So, what is resilience?
Resilience is the ability to bounce back; to cope with stressful situations; to adapt well in the
face of adversity; having a positive, growth mindset… We all know resilience. And if we
didn’t, I’m sure that there isn’t anyone that hasn’t become familiar with resilience over the
past couple of years.
There are many factors that can increase resilience; by having a positive mindset; by
maintaining positive personal relationships; having a good self-image; having a good
support system; making and carrying out realistic plans; pushing your limits; effectively
expressing yourself and communicating with those closest to you… Many, many factors.
We know that one of the most prevalent factors in building resilience is pushing ourselves,
pushing our limits. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing each day that scares you”. But
why is this?
What’s going on in the brain?
The main reason is the limbic system, or our Primitive brain. This part of the brain is
emotionally-driven. There is no logic or rationality here; it is negative, reactionary, obsessive
and instinctive. It will always see things from the worst possible perspective, for our self-
preservation, and is constantly vigilant. The three main components of the limbic system are
the hypothalamus, which regulates all chemical responses in our body and mind, the
amygdala, which is responsible for the fight/flight response, and the hippocampus.
Our hippocampus is responsible for numerous things – memories, negative emotions, habits,
fears, patterns of behaviour and thought patterns - many of which are the reason some of
us are more resilient than others. I liken the hippocampus to a library containing millions of
files, which relate to everything we have encountered or experienced in our life. Every time
we have a new experience or encounter a new thing, we write a new file. And every time
we repeat that event or encounter that stimulus, we update the relevant files – whether that
be with positive or negative information, depending on our experience and emotion. Our
amygdala only reacts to what is written in our files – so if the file says we fear flying
because we once experienced turbulence, we will react with fear to flying. However, if we
begin to change what is written in the files – by changing our mindset, our actions and our
behaviour – we will react accordingly. Therefore, having a more positive viewpoint on things
will invariably write more positive files… And we will begin to react in a more positive
How do we change it?
Firstly, it is important to understand that not all stress is harmful, in fact a certain amount of
stress is necessary in our lives… We need a degree of manageable stress to enable us to
push ourselves and to test ourselves. It is so important to human beings to keep striving,