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  • Writer's picturedrdiannedowling

How to improve your resilience

Photo: Nicky Nicholls

How do we become resilient and find the energy to re-shape our lives post cancer treatment? We have survived but how do we thrive?

Resilience is a purposeful process that can help us adopt coping strategies that enable us to do this. Since I received a breast cancer diagnosis over 25 years ago, I have walked the long cancer journey gaining knowledge and strength from others along the way. I use mindfulness and resiliennce strategies in my own life and share with others through my coaching practice.

I’d like to take this opportunity to share some simple tips with you that I found most useful in helping me thrive.

It might be helpful to start with a definition of the word – we hear it so much these days, but do we actually know what it means? American Psychological Association (APA) writes “Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors.” Whether you are recovering from cancer treatment or simply living through a global pandemic, many people will have experienced strong emotions and uncertainty over the last few months which may well have used up any reserves of resilience. The good news is that l do believe that as well as a tool to help us bounce back, resilience can also involve profound personal growth whilst involving behaviours, thoughts, and actions that anyone can learn and develop.

Photo Jannik Selz @Unsplash

APA suggests that there are 4 core components to focus on when looking to improve resilience: connection, wellness, healthy thinking and meaning. As a cancer coach, I’m particularly drawn to wellness and health thinking, so let’s have a look at how we can work on them;

Foster wellness by:

1. Taking care of your body – concentrate on self-care, both for your mental health and to build resilience. Remember stress is just as much physical as emotional so promoting positive lifestyle factors can strengthen your body to adapt to stress and reduce the toll of emotions like anxiety or depression. So focusing on proper nutrition, ample sleep, hydration, and regular exercise can strengthen your body to adapt to stress and reduce the toll of emotions like anxiety or depression.

2. Practicing mindfulness; mindful journaling, yoga or meditation can help building connections and restore hope. It’s also important to make time to think about positive aspects of your life and recall the things you’re grateful for, even when things are hard.

3. Avoiding negative outlets like alcohol or drugs as they simply mask pain without tackling the root causes. Instead focus on giving your body resources to manage stress.

Finding purpose by:

1. Helping others – whether its volunteering at a local charity or supporting a friend, APA write that helping enables you to “garner a sense of purpose, foster self-worth, connect with other people, and tangibly help others, all of which can empower you to grow in resilience.”

2. Being proactive - work on your self-discovery by asking yourself “What can I do about a problem in my life?” If you have been unlucky enough to be laid off at work, then spend an hour each day developing your top strengths or working on your cv. Each time you manage to find motivation and purpose in stressful periods of your life will equip you with the tools you need to bounce back again when you hit the next difficult spot.

3. Moving towards your goals – find realistic goals and do something regularly, no matter how small, to move in the direction you want to go.

4. Looking for opportunities for self-discovery – the experience of working through a painful chapter in your life often increases your sense of self-worth and appreciation for life.

Embracing healthy thoughts by:

1. Keeping things in perspective – APA writes “You may not be able to change a highly stressful event, but you can change how you interpret and respond to it.” Try to adopt a balanced and realistic thinking pattern – how you think can play a significant part in how you feel and how resilient you are when faced with obstacles.

2. Accepting change – it is a part of life, so accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.

3. Maintaining a hopeful outlook – try to visualise what you want rather than worrying about what you fear. Having an optimistic outlook empowers you to expect that good things will happen to you.

4. Learning from your past – looking back at who or what helped you last time you were in a tricky period and where you found strength can be helpful in showing you the ways you could respond to new difficulties.

And last but not least… Seeking Help.

American Psychological Association writes “Getting help when you need it is crucial in building your resilience”.

If you recognise that you are having difficulties making progress on the road to resilience I can help. As a cancer coach I am able to support you building your resilience strategies and navigating a pathway through a difficult period so that you can respond and learn from change at your own pace. Do get in touch with me or alternatively you can book online via


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