7 Ways to Find Your Resilience

7 Ways to Find Your Resilience

Knowing your support network, staying mentally flexible, and more.
15 April 2024
  • A new study shows the 7 factors that are central to facing stress, suggesting strategies you can put to use.
  • In addition to helping yourself, gaining resilience can also mean helping others during their own tough times.

The idea of resilience is fundamental to understanding mental health, especially when it comes to struggling through times that test your mettle. A popular idea in positive psychology, resilience remains somewhat elusive, especially given the fact that everyone’s tolerance for stress differs so much. Added to this problem is the other fact that situations also vary in their nature and level of intensity.

You may marvel at a friend or coworker who seems to face problems with determination, no matter how bad they seem, at least to you. Sure, there are times that they complain or seem discouraged after they’ve gone through a bad experience, like their beloved pet needing to be put down. The next few days were, admittedly, rough but after that, they were back to their old self. What accounted for their particular brand of resilience?

According to a new study headed by Jonathan DePierro of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital (2024), resilience can be defined as “the ability to resist distress, ‘bounce back,’ adapt, recover, and even thrive or grow from or following adversity." The big question, the authors believe, is whether resilience is best thought of as a stable feature of an individual’s personality (trait), whether it is a process that people go through, or perhaps an outcome.

The purpose of the Mount Sinai study was to come up with a new measure of resilience that would overcome some of the limitations of existing tests and could be used across differing types of stressful experiences. The researchers noted that, “Unfortunately, several recent large-scale disasters have provided opportunities to study human resilience over the past two decades,” but also unfortunately, these studies have used differing resilience measures. Additionally, the existing measures are used as predictors of responses to stress before it happens rather than as process-oriented scales that could help pinpoint which interventions are most effective.

The 7 Components of Resilience

The development of this new scale began with discussions among the author team, many of whom have expertise in trauma, PTSD, and research on resilience. They also conducted an extensive review of the literature, including studies on how individuals coped through the COVID-19 pandemic. This wide-ranging exploration led DePierro et al. to devise a set of 36 behaviors and strategies to cope with stressful events.

Starting with these 36 as a basis, they recruited an online sample of 2088 adults, of whom 1864 provided usable data. The participants rated the frequency (from 0 to 4) of times they used each strategy to cope with a stressful event in the past month.

In addition to responding to these items, participants completed a set of related questionnaires used by other researchers to measure resilience. The research team also included measures of sense of purpose in life, perceived social support, the personality trait of optimism, exposure to trauma, spirituality, and psychiatric symptoms.

Statistical analyses of both the internal structure of the new questionnaire and its relationship to these other existing measures enabled the authors to whittle the 36 items down to 24 which, in turn, fell into 7 groupings or factors. As you read the description of these factors with their sample items, see which ones best characterize your last exposure to stress and try to use that 0-4 rating scale. Additionally, rate yourself on how helpful or effective each strategy you used was in helping you feel better on that same scale.

Meaning and Purpose

  • I did what I thought or felt was right in my day-to-day life.
  • I believed I had grown in a positive way from challenges in my life.
  • I made efforts to remain hopeful or positive about the future.


  • I engaged in spiritual practices like prayer, meditation, or participating in a faith gathering.
  • I felt a meaningful connection to a higher power.

Cognitive and emotional flexibility

  • I devoted time to noticing and understanding my emotional and bodily reactions to stressful situations
  • I slowed myself down in the moment to manage intensely negative emotional reactions

Brain and physical fitness

  • I devoted time to my hobbies or interests
  • I took time to learn new things, such as by listening to podcasts, reading, or taking a class

Role models

  • I reached out and received advice on how to manage challenges from friends, mentors, family members, spiritual leaders, or teachers
  • I was a positive role model for others

Social support

  • I provided emotional, financial, or other kinds of support to other people going through difficulties
  • I invested time in giving support to others

Facing fears

  • I confronted my fears and problems head-on
  • I actively tried to change or challenge overly negative or critical

After scoring yourself, think about which strategies you used most, and how they worked for you. A score per item of 2 or 3 in the frequency component of the scale would place you in the “moderate” resilience category, and lower numbers would place you closer to the samples with clinical levels of anxiety.

How to Use These 7 Strategies to Your Benefit

These items show that resilience doesn’t have to be a trait which, if you don’t have, you’ll never make it through arduous times. It’s possible that the person who lost their pet was generally an optimist, but it’s also likely that they took advantage of some of these easily adopted methods.

What may have surprised you were the two factors of role models and social support. You might think that getting is more valuable than giving, but as suggested by the Mount Sinai group, by digging into your resources and helping others, you can actually become a more resilient coper yourself. As the authors note, “these factors are linked to greater resilience separately and synergistically." This may go beyond the data from this study, but one interpretation is that these behaviors reinforce your identity as someone who can use your experiences to benefit people. Such an altruistic attitude can help get you out of your own mindset of frustration, disappointment, and fear.

To sum up, resilience need not be seen as something you have or don’t have. By breaking it down into these 7 components and viewing them as specific to particular stressors, you can find pathways to lead you to fulfillment even as life occasionally tests you.

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