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Mental Health Center

How to Overcome Obstacles in Your Life: Resilience

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By Jen Uscher
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD

Some people seem to be born with the ability to overcome setbacks with relative ease. It’s a trait that experts call resilience.

People with resilience have a greater sense of control over their lives, says psychologist Robert Brooks, PhD. That makes them more willing to take risks.

“Also, because of their optimistic outlook, they are more likely to develop and maintain positive relationships with others,” as well as live more meaningful lives, Brooks says. He co-wrote The Power of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence, and Personal Strength in Your Life.

So, how do you make yourself more resilient? Here are 10 things to focus on:

1. Stay Flexible. Resilient people expect to face challenges at different points in their lives. They are able to adjust their goals and find ways to adapt. 

2. Learn Lessons. “When you have a negative experience, focus on the positive lessons you can learn from it,” says Ani Kalayjian, EdD, DSc, DDL, a psychologist in New York City. When a tough situation arises, don’t focus on who is to blame. Let go of asking “Why me?” and feeling like a victim. Ask yourself what you could do differently next time to have a better result.

3. Take Action. Think about what you can do to improve your situation, and then do it. “Resilient people work on solving a problem rather than letting themselves get paralyzed by negativity," Brooks says. For example, if your boss cuts back your hours at work, you could look at it as a chance to explore other job options. In the long run, it could bring about career growth.

4. Stay Connected.  Nurture your relationships with friends and family. When you’re going through a hard time, don’t withdraw from other people. Accept help from those who care about you. Resilient people have at least one or two people in their lives they can turn to for support, Brooks says.

5. Release Tension.  Make sure you have outlets to express your emotions and let go of tension.  Kalayjian recommends these:

  • Write in a journal.
  • Draw.
  • Meditate.
  • Talk with a friend or counselor. 

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