Resilience: what is it and how to attain it

The word resilience originates from the Latin verb resilire and means to ‘leap back’. The root of the term resilience lies in science and mathematics, however, when applied to humans, various definitions range from the ability to bounce back after an adverse situation, to the ability to thrive after exposure to a traumatic event or to restore positive functioning when stressors become overwhelming.

The daily stressors of life can also contribute to psychological distress therefore, resilient outcomes are not only reserved for individuals exposed to traumatic events.

Silhouette of a woman punching the air. Shows her resilience through adversity.

Resilience has been described in the literature as a trait, outcome, or process and has expanded to include how resilience develops within the context of organizations, sports performance, and communities. Interactions between internal and external factors such as community support, humor, patience, optimism, and faith lead to resilient outcomes, however, limited research exists on the use of culture and culturally specific coping mechanisms. After all, not everyone exposed to adverse events copes in a similar manner.

Fostering resilience has many benefits which include, but are not limited to, accepting situations that cannot be changed, persisting in the face of obstacles, and acting as a buffer to protect us during difficult psychological and physical ailments. Treatment approaches for the development of resilience within the therapeutic space include the following;

  1. Strengths-based approach: Identifying and fostering the development of personal strengths
  2. Development of self-esteem: Regarding the core internal worth versus core external worth provides support for facing adversity
  3. Culturally informed therapy: Identifying cultural factors and interactions that have helped with overcoming past adversities
  4. Developing healthy habits: Identifying healthy coping strategies for stress tolerance versus unhealthy behaviour patterns


Fletcher, D., & Sarkar, M. (2013). Psychological Resilience: A Review and Critique of Definitions, Concepts, and Theory. European Psychologist, 18(1), 12–23.

Munoz, R. T., Hanks, H., & Hellman, C. M. (2020). Hope and resilience as distinct contributors to psychological flourishing among childhood trauma survivors. Traumatology, 26(2), 177–184.