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Health and wellbeing: How to build resilience

Health and wellbeing: How to build resilience

By Peter Docherty

Health Wellbeing 


For teams working remotely it is critical to maintain a structure for regular communication and engagement.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has left many people feeling confused about what resilience means and, more importantly, how to build their own resilience. 
  • Evidence-based approaches to resilience are supported by research. They offer a multi-factor approach which acknowledges the complex interplay between the self and others in building our resilience. 
  • This column explores an eight-factor, evidence-based model of resilience.

The notion of resilience has become a hot topic of late, fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic which has impacted millions of people across the world in myriad ways. While such an important topic deserves exposure, there are risks that the term becomes another buzzword with a failure to use evidence-based theories to support the rhetoric. There are many instances where people address the topic of resilience from a personal perspective, which can work well when the audience identifies with the circumstances of the individual, but may have negative implications for people who are in different situations, and who may conclude that being more resilient is out of their reach.

There are many factors that may hinder or promote resilience. In order to bring more rigour to our understanding of resilience and in line with the positive psychology theme introduced in this column in May, we will explore the concept of resilience through the lens of evidence-based positive psychology principles, developed at the Positive Psychology Centre, University of Pennsylvania. 

In this conceptualisation, resilience can be defined as the ability to bounce back from adversity and to grow from stressors and challenges. 

Factors found to be correlated with resilience 

We all inherit certain tendencies to respond to stressful events. These tendencies are then mediated by the environment in which we find ourselves.

Self-awareness includes awareness of thoughts, emotions, physiology, how we react and behave and our strengths.

Self-regulation differs from self-awareness in that it is not just about what we notice, but how we might change our responses, reactions and thoughts.

This may surprise some people, but mental agility also forms an essential part of how resilient we are. Specifically, being able to take multiple perspectives, problem solve and use our intellect to enact solutions. 

Less surprisingly a sense of optimism also forms part of resilience, so much so that it is often called the engine of resilience. An important aspect of optimism is being able to consider stressors not as threats to withdraw from, but as challenges to lean into.

A sense of self-efficacy or mastery has also been found to be highly correlated with resilience. This is about knowing what your strengths are and who you are at your best.

Connection is also important. This could be people in your life you can rely on or feeling that you’re connected to something larger than yourself (examples include a mission or purpose, something in nature or a more faith-based connection).

Probably a less commonly acknowledged factor in fostering resilience is positive institutions. These can include families, communities, schools and workplaces which may exert positive or negative influences on our ability to be resilient. 

We will be expanding on these resilience factors over coming months in the LIJ and exploring some of the evidence that places these factors above others when it comes to our ability to bounce back. In the meantime, if you would like more information follow this link

Until 12 July Converge 1300 687 327, from 12 July AccessEAP 1800 818 728,

Megan Fulford is LIV wellbeing manager. 

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