Understanding and Cultivating Resilience

By Hannah Rogawski, LMSW

Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell and got back up again.”  - Nelson Mandela

You may not think you have resilience. You might not even be sure what resilience really means. The APA defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplaces and financial stressors. It means bouncing back from difficult experiences.”

With that definition in mind, we can understand resilience not as the absence of struggle, distress, or suffering, but the ability to struggle with life’s challenges and survive. The ability to adapt. The good news is that resilience is not a fixed trait that you’re either born with or without, resilience is something you can learn. Like any skill, the more you practice, the stronger it gets.

According to the APA, there are ten ways to build and strengthen your resilience.

  1. Make connections. Build your social support network. Accept help from friends, family, and community.

  2. Avoid the tendency to see crises as impossible problems. One of the givens of life is that there will be stress and there will be suffering. Instead of trying to change the fact that stressful events will happen, focus on changing your reaction and interpretation of those events. Try zooming out and putting things in perspective as a way to help yourself deal with painful events.

  3. Accept that change is a part of life.  Everything changes. Accepting this fact and not fighting it opens up space to focus on other things.

  4. Move towards your goals. Work on developing realistic, attainable goals. You can do this individually or with the help of a therapist or friend.

  5. Take action. Take specific and decisive actions that will help you face your challenges

  6. Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn about themselves as they struggle through life’s challenges.

  7. Nurture a positive view of yourself. Working on positive self talk and developing self-love and self-compassion helps build resilience.

  8. Keep things in perspective. Even when the pain seems overwhelming, try not to blow the event out of proportion. A helpful tool can be asking yourself, “Will this matter in one hour from now? In one week? In one month? In one year? “

  9. Maintain a hopeful outlook. Optimism and a positive outlook increases happiness and well being. Practicing gratitude and visualization of the future can help build a positive outlook.

  10. Take care of yourself. SELF CARE!! Whether this is in the form of a bubble bath, a night out with friends, or curling up with a cup of hot chocolate and watching Netflix, pay attention to what makes you feel better and do those activities.


Building resilience is an ongoing process. These ten basic strategies to improve and foster resilience can be done on your own, in a group or with a therapist.

Source: https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience

Hannah Rogawski is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy LCSW. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.

Hannah Rogawski is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you are looking for support in finding solutions to enhance your overall wellness, contact Cobb Psychotherapy by calling 718-260-6042 or emailing reception@cobbpsychotherapy.com, and see how therapy can help.

Elizabeth Cobb