Building Resilience: A Framework for Dealing with Stress and Adversity Across the Lifespan

“Though studies of resilience could fill a library, researchers have identified a shortlist of pillars and processes common to people who have overcome a difficult start in life and are able to cope when life becomes challenging. Among the factors most relevant to personal resilience are four pillars (awareness and self-reflection; personal skills that strengthen one’s identity; control over one’s life and fair treatment by others; and physical and mental health that results from physical activity, proper nutrition and good sleep hygiene) and three processes (living in diverse communities with abundant social support; experiencing safe spaces and leisure activities; and daily practices that incudes personal routines and accessing health care when its needed).

The best way to grow resilience is to acquire as many of the pillars and processes as possible. An easy way to remember the ways we build resilience is to use the acronym GROW:
• Ground yourself in the situation.
• Recognize what you can control.
• Organize the resources you need.
• Work with your community for support

The Process of Building Resilience

  1. Acknowledge what you’re dealing with.
  2. Break down the problem.
  3. Determine what is in your control to change.
  4. Find helpful resources.
  5. Act.
  6. Persistence is key to growing resilience when our lives are plagued by adversity. Mobilize your action plans. Don’t be discouraged by failure as it provides new information and new resources to think about problems differently. When problems remain stuck at one level (e.g., a learning challenge; depression) consider addressing the problem by changing aspects of your life at another level (a child’s learning challenge can be tackled by coaching parents on how to help their child read; finding a network of social supports can prevent the social isolation that feeds adult depression). Connect with as many resources as possible. There is no shame asking for help when problems are complex.

  7. Reflect, grow and repeat.

White paper, Ungar M and the Resilience Research Centre Staff, Lustig S, Cigna Behavioral Research, 2020.9.22