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Learning how to become resilient- Written by Carolyn Brown

Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviours, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed.


Resilience is ‘the pattern of adaptation in the context of risk adversity…. The ability to ‘bounce back’  from adversities, to ‘bend and not break’ under extreme stress’ (Meichenbaum 2012).

We are all born with an innate capacity for resilience and as human beings we can foster this capacity by developing several skills. 

Captain Rebecca Collins an Army Psychologist describes the 7 pillars of mental resilience.  The Army’s Mental Health Resilience Training (MRT) programme could be transferable to the way we deal with the COVID pandemic, which has had an impact (and continues to do so) upon many aspects of our lives. 

  • Self- belief is about having the confidence in your own abilities – when presented with an uncertain and unfamiliar situation it’s easy to start doubting your confidence.
  • Positive affect is the ability to interact with life in a positive way – if you are lacking a focus or are bored there’s more time to think about negative things.
  • Emotional control – if feeling low in mood, anxious or frustrated at work, it would be easy to feel stressed.  Being able to understand and express your emotions is a positive thing. 
  • Mental control is the ability to control thinking, concentration, self-awareness, problem solving.  Worries about the future, can have an impact upon your focus and it’s easy to lose sight of during this time of uncertainty.    
  • Sense of purpose is being motivated and having a sense of meaning in your life.  Life may currently be overwhelming.
  • Coping is about being adaptable, having natural coping strategies in place that have helped in previous stressful situations.  During COVID you may be spending more time with the same people or may be on your own.  This can create feelings of frustration, anxiety and even loneliness.  Poor coping can make us feel even worse. 
  • Social support is the social network you have and the ways you may use this.  It is also possible that currently you are having less contact with friends, work colleagues and family.  


WO2 Lindsay the MRT Training Lead suggests 5 skills to strengthen these pillars and recommends that they are practised daily.    

  • Goal setting- Try to have structure and routine to your day.  Prioritise tasks.  Either work tasks or if you are unwell, tasks to help you get better again.  
  • Stay positive - notice your thoughts – are they making you feel better or worse?  Let the unhelpful ones go and come up with thoughts that will help you feel positive
  • Emotional Control – notice how you are feeling.  If you need help, ask for it – it’s ok to do this.   
  • Emotional Regulation – if you are anxious remember this is a normal emotion.  Practice slow calm breathing – this can low your heart rate and will help you think more clearly.  Apps such as Mood Coach, PTSD Coach, AIMS and Calm could be helpful.  
  • Mental rehearsal – notice if you are distracted unhelpfully.  Refocus on what you want to achieve.  Imagine completing whatever it is you need to achieve. 

Click here to find out more about our mental health programme and the support WWTW can offer.