Practical tips for improving resilience

Resilience refers to your inner strength. Find out how resilient you currently are and which tips and exercises can improve your resilience.

04.01.2021

Lara Brunner

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. Every one of us has a certain degree of resilience which we can consciously strengthen. To do this, you require patience, determination and focus. Keep at it and use our tips to strengthen your mental immune system – it’s the best way to protect your health from head to toe.

Become more mindful with Helsana Coach

You can boost your well-being with simple mindfulness exercises. In the Helsana Coach app, you’ll find tips and exercises to enhance motivation, concentration and relaxation.

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?

In our fast-paced world, changes and challenging situations are an everyday reality. Resilient people find it easier to deal with new circumstances. This ability impacts your overall 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.  

Surviving the coronavirus crisis with resilience

The current situation is playing on our minds. Isolation and negative emotions such as fear and anxiety increase mental strain. This can have a negative effect on your well-being.   Set aside time to boost your resilience. It will help you handle this mentally stressful situation.

First aid in stressful situations

Try to find your inner balance. You can do this by dealing with your feelings and by trying to accept them. With internal resistance, certain cerebral regions are no longer available for constructive solutions. Can the current stressors be influenced at all? There are also external stressors caused by society that you, as an individual, can’t really change. So concentrate on your internal stressors. Try to see the positive effects of the challenge, and imagine what behaviour could best help you to benefit from it. Act in the knowledge that all things must pass – including this challenge.

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.

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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