing problems as they arise can improve your problem-solving abilities and your confidence in your ability to do so.


  1. Practise Acceptance: Accepting challenging and distressing events that happen to us may seem counterintuitive. However, by accepting the situation exactly as it is opens up space for you to focus your energy on taking care of yourself and finding support and solutions, rather than staying “stuck” in your (understandable) distress.


  1. Stay Connected: Social support is key during adversity. Keeping in touch with family, friends or other sources of support can help us to feel a sense of purpose and belonging.


  1. Practise Self-Care: A good night’s sleep, a balanced diet, regular time outdoors and exercise can have a positive cumulative effect on our ability to navigate day-to-day challenges and improve our resilience.


Resilience won’t happen overnight, but with daily practice of the above strategies, you can begin to notice the difference.


Cultivating a Supportive Environment


In the face of challenge and overwhelm, we can overlook the role that our environment plays in our wellbeing. A calming, supportive environment can help us to feel accepted, understood, and help us to manage moments of distress. The people around us contribute to the environment, and a supportive environment that prioritises compassion, empathy and understanding can significantly improve resilience.


To create such an environment, open and honest discussions about mental health and wellbeing are necessary. Encouraging regular discussions and check-ins with regards to mental health helps to improve acceptance of our wellbeing fluctuating over time with different life events. This can help to normalise moments of difficulty, and to see them as transient, as opposed to internalising this overwhelm, and believing there is a problem with you.


Open access to resources that are visible and accessible can also help to create a supportive environment. Promoting information on strategies to improve mental health, or resources related to accessing professional support for example, all help to normalise resilient behaviours, and being proactive in prioritising your wellbeing.


Ultimately, a supportive environment is one that is accepting of everyone. It celebrates individual differences, promotes patience for others, acceptance and understanding. It recognises the need to be proactive in taking care of our mental health, and is encouraging of getting the support you need, when you need it.


When people feel validated, that they belong, that they are cared about; their wellbeing and self-esteem can improve. With this, can come the belief that you are worthy and deserving of a better life, and one where you aren’t defined by your struggles. This can help make a commitment to becoming more resilient feel possible, and help to nurture the changes that will create resilience.


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