What is Resilience?

CORESZON stands for Community Resilience Network, because we focus on how relationships shape our wellbeing as individuals, and as communities. We are based at the University of Hamburg Medical Center’s department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Child Public Health. In our outreach program, we collaborate with people from diverse cultural backgrounds to build a network of resilience trainers in Hamburg and beyond. Working together, we gather, develop and share practical knowledge and skills to promote awareness and action for mental health.    

What do we mean by resilience? This word is becoming more and more common in our everyday language. But our scientific understanding of psychological resilience is still developing. In resilience research, it describes a capacity to deal with and recover from extremely challenging circumstances. 

But how do we grow resilience? This is the question that drives Coreszon. 

In our training program and research, we use a socioecological concept of resilience. What does this mean? Michael Ungar and his research group in Halifax, Canada emphasize that resilience is not simply about having the right mindset or “toughing it out”. And not necessarily about how we overcome hardship on our own. 

His research group shows how important our environment is for our resilience. Our environment is our “social ecology”. Our culture, friendships, the spaces we visit, activities and institutions like school and work are all part of this ecology and play an important role for our health.

Along with helpful personal attributes (for example motivation and self-efficacy), resilience comes into play when we manage to utilize resources in our environment. Many different things can be resources. For example relationships with people who support and inspire us. Or spaces that give us a sense of belonging and security. The chance to get an education and access to family-friendly, secure employment can also be resources. This highlights that resilience is not merely a personal trait, and that the environment and community we live in play a vital role. 

Who and what helps you balance risks and resources in your environment?

In difficult times it becomes all the more important to remind ourselves what protects our health from the impact of extreme or chronic stress. When our stress load rises, it can feel like a seesaw. On the one side things that give us strength, and on the other side risks to our wellbeing.

Resilience is not a fixed trait. It is an active, dynamic process that we participate in to care for ourselves and for each other. What actions are you taking to maintain resilience in yourself and your community? Share your strategy with us by leaving a comment!

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