Resilience and staying positive: that’s what’s helped me a lot during difficult times.


Did you know this?

Both small and big misfortunes are part of life. During these moments, resilience, as well as connectedness, can help you to keep in balance. It provides a buffer against emotional troubles. Young people are usually equipped with a great deal of resilience to deal with difficult situations. Moreover, resilience is not something you do or do not possess, but a skill that can be trained. A stable social network contributes to greater resilience.

Resilience helps you to deal with stress, misfortune and changes. It has both protective and recovering functions:

  • Resilience provides a buffer or protection against stressors and difficult experiences
  • Resilience ensures recovery when your mental wellbeing has been damaged. As such, you are able to ‘rebound’ after a setback.

People with high resilience have a strong constitution when faced with problems or difficult situations. After a setback, they feel able to start afresh more quickly. That does not mean they do not feel any anger or sadness about such situations, but that they have found a way to constructively deal with them and even emerge stronger from them.

For people with low resilience, stress quickly adds up. Stress often feels like a heavy load and rebounding from it is not always easy. These people find it hard to get difficult situations under control, and their self-confidence declines while the risk of a dip increases.

The role of the environment

Your resilience is determined by several factors. The following personal characteristics and competences can enhance resilience: faith in your own abilities, self-confidence, the power to analyze and understand personal situations, and acceptance of and openness towards your own vulnerability.

Furthermore, your surroundings play a part as well. When you are embedded in positive relationships with others and feel part of a stable social network, this has a positive effect on your resilience. What counts is not so much the number of social contacts (quantity), but your satisfaction with their intensity (the quality). Therefore, strong relationships and reciprocity are important.

Reinforce your resilience

To a certain extent, you can strengthen your resilience partly yourself, not unlike you would train a muscle. What is important here is finding out what is helpful for your particular resilience.

Some things that might inspire you are listed below:

  • Focus on what you can control yourself. Tackle those problems you can influence, and let go of what you cannot.
  • Allow and give space to your emotions. They are part of who you are.
  • Replace negative thoughts with helpful ones.
  • Know yourself and trust what has helped you before.
  • Ensure you have a routine and get sufficient rest. Find distraction in the things that are important to you, which make you happy and give you energy.
  • Put on your ABC glasses: focus on how you can fulfil your own need for autonomy, bonding/ connectedness and competence.
  • Try to map how and when you feel connected to others: family, friends, fellow students, neighbours, etc.
  • Don't be hard on yourself or others.
  • Be brave enough to ask for help when you need it.

Get to work

In the online programmes Healthy Lifestyle and LifeCraft you can find a large number of tools to reinforce your resilience, in order to fulfil and strengthen your essential need for autonomy, bonding/connectedness and competence (i.e. the ABC psychology).

Talk about it

Are you experiencing difficulties staying in balance? Talk to someone you trust and feel at ease with – preferably someone from your close surroundings, like a good friend, a parent or sibling.

If you don’t immediately have the courage to tell someone in your direct environment, then try to talk about it with someone who has heard similar stories, such as your general practitioner or someone from student support at your college or university.

You can also anonymously contact Awel (102 or or Tele-Onthaal (106 or, or for questions regarding suicidal thoughts, the Zelfmoordlijn1813 (1813 or

Worried about a friend

Are you worried about how much your friend can handle? Talk about it and share your concern. Try to be understanding and to listen without judgement. Your sincere involvement and concern can work wonders for another person's resilience, and it gives you satisfaction as well.

Standing stronger: experts & students sharing their experiences

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  • Gezond Leven: here you can find useful information on resilience, and tips to reinforce and strengthen it. (Dutch)