Building Resilience to Handle Challenging Times

By FCPS & Fairfax County Health Department
May 15, 2020

Life doesn’t come with a road map and if the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it's that things can change rapidly and at any time. So how do we weather the storm when the road takes an unexpected, stressful, possibly life-changing turn? One factor that contributes to how well one adapts to handle challenges over time is resilience.

What is Resilience?

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves ‘bouncing back’ from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.”

Building Resilience

The good news is that one can develop resilience to handle challenges in life through the use of some simple strategies each day! Give these strategies a try; it may pay off for you and your family in big ways: 

  1. Maintain a Daily Routine 
    • Daily routines can make a huge difference in how happy, healthy, and productive we are by helping us feel controlled and centered. Establishing a consistent routine is a way to feel some certainty during uncertain times, such as the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic. Start small with a daily “to do” list or expand upon what you may have already put into place.
  2. Reach Out to Others
    • This concept has two components – reaching out to others to ask for help, as well as reaching out to others to offer help. Having friends, family, or other supportive individuals to turn to in times of need or crisis offer a broader focus, promotes a more positive self-image, enhances quality of life, and provides a buffer against adverse life events. In addition, offering and giving support and assistance to others in need boosts the giver’s own resilience, even in cases when the giver is experiencing adversity themselves. 
  3. Keep Things in Perspective and Maintain a Hopeful Outlook
    • Keeping things in perspective means to take into consideration the true measure of importance, or to think about a situation or problem in a wise and reasonable way. Looking at the whole picture and positively reframing events and circumstances into a more favorable view goes a long way in promoting a more hopeful outlook. Think about the costs of over-reacting in the moment and consider asking yourself questions that draw upon strengths (such as “What can I do even if this is true?" and "How have I successfully handled a difficult situation like this before?"). Remember that feelings and emotions may change, and asking yourself “How will I feel about this in a month?” might aid in reducing negative and anxious feelings.
  4. Accept that Change is a Part of Living
    • Change is a natural part of living…trees shed leaves and grow new ones, flowers bloom and die off, seasons begin and end. Accepting and embracing change makes dealing with it much easier than resisting and rejecting what may be unavoidable. Those who accept change are better able to adapt and become more flexible. The more we deal with change, the most accustomed to it we become and the easier it is to deal with it. Starting small, acknowledging where you are with accepting change, and being kind to yourself as you build up a tolerance will lead to inner peace despite the changes around you.

Need More Information?

The American Psychological Association (APA) offers a Resilience Guide for Parents and Teachers that includes 10 Tips for building resilience in children and teens.

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) offers five ways to promote resiliency in your children and help protect them from the effects of difficult experiences.

FCPS Mental Wellness Consultations are Available

Any FCPS parent may request a 30-minute phone consultation with a school psychologist or school social worker. Parent consultations are available for all grade levels and student consultations are only available for students in middle and high school.

Healthy Minds is for parents, educators, and community-based providers who are interested in supporting student mental health and wellness. It represents a collaboration between FCPS’ Office of Intervention and Prevention Services and the Fairfax County Government. SUBSCRIBE to Healthy Minds and receive a periodic digest of our most recent articles.