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By: Annabelle Shaffer, BS, Master’s candidate in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

What is resilience?

We often think of resilience as our ability to tough it out through a bad situation alone.1 But, resilience is much more. It is a skill we consciously work to build and it allows us to adapt to undesired situations, such as workplace stressors or the death of a loved one.2 Having resilience also means we don’t attempt to face all of life’s’ challenges on our own, rather, we reach out to friends, family, and professionals for support. 

Resilience is great, how do we build it?

Research shows that resilience is associated with optimism, self-confidence, humor, adaptability, self-esteem, hope, and flexibility.3 Several strategies to build personal resilience have been identified and relate to building and maintaining personal relationships, self-care, and maintaining a positive outlook on one’s professional and personal life.

  • Building and maintain personal relationships1, 2
    • Seek out opportunities to meet new people, such as faith groups, volunteering, or exercise clubs
    • Keep in touch with close friends via electronics or in-person meetings
    • Remain close with family members and help one another whenever possible
  • Self-care1, 2
    • Take care of yourself first by eating healthy, participating in hobbies and regular physical activity, and getting plenty of sleep
    • View yourself in a positive light and talk to yourself with care
    • Take time to yourself for relaxation
  • Maintaining a positive outlook on one’s professional and personal life1,2
    • Accept that change is a part of living and look for the positives in each change
    • Be proactive in resolving challenges: create plans to resolve challenges and seek help when needed
    • Move towards your personal and professional goals: always set realistic and achievable goals. Use the SMART goal method4 to ensure you can reach your goals:
      • Specific: Do you know exactly what you are working to achieve?
      • Measurable: Can you consistently measure your progress?
      • Attainable: Do you have the necessary tools, time, and resources to reach your goal?
      • Realistic: Based on where you are at currently, can you actually achieve this goal?
      • Timely: Do you have a starting and ending date? Mark it on your calendar!

Regardless of where we are in life, we can all make small changes and set goals to build our resilience. Changes may be as simple as calling a friend or as complex as developing a new skill.


  1. How to build resiliency. Mayo Clinic. Published 2019. Accessed June 26, 2019.
  2. The road to resilience. Published 2019. Accessed June 26, 2019.
  3. Saletnik L. Building Personal Resilience. AORN J. 2018;107(2):175-178. doi:10.1002/aorn.12067
  4. Underferth D. When setting diet and exercise goals, be SMART. MD Anderson Cancer Center. Published 2019. Accessed June 26, 2019.

Photo by Pixabay.