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Five ways to build resilience

Life as a student can be filled with ups, downs and unexpected challenges, and this year is probably no exception. We know that student life may be presenting some very real challenges for you right now, so we would like to share five ways to build your resilience and cope better.

Written by Kelsey Mulcahy and Georgina Jeronymides-Norie |

A smiling man standing in a field
Resilience is our capacity to recover, bounce back and adapt to challenging circumstances.

Resilience is our capacity to recover, bounce back and adapt to challenging circumstances, whilst maintaining stable mental wellbeing, and the good news is that it can be learned. Becoming more resilient will benefit you in all areas of your life, helping you to face challenges without becoming overwhelmed. Having resilience doesn’t mean that you don’t struggle, make mistakes, or need to ask for help, but instead means that you know how to look after yourself by being flexible, learning from experience, knowing what helps you, and when to ask for support. 

Whether you’re finding the assessment period difficult, or you’re hoping to build these skills for the future, we’ve provided some techniques to help you to strengthen your resilience and set yourself up for success.

1 - Seek support

Sometimes it can feel easier to withdraw and try to conquer your challenges alone, but talking about what you're going through with others is crucial for maintaining good mental health. The assessment period can leave you feeling anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed. You may find yourself feeling highly emotional and filled with tension. Talking can be cathartic, and connecting with others can help you to get some of those difficult feelings out, process them and hopefully lessen them. You could seek support from a professional counsellor, the university community, trusted friends and family, or other students on TalkCampus.

2 - Cultivate a sense of agency

Having more agency means taking responsibility for your life. Even when things aren’t going your way, you can empower yourself by being mindful of your thoughts, feelings and attitudes.

If you start to feel overwhelmed by your studies or the thought of assessments getting closer, try strategically refocusing your thoughts and energy into an adaptive response that will help you thrive. Being aware of the beliefs you have about the situation and how these are influencing your reactions, can go a long way in determining how stressful things feel for you.

Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, pause, take some deep breaths and challenge your thoughts. Ask yourself:

  • What has happened to make me feel this way? For example, what new information have you received?
  • What am I making this mean for me, what do I believe is the consequence? For example, ‘I won’t be able to achieve x anymore’.
  • Are all of these thoughts factually true, or am I making assumptions? The chances are that some of your thoughts are opinions and stories, rather than facts. What other possible truths are there that feel more supportive? What action do you need to take to dispel any assumptions?
  • What can I think or do that will be useful to me?

Think of your emotions in terms of a driver with passengers in a car. Which emotion would you feel calmest with having at the steering wheel? Which would be better placed sitting quietly in the passenger seat? Try placing 'awareness' at the steering wheel and 'panic' in the passenger seat, for example.

3 - Ground yourself

Grounding is a practice of energetically connecting to yourself, getting out of your head and into your body. You can do this by turning your attention to your physical environment through the five senses - name at least one thing you can see, hear, smell, taste and feel against your skin, and repeat as many times as you need to. If you are frequently feeling ungrounded, overwhelmed, or panicked, you could consider choosing a ‘grounding object’ - something small and textured that you can carry with you and hold for comfort when you need to bring your focus back to the present moment.

4 - Simple routine

When external influences are causing you to feel anxious and stressed, a simple routine each day can help you to feel more stable and focused. It could be as simple as making your bed each morning or taking a walk at the same time each day - something you do each day or return to. A few more suggestions could be talking to a friend on a regular basis, meditating, exercising, listening to music, or writing in a journal. Find what works for you and use it to give yourself consistency, familiarity and to guide you through chaotic times.  

5 - Stay focused on your goals

Rather than fixating on what has gone wrong, bring your focus back to your goals. Remind yourself why you chose the course you are studying. Where are you hoping to be five years from now? When you started your studies, it may have been because you were passionate about something, maybe there was something you identified with or there was a career that had been a dream of yours for some time. Bringing your focus back to your ‘why’ will help to prevent your excitement and purpose from being buried under the day-to-day struggles and demands.

Cultivating resilience will help to set up your life for academic, professional, and personal success. Developing the ability to assess and determine the best ways to approach challenges with confidence will help you to recognise that you are always capable of achieving and persevering, no matter what you are faced with.

Wellbeing resources available to you

You can find a wealth of resources to help you take care of your health on the Wellbeing page of your Student Portal, as well as details on how to sign-up to the TalkCampus peer support network