The 4 Types of Resilience

May 19, 2024

This week we’ll be exploring the four types of resilience that help us navigate life's challenges: physical, mental, emotional, and social.

It is tempting to take a binary approach in considering whether resilience is present or absent. However, in reality, resilience exists on a continuum that can look different across different parts of your life.

Resilience gives us strength and the ability to bounce back from adversity. We all face hardships at some point in life. But those who develop resilience can tap into their strengths and support systems. This gives us the best chance to overcome challenges and work through problems.

Physical Resilience

Physical resilience is our body's ability to adapt to challenges, maintain stamina and strength, and recover from physical stressors like illness, injury, or intense physical activity. It involves maintaining good health and physical fitness through regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and adequate sleep.

Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, is a great example of physical resilience. Despite being cut from his high school varsity team, Jordan's relentless training and determination paid off. He overcame many injuries throughout his career, including a broken foot in his second season with the Chicago Bulls. His rigorous fitness regimen and unwavering dedication enabled him to return stronger, leading his team to six NBA championships and earning five MVP awards. 

Michael Jordan

Another great example of physical resilience is Bethany Hamilton. At 13 years old, Hamilton had her left arm bitten off by a shark during a surfing accident. Instead of admitting defeat, she went back to her surfboard one month later and continued to practice. Two years later, she was able to win first place in the Explorer Women’s Division of the NSSA National Championships!

Bethany Hamilton

Healthy lifestyle choices, connections with friends and neighbors, deep breathing, time well spent to rest and recover, and engagement in enjoyable activities all play a role in physical resilience.

Mental Resilience

Mental resilience refers to our capacity to adapt to change and uncertainty. People who possess this type of resilience are flexible and calm during times of crisis. They can solve problems, move forward, and remain hopeful even when they are facing setbacks. It involves cognitive flexibility, problem-solving skills, and a positive mindset.

A great example of someone in history who displayed extraordinary mental resilience is Thomas Edison. Despite facing countless failures, including thousands of unsuccessful attempts to create the light bulb, Edison maintained a positive outlook and persistent attitude. He famously said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." His mental resilience led to groundbreaking inventions that transformed the modern world. 

From sketches to patent — the lightbulb!

Emotional Resilience

Emotional resilience is the ability to respond to stressful or unexpected situations and crises. It involves emotional awareness, self-regulation, social support, and healthy coping mechanisms.

Resilience can be developed with some effort and practice. You can learn to increase your emotional resilience by:

Getting a sense of perspective

If something may feel very immediate and intense the moment it happens, try asking yourself how you will feel about the thing that’s upsetting you in a week, a month, or a year.

Giving yourself grace

If you feel like your own worst critic, try to remember that despite how you may feel, you’re a valuable person who deserves good things – it’s absolutely right that you should treat yourself when you feel bad.

A great example of emotional resilience is the singer Jewel. Raised in rural Alaska, Jewel faced significant challenges from a young age, including financial hardship and family issues. As a teenager, she moved to San Diego, where she lived out of her car while pursuing her music career, often performing in coffee shops to make ends meet.

Despite these struggles, Jewel remained committed to her passion for music and used her experiences to fuel her songwriting. Her debut album, "Pieces of You," became a massive success, featuring hits like "Who Will Save Your Soul" and "You Were Meant for Me." Jewel’s ability to turn her difficult experiences into powerful, heartfelt music demonstrates her remarkable emotional resilience and dedication.

Jewel performing at Berklee College of Music.

Social Resilience

Social resilience is the ability of individuals or communities to maintain strong social connections and support networks during times of stress. 

Resilient communities are those that have the capacity to weather the storms of change in order to enact transformation. They work to build strong relationships, effective communication, and foster a sense of community.

The community of New Orleans exhibited extraordinary social resilience in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Despite the devastation, residents came together to rebuild their city, providing mutual aid, sharing resources, and supporting each other through the recovery process. This sense of solidarity and community spirit played a crucial role in the city's resurgence.

ReFresh Community Farm in New Orleans

Final Thoughts

This week, we covered the four types of resilience and learned how they help us overcome life's challenges. By reflecting on these lessons and a few inspiring stories of human resilience, we can better navigate life's challenges and emerge stronger.

Thanks for reading, and I'll see you around some of the sessions this week!

— Scott C.

Focused Space Host

P.S. Our programs and resources are for informational purposes only. This website is not for emergency or crisis help. Our programs are not intended to provide mental health diagnosis, counseling, or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.