Practical tips for improving resilience

Find out how resilient you are and how to train your inner strengths.


Nicole Koch

Each and every one of us experiences stressful situations and challenging times. Yet while many people go to pieces, others emerge from a crisis even stronger. Why is that? When things get difficult, inner strength is called upon: it's a quality also known as resilience. And its strength varies enormously from person to person.  

What does resilience mean?

The term originates from materials science and describes the ability of a material to return to its original shape after being bent or moulded. In psychology, resilience means the ability to work through challenges with inner strength ad flexibility, while not only keeping physical and mental health intact, but also experiencing inner growth as a result.

How does resilience help us?

First, the good news: every one of us has a certain degree of resilience, which we can consciously strengthen. To do this, you require patience, perseverance, determination and focus. Being resilient – or mentally tough – is not something you can change overnight. Yet it’s worth persevering, as by improving your resilience, you will increase your well-being. You’ll display less tension or physical reactions to mentally stressful situations. Resilience also helps you to actively plan your thoughts and actions. This will make you less anxious and able to see new courses of action: you’ll be generally more open to change in your private and professional life.  

How can we train our resilience?

The following tips and exercises will help you learn how to develop and strengthen the seven keys to resilience:

Acceptance is the ability to take on board past and current events and to resign yourself to things you cannot change.

Encouraging thoughts might include:

  • I consistently focus on possible solutions and don't waste my energy on complaining about things that I can’t change.
  • I accept that pressure, defeat, conflict, misfortune and sorrow are all part of life.

Exercise: Start by accepting yourself. Think about what you don’t like about yourself. This might be a physical feature or a behaviour pattern. Which aspects of it can you accept? Allow yourself to be imperfect and also to accept your weaknesses. Mindfulness can also help you to achieve acceptance. Helpful mindfulness exercises can be found in the Helsana Coach app.  

Having a positive inner attitude means adopting a favourable view of the world, things, people and yourself.

Encouraging thoughts might include:

  • I can see good in every situation and can make the best of everything
  • I am optimistic about my future.

Exercise: Recognition and thankfulness boost your resilience. Keep a thankfulness diary. This will help you to focus every day on the positive things in your life, and to give them more space. Every morning, write down three things for which you are thankful, and every evening three experiences or encounters that you particularly enjoyed. 

Self-efficacy means being convinced of your own skills and being able to make an impact.

Encouraging thoughts might include:

  • Problems are challenges, and I believe that I can do anything that I set my mind to.
  • I’m always ready to try something new, even if it seems difficult at first.

Exercise: If you know, use and train your own strengths, you’ll constantly gain more confidence in your own abilities and will thus learn self-efficacy. Make a note of your strengths and focus on them when you are uncertain. What can I do well? What makes me special? Alternatively, you can also ask friends what they particularly appreciate about you.

Network orientation is the ability to build, maintain and nurture strong relationships in your own environment.

Encouraging thoughts might include:

  • I trust others and count on their support.
  • I have a network of contacts, in which people give each other advice and support.

Exercise: Your social contacts (family, friends, work colleagues, clubs, etc.) are important sources of inner strength. Analyse your network and write down all the people  on whom you can depend.  Who do I share my joys and sorrows with? Who gives me support and energy? Actively nurture these relationships, as conscious listening and empathy will give you additional strength.

Taking responsibility means recognising the part you play in situations and events.

Encouraging thoughts might include:

  • I’m leaving the role of victim and am taking responsibility for what I experience and feel.
  • I accept my strengths and weaknesses and respect my needs and boundaries.

Exercise: Reflect on your own behaviour and actions regularly and don’t always put the blame on others. Look at a difficult situation from a different viewpoint and try to learn from every challenge. Communicate your boundaries and see what it feels like to say no. 

Focusing on solutions means choosing the course of action that is good for you and helps you move on.

Encouraging thoughts might include:

  • I get on with things instead of wallowing in inactivity and negative thoughts.
  • I seek out and use even the tiniest scope for negotiation.

Exercise: Even if the circumstances can’t be changed, there are always still factors that you can influence yourself. And you can only do that by thinking about the situation. Always orient your viewpoint towards the scope you have for negotiation. Find solutions and concentrate on things that work well, instead of analysing problems and their causes.

A forward-looking approach requires you to resist short-term impulses in favour of longer-term goals.

Encouraging thoughts might include:

  • I set clear and realistic goals and plan my future accordingly.
  • I am so strongly motivated by my goals that I don't lose sight of them even when things get difficult.

Exercise: Take a good look at your short, medium and long-term goals. Your goals should be SMART (S = Specific, M = Measurable, A = Acceptable, R = Realistic, T = Time-based). What do I wish to achieve? What does my ideal future look like? So that you can respond to situations appropriately – and therefore resiliently – you need medium-term goals for orientation.

How resilient am I?

Are you already a resilience expert, or is there still room for improvement? Do the self-test.


When the next challenge comes along:

  • Focus on your strengths.
  • Ask for help if you need it.
  • Create a feel-good oasis for yourself, either in real life or in your mind, and visit it regularly.
  • Act in the knowledge that all things must pass – including this challenge.

Source: Book “Resilienz – 7 Schlüssel für mehr innere Stärke”, Prof. Dr. Jutta Heller, 5th edition 2015 “Resilience – seven keys for greater inner strength”

Evelyne Dürr, health management expert Evelyne Dürr, health management expert

Evelyne Dürr, health management expert

Evelyne Dürr (Msc in Human Movement Sciences, ETH; CAS workplace health promotion) joined Helsana in 2014. As a health management specialist, she helps customers engage with prevention and health promotion. Evelyne Dürr gave the editorial team advice and input for this article.


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