Resilience: What is it? Why is it so important? And how can we become more resilient?

November 4th 2019, by Ellie Rozan

Note from the Editor: This is the first in hopefully a series of guest blog posts from other contributors. Guest posts bring a variety of experience and points of view on a new range of topics. Mental health is slowly starting to be more recognised and understood in both Engineering and in wider society and there is now a greater focus being put on mental health in the often macho field of construction. Therefore, I am very glad that the first guest blog post is on the subject of mental health. The Editor is grateful to Ellie for sharing her understanding on

Resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Everyone has experienced difficulties; it is a part of life and without them, you wouldn’t be the person you are today. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?” But what if, this wasn’t necessarily the case and in order to become “stronger”, we all need some form of resilience.

To be resilient can have many benefits. It can improve learning and academic achievement, it can lower the number of sick days you have from work, it can reduce risk-taking behaviours like excessive drinking or drugs and ultimately it can improve your physical health and lower the rate of mortality. Pretty great, huh? What might surprise you is there are also different types of resilience. These include:

  • Emotional Resilience: How we manage the emotional impact of stresses, difficulties and trauma in our lives.
  • Inherent Resilience: The natural resilience which we are born with; which protects us as we grow and helps us to explore the world and learn.
  • Adapted Resilience: This is the type of resilience we develop and learn throughout life as we deal with new challenges. It is learnt on the spot to help us manage stress and pain.
  • Learnt Resilience: Built over time, we draw on this type of resilience to get through stressful times. It is a resilience in which we develop mechanisms of managing and drawing on strength we didn’t know we had in times when we need it most.

So how do we become more resilient? Some of the most obvious ways to become more resilient are to look after yourself. This includes both your mental and physical health; doing things you enjoy to relax and/or are good at, exercising and eating well. In terms of your mental health, being kinder to yourself is, although sometimes easier said than done, also important.

It is with this point in mind (pun not intended), that I’d like to share an interesting method of building resilience with you. Have you heard of distorted thinking? Maybe you’ve experienced it or maybe you haven’t? Whatever may be the case, one thought to take from it is that this is having thoughts that are not true.

Here are the 7 types of distorted thinking:

  1. Mind Reading (“My boss doesn’t like me…”)
  2. Catastrophising (“Nothing will ever be right again”)
  3. Globalising (“All Mondays are awful”)
  4. Fortune Telling (“This is going to be the worst day ever”)
  5. All or Nothing (“I’ve had that chocolate, so my diet’s out the window, I might as well have that wine as well”)
  6. Strict Demands (“I can’t have any chocolate this week”)
  7. Labelling (“I’m an introvert so I couldn’t possibly do that”)

These are all types of negative and limiting ways of thinking that can overlap and often have a detrimental effect on how we think about ourselves and connect with others. By being more aware of these distorted and often intrusive thoughts and recognising them as “Fortune Telling” or “Catastrophising”, we can help break the cycle and over time, build our resilience.

What do I mean by the cycle? Well, I’m referring to CBT; Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It is our (distorted) thoughts, that can (negatively) influence our feelings and our behaviours, which can spiral to negatively impact our mental and physical health.

Interaction between Thoughts, Physical Sensations and our Behaviours

One way of breaking this cycle is to recognise these thoughts; taking a step back and asking ourselves “What’s going on here?” The best way to do this is also to look at the positive and negative in a situation, in other words, balanced thinking. By doing so, you are accepting what may not have gone well but also recognising what did, which can ultimately help to give you a more balanced and realistic view of the situation. It is this balanced way of thinking that can in fact reduce feelings of panic, anxiety and/or depression and over time, ultimately build your resilience, which will only make you “stronger” to cope with the next challenge life throws at you.

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