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From physics (where it means a body’s flexible resistance) to psychology, resilience is a human being’s reactive ability, composed of external and internal factors, to enable effective adaptation and competent action during stressful life events.

What form does this take? On the one hand, it can happen with resistance. Consider, for example, a large tree protected by its strong, deep-rooted roots and thick bark from the dangers of a storm - in which case a stressful event cannot ‘move’ a person in any direction, it can function consistently at the same level. On the other hand, we can talk about recovery, that is, the person facing the stressful situation temporarily ‘bends’ (with that avoiding ‘breaking’), but after the stressful situation he / she is able to return to his / her previous functioning. Contemplating the former tree-likeness here, we can think of a tree that bends in a storm, but when the storm is over, it returns to its original position and continues growing. The third form of resilience is rethinking, when a person is able to rethink and change their thoughts and feelings as a result of stress. In tree analogy, it would be a tree that not only bends in the storm but changes its shape and direction of growth in response to the wind.

What are the components of resilience? It is most obvious to distinguish between individual (internal) and environmental (external) factors.

Individual factors that, based on many psychological researches, play a role in a person's flexible coping: friendliness, openness, toughness, extraversion, gratitude, hope, spirituality, cognitive flexibility, optimism, attachment ability, self-discipline, self-efficacy, good self-esteem, and ability for adaptively regulated emotions. In a different way, each of these custom features can be improved (you can find articles about many of these custom features in our previous blog posts).

Environmental (ie external) factors can be divided into two major groups. At the micro level, we are talking about social support, family stability, and safe relationships with parents, whilst at the macro level we find good school, the widest range of services available (including sports, spiritual and religious trainings) and a variety of cultural factors that stabilize an individual's life. These external factors are more difficult for the individual to control, but we should not underestimate our own personal role in shaping our environment.

Here are some useful and simple exercises to improve resilience:

  • keeping a gratitude diary: Recall 5 big and 5 small things (person, creature, object, event, concept, etc ...) every day for which you are grateful. Write it down in a booklet and read it during a stressful period. This exercise helps to raise awareness of your existing resources, which you can rely on in difficult times, and develops an optimistic attitude.
  • mindfulness-meditation: The benefits of mindfulness-based relaxations and meditations are that they are easy to do and help you to experience the exact moment, avoiding anxiety caused by the past or by the future (for example:
  • energy carrier task: Draw a barrel and mark it with your current energy level (100% full barrel and 50% half full, etc..). Draw an introductory tap on the right side and write down all the activities, events that 'charge' your energy carrier. Then draw a drain tap on the other side and collect all the activities and events that 'empty' the barrel, that is, lower your energy level. Think about of the two lists and try to do as many things as possible on the right and give as little space as possible on the left.

Finally, staying with the image of a tree we already know: As the tree adapts to the storms that hit it and endures difficult times, we are able to develop our self-knowledge to find our resources and thus face challenges more effectively.