What resilience is and isn’t

Published on August 5, 2019

People often confuse resilience with “being tough” or “toughing it out.” A misconception is that you either have resilience, or you don’t.  Sometimes, circumstances such as poverty lead to survival stress, which makes it more challenging to cope with additional stressors such as trauma and loss.  When survival needs are not met, a person might go into survival mode and believe that toughing it out, or fighting is the only option. When we “tough it out,” we might think that we should not bother others with our problems or that talking through things is weak.  If the emotions build inside of us, we might feel anxious or depressed.  We might begin to believe that we are not relevant or that no one cares.  On the other hand, some people don’t feel as if they are toughing it out, they are ok, and don’t feel any need to talk.  If someone tells you they don’t want or need to talk about it, pressuring them to talk could do more harm than good.  

Resilience does not mean that you don’t feel emotions such as sadness, grief or anger.  Being resilient means that you can healthily cope with your emotions.  Here are some pointers to encourage resilience:

Reach out for social support  

Tough times can be challenging to manage alone.  Reaching out to supportive others offers another perspective.  Sometimes it’s enough to know that you are not alone in the world.  Safe and supportive others can make the world seem like a more secure place.  

Practice self-compassion  

self-compassion is the ability to be gentle and kind to yourself.  Criticising or abusing yourself is harmful and can lead to depressive thoughts.  It is ok to feel guilt and learn from your mistakes, but adding shame to yourself keeps you stuck.

Be kind to your body  

Abusing drugs and alcohol might only intensify the depression and anxiety.  Exercising and eating healthy helps your body to become or remain strong, which in turn helps your mind relax.  


Emotions are not bad; they give us information about ourselves and our environment.  Understand what you are feeling and why.  What have you learned from your sadness or anger?  Some ways to understand and manage your emotions are writing, talking and meditating.  After a loss, your emotions might feel like a roller coaster.  It is ok to sob and even wail.

Know when to ask for help

Resilience does not mean that you do not ask for help from time to time.  Help enables people to use their energy more efficiently so that they can get back to focusing on their priorities.  When emotions are overwhelming, they consume a lot of mental focus and energy, which can make it challenging to work or focus on relationships.  

Use humour

Being able to laugh with friends and even at yourself, helps to lighten the load.  Sometimes it is ok not to take yourself too seriously.


If you need more help, remember that you can always talk to an expert. To set up an appointment with me please contact +852 2521 4668 or email m.borschel@mindnlife.com

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash


Category(s):Adjusting to Change / Life Transitions, Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) / Trauma / Complex PTSD, Stress Management

Written by:

Dr Monica Borschel

Dr Borschel specialises in Attachment and Loss. She is experienced in helping adults, teens, children, and families adjust to anxiety, trauma, abuse, divorce, separation, or loss of a loved one.

Dr. Borschel’s attachment-based therapy along with EMDR and brainspotting, enables her clients to find healing within themselves. In so doing, she can help adults, teens, and children to overcome grief, anxiety, trauma, neglect, emotional, verbal, physical abuse, and child abuse.

Furthermore, as an attachment specialist, she also helps individuals understand relationship patterns which prevent them from developing or maintaining healthy relationships. She is able to help reduce anxiety, insomnia, depression and promote confidence and self-esteem. This may include deciding what is in the best interest of the children during custody disputes, strengthening the relationship and communication between the parents and the children.

Dr. Borschel is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A. She graduated with her Masters in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University in New York City. She later moved to Hong Kong to pursue her doctorate at the University of Hong Kong in Social Work and Social Administration.

Registered Clinical Psychologist with The Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology. Member of the American Psychological Association (APA), The British Psychological Society (BPS), the Hong Kong Family Law Association (HKFLA) and EMDRIA certified therapist.

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