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How to Build Your Resilience

Resilient people and teams are adaptable, flexible, collaborative, and innovative. Since resilience is a state of being that can change depending on your environment and your actions, you can build and maintain your resilience by incorporating these five resilience factors into your life.

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Resilience is the capacity to adapt successfully in the presence of risk and adversity and to bounce back, or forward, from setbacks, trauma, and high stress. Resilient people and teams are more adaptable, flexible, collaborative, and innovative.

Resilience is a state of being that can change depending on your environment and your actions.

When I ran the U.S. Department of State’s Center of Excellence in Foreign Affairs Resilience, we identified five factors that can help you build and maintain your resilience. Intentionally enhancing these aspects of your life will bolster your capacity to handle challenges and thrive in adversity. 

Self-care. Daily physical activity, healthy eating, sufficient sleep, and taking time to recover from stress are essential for both short-term and long-term resilience. Study your daily and weekly routines and try to schedule the time you need to focus on each of these components. We often overlook the need to recover — which can be as simple as taking a walk in a park, meditating, or working on a jigsaw puzzle. If you have long workdays and overwhelming workloads, build in short breaks that allow time to recover from periods of high-intensity work.

Problem-solving. Your level of resilience directly correlates to your ability to maintain a sense of control, even over the smallest things. Spend time and mental energy on issues you can control and influence while letting go of things that are outside of your control (e.g., traffic). Set clear boundaries, communicate them to colleagues, friends, and family, and then use your boundaries to say “no” to requests that would otherwise overwhelm you. Ask “why” five times to get to the root of a problem. Ask for help when you need it.

Meaning and purpose. A person’s sense of meaning and purpose directly links to their resilience. Find ways to insert meaning and purpose into your life regularly. For some, meaning and purpose come from religion or family, while others engage in service projects, volunteer work, or hobbies. Be passionate about something. Be helpful to others.

Social support. In-person social interactions are essential to your well-being and resilience. The depth of individual relationships outweighs the number of connections one has. Nurture your friendships and family relationships and build support among your work colleagues. For my fellow introverts, resist the temptation when feeling down to isolate yourself and instead spend time with a close friend who won’t drain you of energy.

Positive outlook. Maintaining a positive outlook builds resilience. Consciously focus on what is going well in your life and, as necessary, positively re-frame the parts that aren’t going so well. Positive re-framing might require you to zoom your perspective in or out or look at an issue from a different angle. Spend time every day thinking about what you are grateful for and then express that gratitude to colleagues, friends, and family. Laugh often.

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