Resilience – How to Bounce Back!

You may be pleasantly surprised at the resources you already have for bouncing back when life pushes against you with challenges like covid-19. Resilience is the ability to cope with whatever life throws at you and bounce back stronger and more steadfast than before. Resilient people work through life challenges using personal resources including social support, coping strategies, sagacity (wisdom and insights that we personally hold), and solution-seeking.

This exercise helps you draw on your resilience resources to build a personal resilience plan which you can use to help you combat any future challenges.

You can download and print out Appendix A and Appendix B as worksheets for this exercise.

Part 1: My Past Sources of Resilience

Step 1. Recall a recent experience of resilience

Think about a time recently when you overcame a challenge or set back in your life. Perhaps you injured yourself, or received some negative feedback at work, or had an argument with a friend or family member or something else. 

Step 2. Identify Supports

What ‘supportive people’ in your life kept you standing when you felt you were ready to fall down? For instance, did you call an old friend, or ask a teacher for advice, or perhaps a parent or grandparent gave you a pep talk. Write down whom you called on for support in the top left cell of the table, Appendix A.

Step 3. Identify Strategies

What ‘strategies’ did you use to help yourself cope with any negative thoughts and feelings that showed up in response to the difficulty? For example, did you meditate, or write in a gratitude journal, or pray, or go for a walk, or listen to a particular song or type of music, or have a massage to release tension? Write down the strategies you used in the top right cell of the table, Appendix A.

Step 4. Identify Sagacity

What ‘sagacity’ helped you bounce back from this difficulty? Sagacity is the wisdom and insight that you hold onto. It can come from song lyrics, novels, poetry, spiritual writings, quotes from the famous, the sayings of one’s grandparent, or learnings from one’s own experience. Write down your sagacity in the bottom left cell of the table, Appendix A.

Step 5. Identify Solution-seeking behaviours

What solution-seeking behaviours did you display to help you actively deal with the problem? For example, did you problem-solve, or seek out new information, or plan ahead, or negotiate, or speak up and voice your opinion, or ask others for help? Write down the solution-seeking behaviours you displayed in the bottom right cell of the table, Appendix A.

Part 2: My Resilience Plan

Step 6. A Current Difficulty

Think about a current difficulty or challenge that you are currently facing.

Step 7. Apply the Resilience Plan to the Current Difficulty

Given the social supports, strategies, sagacity, and solution-seeking behaviours that helped you last time, take a look at how you could use the same or similar resources to help you bounce back from this current difficulty you are facing (identified in the previous step).Read through your previously successful plan (Appendix A) and write down the skills, supports, strategies, and sagacity that could work again for you in the blank resilience plan template, Appendix B.

Allow some flexibility here in the sense that any certain type of social support/strategy/ sagacity/ solution-seeking behaviour could be tweaked according to your current situation, for instance going to your manager rather than a parent for support in the face of a work-related problem. An example of a completed resilience plan is shown below.

Step 8. Carry out your Resilience Plan

The next step is to put your resilience plan into action. To do this, consider the order in which to use your different supports, strategies, sagacity, and solution-seeking behaviours: which resource is most feasible to start with? Often the most feasible resource is the smallest step that you can take, such as calling your spouse/partner. On your resilience plan (Appendix B), place the number 1 next to the first resource you will use.

Then, continue to number your different resources in the order in which you would feasibly use them.

Then, go ahead and action your first resource, and continue to work through your resilience plan (in order) until you have overcome this difficulty.

Once you have come through the other side, please move on to the next step.

Part 3: Evaluation

Reflect upon the following questions.  If this is not an action you feel at ease with on your own, ask a trusted coach or counsellor to work through them with you:

  • How was it for you to carry out your resilience plan? Did it help you bounce back from this difficulty?
  • What resources (specific skills/supports/strategies/sagacity) were most helpful to you? Why?
  • What resources (specific skills/supports/strategies/sagacity) were least helpful to you? Why?
  • Did you not use any resources, and if so, why?
  • Is there anything you would like to add to your resilience plan?
  • In what other areas of your life could you use your resilience plan? How might things improve for you?