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Resilience: Adapting to adversity

  • Published
  • By Greg Chadwick, Air Force Materiel Command Health & Wellness Team
  • Air Force Materiel Command

In everyday life, there are a variety of challenges we may face - something as simple as running out of coffee in the morning or having an argument with kids before school can start a day off in the wrong direction.  Most days, we can navigate through the stress of day-to-day experiences, but sometimes we can get overwhelmed and need to look for help. 

When something goes wrong, are you able to push through or do you feel like you are frozen?

Resilience is the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress according to the American Psychological Association.   

Being resilient does not mean that a person won’t experience stress, emotional upheaval, or suffering; being resilient means that when life presents challenges, you are able to keep moving forward, functioning-both physically and psychologically.

Resilience is important because it gives people the strength needed to process and overcome those things that can stop them in their tracks, whether for a day or longer.  Being resilient means you are willing to utilize available resources, you work to build upon your strengths and further develop skills to overcome challenges and work through setbacks.

Resilience doesn’t make your problems go away, but being resilient can give you the ability to see past your struggles, find enjoyment in life and handle stress better.

The American Psychological Association offers the following tips on how to build resilience:

  • Make connections. Good relationships with close family members and friends can provide you with needed support and acceptance in good and bad times. When you’re going through a hard time, don’t withdraw from other people. It is important to accept help and support from those who care about you.
  • Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can’t change the fact that life-changing events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these situations. Work on solving a problem rather than letting yourself get paralyzed by negativity.  
  • Accept that change is a part of living. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter. Work on maintaining a hopeful outlook and accept that change and setbacks are part of life.
  • Take decisive actions. Take decisive actions on adverse situations instead of detaching from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.
  • Find positive ways to reduce stress and negative feelings. Positive distractions such as exercising, going to a movie or reading a book can help renew you so that you can re-focus on meeting challenges in your life.


If you or a family member are struggling, services are available for the Air Force military and civilian members and their families.

For work-life support resources, webinars and information as well as non-clinical, confidential counseling, check out the following:

Military and families:  Military OneSource (800) 342-9647 or visit

Civilian and families:  Employee Assistance Program (866) 580-9078 or visit

For more information on resilience education materials, visit or contact your local Civilian Health Promotion Services team. Comprehensive information on how to build your resilience can be found at