What is resilience?

A common term used in relation to stress competence, stress management, burnout prevention and positive psychology is resilience. Resilience is understood as the resilience of the soul.

It is attributed a variety of positive qualities. But what if you’re not feeling particularly “resilient”? The good thing is: resilience can be learned!

Resilience – the definition

The resilience of the soul, but what exactly does it mean??? Psychology Today magazine describes resilience as follows:

“Resilience is that indescribable quality that enables some people to be knocked down by life and come out stronger. Instead of letting failure overwhelm them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise again from the ashes.

In short, resilience can be defined as the ability – and tendency – to “get back up again”

Getting back up means being able to deal with defeat, disappointment, stress and failure. This means you will be confronted with it, but don’t let it get you down. But you learn from it, reflect on yourself and move on.

Resilience can also be defined as follows: As the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threat, or significant sources of stress. This definition is also used by the American Psychological Association.

Resilience and mental robustness – is there a difference?

Aside from the term getting back on your feet, there are many similar concepts mentioned in conjunction with resilience. One of these concepts is mental toughness.

Mental strength is a trait that determines how we handle stress, pressure and challenges – Regardless of the circumstances. Mental strength consists of resilience and optimism. Partly also out of self-confidence and a penchant for challenges. People with high mental strength are able to tackle anything that comes their way.

Their focus is on the experience as well as what they can learn and gain.

And it is at this point that the difference becomes clear:

Resilience is the ability to recover from setbacks.

Mental strength, on the other hand, can help avoid a setback from the start.

In the words of British author Doug Strycharczyk:

“All mentally strong people are resilient, but not all resilient people are mentally strong” (2015).

If you are mentally resilient, you are not only able to get back on your feet. You also see difficulties as a challenge, which you gladly accept in order to grow.

Resilience a rare phenomenon?

When people think of resilience, they often think this is reserved for top athletes, top managers or the Elon Musks of this world. However, resilience is surprisingly common.

An article published by the American Psychological Association states as follows:

“Research has shown that resilience is something ordinary, not extraordinary. People often show resilience.”

So resilience does not mean floating over life’s challenges with ease. Everything, to get through unscathed and without effort.

Resilience means being able to withstand loads, challenges and stressful situations while remaining optimistic and capable.

So if you’ve never faced disappointment and defeat, you can’t learn to deal with it. As a result, you don’t build resilience down the road.

Since each of us has experienced a defeat or two, I think we are all resilient.

What is resilience?

What does showing resilience look like?

Again, I refer to the American Psychological Association, abbreviated APA.

They describe a number of factors that contribute to resilience:

The ability to make realistic plans and take action to execute them.

A positive self-assessment and confidence in your own strengths and abilities.

Communication and problem solving skills.

The ability to deal with strong feelings and impulses

Glenn Schiraldi an author and resilience expert describes other characteristics of resilient people. He attributed these qualities and abilities to resistant individuals:

Sense of autonomy (appropriate separation or independence from family dysfunction; self-reliance; determination to be different – perhaps leaving an abusive home; self-protection; goals to build a better life).

Serenity under pressure (equanimity, the ability to regulate stress levels).

Rational thought process



Happiness and emotional intelligence

Meaning and purpose (the belief that one’s life is important).


Altruism (learned helpfulness), love and compassion

Why is resilience so important?

Higher resilience leads to better learning and academic performance already in childhood and young adulthood.

Resilience also has advantages at work. The more resilient a person is, the lower the number of sick days. It also helps reduce behaviors such as excessive smoking, drinking, or drug use.

Resilience has a strong impact on our health and vice versa.

Resilience research suggests that resilience leads to more positive health outcomes:

Experiencing more positive emotions and better regulation of negative emotions.

fewer depressive symptoms

Greater stress resistance

Better stress management through improved problem solving, positive orientation, and reassessment of stressors.

More successful aging and improved well-being despite age-related challenges.

Resilience is also said to strengthen the immune system.

Learning resilience:

As already indicated at the beginning, resilience can be learned. There is a genetic component to your basic resilience. Nevertheless, it can be learned. That is why it is also called learned resilience.

It is the result of focused efforts and your awareness of being able to develop yourself.

Several options are listed below.

The author of the book VeryWell Mind Kendra Cherry writes about this (quote):

” Find a purpose in your life that will give you a boost on difficult days.

Build a positive belief in your abilities to boost your self-esteem.

Build a strong social network of people who can support you and in whom you can confide.

Accept change as inevitable and be prepared for it.

Be optimistic – you don’t need to ignore your problems, just understand that everything is temporary and that you have what it takes to get through it.

Nurture yourself with healthy, positive self-care – get enough sleep, eat well and exercise.

Develop your problem-solving skills by, for example, making a list of possible solutions to your current problem.

Set reasonable goals by brainstorming solutions and breaking them down into manageable steps.

Take action to solve problems rather than waiting for the problem to solve itself.

And remember, keep working on your skills and don’t get discouraged if it takes a while to reach the level of resilience you want (Cherry, 2018).”

From Kira M. Newman of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley (citation):

Change the narrative by no longer writing about the problem or choosing to focus on the positive.

Face your fears and challenge yourself; expose yourself to things that scare you in larger and larger doses.

Practice self-compassion; try to be mindful, remind yourself that you are not alone, and be kind to yourself.

Meditate and practice mindfulness; the Body Scan is a great way to work on your meditation and mindfulness skills.

Cultivate forgiveness by letting go of resentment and letting yourself off the hook (2016).

Dr. Carine Nzodom:

Allow yourself to feel a wide range of emotions.

Locate your support system and let it be there for you.

Process your feelings with the help of a therapist.

Pay attention to your well-being and self-care.

Get plenty of rest or try to get enough sleep.

Try to maintain a routine.

Write about your experience and share it with others (2017).

Was ist Resilienz

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