It is a reality of life that we are often faced with challenges and difficult circumstances – grief, major life transitions, financial hardship, family and relationship issues, school or job struggles, and physical/mental health concerns. Research shows that most people will experience a traumatic event in their life; in fact, Boston University (2018) cited a general survey conducted in 24 countries in which more than 70 percent of respondents reported having experienced a traumatic event. Stress and challenges vary for every person, but no one is immune to experiencing tough times. So how do we make it through these hardships? The key is building resilience.

What is Resilience?

Resilience is the ability to adapt to setbacks and adversity. It is often a process we go through and build, rather than a concrete trait that we are born with.

How To Build Resilience

Now that we know that resilience is important, how do we go about building resilience? Below are a few tips:

Get Connected

Utilize support in your life through building strong relationships with friends, family, or your community. Positive support systems are key in maintaining good mental and physical health. An article by Counseling Today (2022) highlighted the importance of a positive support system – particularly in children – when they wrote “a resilient child will have at least one continuous, resilient interpersonal relationship with a parent, caregiver, close relative or even friend.”

Find What Makes Your Life Meaningful

Do things that bring you satisfaction and fulfillment, whether it be spending time with loved ones, hobbies/sports, involvement in the community, work, traveling, practicing spirituality, or something else. Set SMART goals for yourself (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-oriented). An example for someone who wants to improve their physical and mental health through exercise might be, “I will go to the gym three times a week for the next two months”.

Reflect and Learn From Experiences

Remember how you have made it through difficult times before. Reflect on this and how you can utilize the positive strategies and coping skills you used. Consider keeping a journal to track positive and negative strategies you used previously. Discuss ideas with a close friend, family member, and/or a therapist.

Self Care

Attend to your own needs and wants. It is a valuable quality to care for others, but ensure you do not neglect your own needs:

  • Participate in hobbies you enjoy
  • Get adequate and healthy sleep
  • Consume nutritional foods
  • Practice relaxation through meditation, yoga, prayer, nature, music, etc.
  • Don’t forget to take much needed breaks!

Take Charge

It takes practice and work to build resilience and to navigate the rough waves of life’s setbacks. Don’t ignore the problem, but instead, be active in solving it. Be patient with yourself and remember that it is normal to feel negative emotions during difficult times. With this in mind, begin to create a plan and set goals to utilize your inner strength along with external motivators and resources to be an even more resilient version of yourself.

Seek Professional Help

The American Psychological Association (2012) stated that research demonstrates the effectiveness of psychotherapy and how it improves long-term health outcomes, but it is also reported that therapy is generally underutilized by people. Many people do not utilize professional mental health services due to limited knowledge of mental health, social stigma and embarrassment, difficulty trusting a new person, and financial barriers and accessibility to services. The job of a counselor is not to instruct you on what to do with your life or to judge or criticize you. A counselor provides a trusting and confidential environment to discuss a variety of life’s challenges and guides you in utilizing your own inner resources to grow and adapt.

Challenging times are inherent to life, but resilience is something we can all actively build and improve. Remember to be kind and patient with yourself, and allow yourself to feel the pain that comes with adversity. Don’t ignore it; instead, utilize your strength and resources to adapt and overcome. Resilience is like building stronger muscles. Working out results in pain and breaking down of the muscles, which is difficult, but leads to strength and toughness over time. We all get hurt and experience pain, but we can become stronger and be resilient. Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and founder of the therapeutic approach of Logotherapy, once said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”

If you are going through a challenging time or need the support of a counselor to help you build resilience, our Alabama counseling team is here to help. Contact us today at (256) 239-5662.

To read more on caring for your health during challenging times, check out these articles:

This article was written by Lee Thompson, MS, ALC, NCC under the supervision of Leah Simmons (#3334), a mental health professional at Garrett Counseling in Boaz, AL.


American Psychological Association. (2012). Research shows psychotherapy is effective but underutilized. American Psychological Association. Retrieved November 7, 2022, from

Counseling Today. (2022) Building resilience in children after a pandemic. Counseling Today. Retrieved December 13th, 2022, from

Galea, S. (2018, July 13). Trauma and its aftermath. Boston University School of Public Health. Retrieved November 7, 2022, from

Kolovou, T. (n.d.). Building Resilience. University of New South Wales. Retrieved November 7, 2022, from

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, July 14). How to build resiliency. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 7, 2022, from

Ozbay, F., Johnson, D. C., Dimoulas, E., Morgan, C. A., Charney, D., & Southwick, S. (2007). Social support and resilience to stress: from neurobiology to clinical practice. Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township)), 4(5), 35–40.

Radez, J., Reardon, T., Creswell, C. et al. Why do children and adolescents (not) seek and access professional help for their mental health problems? A systematic review of quantitative and qualitative studies. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 30, 183–211 (2021).