Skip over global navigation links
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Individual Resilience

What is Individual Resilience?

Individual resilience involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that promote personal wellbeing and mental health. People can develop the ability to withstand, adapt to, and recover from stress and adversity—and maintain or return to a state of mental health wellbeing—by using effective coping strategies. We call this individual resilience.

A disaster can impair resilience due to stress, traumatic exposure, distressing psychological reactions, and disrupted social networks. Feelings of grief, sadness, and a range of other emotions are common after traumatic events. Resilient individuals, however, are able to work through the emotions and effects of stress and painful events and rebuild their lives.

What contributes to individual resilience?

People develop resilience by learning better skills and strategies for managing stress and better ways of thinking about life’s challenges. To be resilient one must tap into personal strengths and the support of family, friends, neighbors, and/or faith communities.

What are the characteristics that support individual resilience?

Age, gender, health, biology, education level, cultural beliefs and traditions, and economic resources can play important roles in psychological resilience. The following characteristics also contribute to individual resilience:

  • Social support and close relationships with family and friends: People who have close social support and strong connections with family and friends are able to get help during tough times and also enjoy their relationships during everyday life.
  • The ability to manage strong feelings and impulses: People who are able to manage strong emotions are less likely to get overwhelmed, frustrated, or aggressive. People who are able to manage feelings can still feel sadness or loss, but they are also able to find healthy ways to cope and heal.
  • Good problem-solving skills: People problem-solve daily. Thinking, planning, and solving problems in an organized way are important skills. Problem solving skills contribute to feelings of independence and self-competence.
  • Feeling in control: After the chaos of a disaster, it can be useful to engage in activities that help people regain a sense of control. This will help support the healing and recovery process.
  • Asking for help and seeking resources: Resourceful people will get needed help more quickly if they know how to ask questions, are creative in their thinking about situations, are good problem solvers and communicators, and have a good social network to reach out to.
  • Seeing yourself as resilient: After a disaster many people may feel helpless and powerless, especially when there has been vast damage to the community. Being able to see yourself as resilient, rather than as helpless or as a victim, can help build psychological resilience.
  • Coping with stress in healthy ways: People get feelings of pleasure and self-worth from doing things well. Strategies that use positive and meaningful ways to cope are better than those which can be harmful such as drinking too much or smoking.
  • Helping others and finding positive meaning in life: Positive emotions like gratitude, joy, kindness, love, and contentment can come from helping others. Acts of generosity can add meaning and purpose to your life, even in the face of tragedy.

Resilient Individuals Are Able To:

  • Care for themselves and others day-to-day and during emergency situations.
  • Actively support their neighborhoods, workplaces, and communities to recover after disaster.
  • Be confident and hopeful about overcoming present and future difficulties.
  • Get needed resources more effectively and quickly.
  • Be physically and mentally healthier and have overall lower recovery expenses and service needs.
  • Miss fewer days of work.
  • Maintain stable family and social connections.
  • Re-establish routines more quickly, which helps children and adults alike.

Ways to Strengthen Resilience

You can build your resilience by taking care of your health, managing stress, and being an active participant in the life of your community. For example, try to:

  • Develop coping skills and practice stress management activities, such as yoga, exercise, and meditation.
  • Eat healthy and exercise.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Maintain social connections to people and groups that are meaningful for you.
  • Volunteer in your community.
  • Get training in First Aid, CPR, CERT, and Psychological First Aid.
  • Create evacuation and family reunification plans.
  • Make a disaster kit and stock supplies to shelter in place for up to 3 days.
  • Find things that bring you pleasure and enjoyment such as reading a book or watching a movie, writing in a journal, or engaging in an art activity.

Does individual resilience help build community resilience?

Yes! Individual resilience is important to community resilience in that healthy people make for a healthier community. Healthy communities are better able to manage and recover from disasters and other emergencies.

Resources

blank imageblank image

  • This page last reviewed: June 08, 2015