Psychological Resilience

Psychological Resilience


Psychological Resilience is an individual’s ability to cope and adapt with stress and adversity.  What this means to the individual, depends on where the individual is at that point in time and what they are wanting to achieve. In essence, psychological resilience enables an individual to cope effectively with their environment to perform the tasks and roles that are meaningful to them.  For a worker struggling with a bullying boss, psychological resilience might mean developing the skills to cope on a day to day basis (i.e. not get “knocked down” in the first place).  For someone who has been through a difficult divorce from an abusive partner, psychological resilience might mean coming out the other end with an intact self-esteem, and confidence and trust to move on to another  functional relationship (i.e bouncing back after being knocked down).  For a work team who have been through a significantly stressful time of conflict and a lot of change and turmoil, psychological resilience might mean building up a positive team culture, strategic alignment and engagement of staff.  They will reflect on the experience, and learn and grow from it to come back better and stronger.  Future change will be managed much more effectively.

There are four basic categories of psychological resilience in the literature:

  1. Good outcomes despite high-risk status
  2. Constant competence under stress
  3. Recovery from trauma
  4. Using challenges for growth that makes future hardships more tolerable


Resilience is not about particular traits a person may have.  Rather, it is a process.  It is the way an individual interacts with their environment and the processes that either promote well-being or protect against risk factors.  These processes involve the use of both internal and external resources.  Internal resources include specific coping strategies the individual uses (e.g. self-awareness; emotional intelligence, cognitive behavior therapy techniques; being goal focused; learned optimism). External resources include support systems, social policies, and communities.

Resilience is a dynamic process whereby the individual demonstrates positive behavioural adaptation when they encounter significant adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or stress.  It is a two-dimensional construct implying two judgments: one about “positive adaptation” and the other about the significance of the risk or adversity.

Psychological resilience is more than just the capacity of individuals to cope well under adversity.  It is the opportunity and capacity of individuals to access psychological, social, cultural and physical resources that may sustain or enhance their well-being.


Many studies show that the primary factor which can modify the negative effects of adverse life situations is to have relationships that provide care and support, create love and trust and offer encouragement.

Other factors associated with resilience include:

  1. Capacity to make realistic plans
  2. Self Confidence
  3. Positive self-image
  4. Communication skills
  5. Capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses
  6. Personal attributes such as outgoing, bright and positive
  7. Family
  8. Community
  9. Ability to cope with stress
  10. Good problem-solving skills
  11. Seeking help
  12. Self-efficacy
  13. Self-disclosure of the trauma to loved ones
  14. Spirituality
  15. Identifying as a survivor rather than a victim
  16. Helping others
  17. Finding positive meaning in the trauma
  18. Humour

More recent research is looking at the neurobiological basis of resilience to stress.  Neuropeptide Y 9NPY) and 5-Dehydroepiandrosterone (5-DHEA) are thought to limit stress response by reducing sympathetic nervous activation and protecting the brain from the potentially harmful effects of chronically elevated cortisol levels.  Also, the relationship between social support and stress resilience is thought to be mediated by the oxytocin system’s impact on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.



The American Psychological Association suggests “10 Ways to Build Resilience”

  1. Maintaining good relationships with close family members, friends and others;
  2. Avoid seeing crises or stressful events as unbearable problems
  3. Accept circumstances that cannot be changed
  4. Develop realistic goals and move towards them
  5. Take decisive actions in adverse situations
  6. Look for opportunities of self-discovery after a struggle with loss
  7. Develop self-confidence
  8. Keep a long-term perspective and consider the stressful event in a broader context
  9. Maintain a hopeful outlook, expecting good things and visualizing what is wished
  10. Take good care of one’s mind and body, exercising regularly, paying attention to one’s own needs and feelings


KWC Consulting can help you build your psychological resilience….either through group programmes or individual consultations and coaching.  Contact us today for a free 30 minute consultation.

or ph (07) 33950825 or 0413101795


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Working with teams and individuals to build resilience and capability