Home Topics Resilience Helping yourself & others

Helping yourself & others

Quick Links

Topics that may interest you

Helping yourself & others

We can strengthen the capacity for resilience in individuals, families, and communities.

People can learn more effective ways to respond to adversity. We can also provide support for each other, which helps promote resilience. Close relationships with family and friends and a strong sense of community are among the most important factors in resilience and happiness.

Becoming more resilient

Nearly everyone has the capacity for resilience. While there are conditions so extreme that no one can flourish, there are ways to become more resilient. We can increase the capacity for resilience, whatever our personal histories are and at any age. These suggestions are adapted from the American Psychological Association’s “The Road to Resilience”:

Make quality connections with others
Surrounding yourself with people who will listen to you and be there for you is crucial for building resilience. The ability to seek and accept help from others actually strengthens resilience. Social support can be found through friends, family, civic groups, and places of worship. Volunteering is another way to expand your circle. Many people find that they become more resilient by helping others.

Accept change

Change is an unavoidable and vital part of life. Accepting change and adjusting to it can help you put your energy into the things you can control.

Setting and achieving goals
Learning to set realistic goals for yourself and taking steps to achieve them can help you manage stress and give you hope for the future. Achieving even the smallest goals can have a significant impact on your life.

Make a plan and take action

When stressful life events occur, it is natural to become immobilized and to withdraw from others for a time. It is important to take decisive action as much as you can in order to mobilize your resources and recover.

Find opportunities for self-discovery

As a result of coping with adversity, it is common for people to discover things about themselves. Many people have reported greater feelings of personal strength, better relationships with others, an increased sense of self-worth, a heightened appreciation for life, and a more developed sense of spirituality.

Maintain positive self-esteem
Having confidence in your abilities and trusting in yourself is a key element to resilience.

Being realistically optimistic about your situation can give you hope. It may help to try looking beyond the present and consider whether the future may be a little better.

Learn from your past

Examining your past experiences with stressful events can provide insights about how to deal more effectively with your current problem. For example, you could consider how you have been able to overcome obstacles you have faced in the past. You may also want to explore whether certain people in your social network were helpful in the past.

However you do it, it is extremely important to take time for yourself and take care of yourself. It is important to exercise regularly, get enough sleep, eat well, and to focus on interests, creative outlets, or hobbies that you find relaxing. Part of self-care may also involve spending time with friends and family. In the case of parents, it is important that you take care of yourself so that you can be a stronger resource for your children.

Places to look for help

An important component of resilience involves getting help when you need it. In dealing with a crisis, you may feel that additional help would assist you in moving forward. Family and friends are often the best source of support. However, sometimes it is necessary to seek help that, for one reason or another, family members and friends are unable to provide. Below are some suggestions:

Self-help or support groups. These groups are composed of people who share a common problem, such as the loss of a loved one, infertility, or coping with cancer. Group members can provide powerful validation that your feelings and concerns are normal under the circumstances. Members also share feelings, ideas, and practical information. Many people find it healing to have the opportunity to interact with others who understand what they are going through.

Online resources. In addition to finding information about the stressful life event and suggestions for coping, it is possible to interact with individuals and groups online.  Information can be empowering, and interactions can help reduce the feelings of isolation that commonly come with adversity. One place to check for online resources is the APA Help Center.

Books and periodicals. There are a variety of books that may be useful to people who are struggling with a particular life event. Some books are geared primarily toward providing information and suggestions for coping. In others, authors who have experienced a particular trauma tell the story of how they dealt with it. Such books often provide practical suggestions for coping as well as an inspirational account. For many problems, there are also workbooks that encourage readers to explore their feelings about certain aspects of the trauma and to consider particular coping strategies that may be employed.

A mental health professional. For a variety of reasons, you may believe that despite your best efforts, you are “stuck” and don’t know how to move forward. In this case, it may be worthwhile to seek professional help from a mental health professional, such as a psychologist. It is particularly important to obtain professional help if you are unable to function or perform basic activities of daily living, if you feel hopeless about the future, if you are having thoughts of suicide, or if you are abusing substances.

Helping others

How can you help others be more resilient or cope with difficult events? If a friend has gone through trauma, psychologist George Bonanno has these suggestions.

Suggestions for helping a friend who has gone through trauma:

  • Reach out to a friend who has experienced trauma; social support helps people cope
  • Be a good listener, but don’t pry; "Let them talk about it if they want to, be quiet if they want, and move on when they want"
  • Don’t shy away from smiles and laughter; it may be a relief to your friend to share lighter moments
  • Be aware that your friend may look to you for a break from thinking about the experience; "Friendships are a way to have the other parts of life continue on"

What about raising children to be resilient? Psychologists Sam Goldstein and Robert Brooks outline 10 principles for raising resilient children in their book Raising Resilient Children.

10 principles for raising resilient children:

  • Teach and convey empathy
  • Listen, learn, and influence in order to communicate effectively
  • To change your words of parenting, rewrite your negative scripts
  • Find ways to love your children that help them feel special and appreciated
  • Accept your children for who they are, and help them set realistic expectations and goals
  • Nurture islands of competence; every child must experience success
  • Mistakes are teachable moments
  • Help your child develop responsibility, compassion, and a social conscience
  • Teach and emphasize the importance of solving problems and making choices and decisions
  • Discipline in ways that promote self-discipline and self-worth


Connect With Us


Find Help

Locate mental health and well-being support organizations in your area.