How to Improve Your Personal Resilience


The U.S. Department of State’s Center of Excellence in Foreign Affairs Resilience has developed a personal resilience model that draws from resilience research in the fields of organizational development, neuroscience, social/cognitive science, and disaster relief. We’ve identified five aspects that are leading indicators of a person’s resilience. Intentionally enhancing these aspects of your life will increase your resilience and in turn bolster your capacity to handle challenges in times of adversity. These include:

  • Take care of yourself: Daily physical activity, healthy eating, sufficient sleep, and taking time to recover are essential for both short term and long term resilience. We often overlook the need to recover – which can be as simple as taking a walk in a park, meditating, or working on a jigsaw puzzle. If you have long work days and overwhelming workloads, build in short breaks and vacation days that allow time to recover from periods of high intensity work. Study your daily and weekly routines and schedule the time you need to focus on each of these four components.
  • Active Problem Solving: Your level of resilience directly correlates to your ability to maintain a sense of control, even over the smallest things. Spend time and mental energy on issues you can control and influence, while letting go of things that are outside of your control. Establish goals for yourself and work toward these goals with intention. Set clear boundaries, communicate them to colleagues, friends, and family, and then use your boundaries to say “no” to requests and work that would otherwise overwhelm you. Ask “why” five times to get to the root of a problem. Ask for help when you need it.
  • Maintain a positive outlook: Maintaining a positive outlook is essential to personal resilience. Consciously focus on what is going well in your life and, as necessary, positively re-frame the parts that aren’t going so well. Positive re-framing might require you to zoom your perspective in or out, or look at an issue from a different angle. Spend time every day thinking about what you are grateful for and then express that gratefulness to colleague, friends, and family. Laugh often.
  • Meaning and Purpose: Research indicates that a person’s sense of meaning and purpose directly links to their personal resilience. Find ways to routinely insert meaning and purpose into your life. For some, meaning and purpose comes from religion or family, while others engage in service projects, volunteer work, or hobbies. Be passionate about something. Be helpful to others.
  • Social Support: In person social interactions and meaningful relationships are essential to your well-being and personal resilience. The depth of individual relationships outweighs the number of connections one has. Nurture your friendships and family relationships and build support among your work colleagues. For my fellow introverts, resist the temptation when feeling down to isolate yourself and instead spend time with a close friend who won’t drain you of energy.

What helps you stay resilient?

This blog does not represent official policies of the Department of State or those of the U.S. Government.

Beth Payne is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Mary Kehrhahn-Stark

Thank you Beth!! These are the essentials details to making a good life for yourself and those around you. I cannot think of anything else I would add to your summary.

Debi Fairman

Great thoughts Beth!! It is imperative that we LIVE these suggestions and care for ourselves in order to be able to truly care for those around us.

Bonnie Boone

Thank you Beth,
All the tips in “How to Build Your Personal Resilience” are very good advice that are easy to employ. Great work!