How resilience gives us added strength

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For years, research into resilience has been looking at what makes us resilient and how it allows us to emerge stronger from crises. Of course, getting older is not a crisis per se - but we can learn a lot from the research findings.

Table of contents

Simply being a little stronger, feeling less thin-skinned, and stopping the carousel of negative thoughts - that's what almost all women want. Particularly when your hormones are going crazy and your energy resources are low anyway, more resilience is a great tool to have. But what exactly is resilience anyway? What do I need for it? And how can I strengthen it?

What is resilience?

The term resilience originally comes from physics. Materials that return to their original state after moments of extreme stress are considered resilient. Like a rubber ball, for example, which is dented on impact but then returns to its original round shape. Large and small events also leave us humans with "dents". The stronger we are in the face of such situations, the faster we can get back to our old shape, or we don't let them knock us out of shape so badly in the first place.

Resilience means having a healthy mental immune system. A Teflon layer that enables us to get up again after a fall, straighten our crown and carry on; or even gallantly jump over the hurdle that life has laid before us.

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Resilience can be learned

How stable our protective layer is related to our childhood, life experiences and personality structure - but that's not all. Researchers have found out that a lack of resilience is not a fate that we have to suffer - we can do something about it. This is down to the fact that your personal development, your view of the world and your internal processes are what are largely responsible for you having low or high resilience. So it's time to strengthen your own mental immune system.

A little side note if you are one of the widespread perfectionists of the world: please don't internalise "if a woman just tries hard enough, she will become so resilient that nothing can throw her off track". In that case, the pressure of expectations on yourself will increase even more and it will be exhausting. It's often not about "higher" or "further", but about slowing down, putting yourself at the centre of things and being aware of your needs in the first place.

The 7 pillars of resilience

Even though there are hundreds of individual factors that influence your own resilience, resilience research has identified 7 factors that are particularly relevant. These are:

  • Optimism
  • Acceptance
  • Solution orientation
  • Shedding the role of victim
  • Taking responsibility
  • Network orientation
  • Planning for the future

All seven aspects are naturally related to one another and mutually dependent. Furthermore, each area must be incorporated into your life by you individually so that it really strengthens you.


"The menopause is the beginning of the end. Now I'm only getting older and more wrinkly. I don't have much new to look forward to anyway."

If you persist in this way of thinking, you probably won't have many more adventures. But if you can also see opportunities and possibilities in supposedly negative things, you will change your focus.

Perhaps now is the time when you can finally use strengths that were previously not in demand. Perhaps getting older means being seen as an expert, passing on life experiences and dealing with things more calmly. Nothing is guaranteed, but with this attitude towards life, we can see opportunities that we would otherwise hardly recognise due to our view being clouded by frustration, anger or despair.

Important to note: of course, optimism doesn't mean raising the corners of your mouth and constantly putting on a good face when you are mercilessly exhausted or overwhelmed. In other words, it's not a masquerade or naïve façade, but the belief that you can find ways and solutions with perspective - even if not everything is going well and you are tired, weak, sad or frustrated.

Practical tip: Put 3 coffee beans, coins or other small items in your right trouser pocket every day. And whenever you see or feel something nice, move one of them to the left side. In the evening, of course, all three items should be on the left. And the beautiful memories stay with you. Too cumbersome? There's a reason why "journaling", the written reflection of the day, is so trendy. Write down three nice things from the day every evening!


In every woman's life, there are sudden changes and new stages in life. Separation, health problems, farewell to your 'youth', and all of a sudden life is different. If you manage to accept and embrace this new, albeit challenging, situation, you will be more open to new paths and directions.

Acceptance does not mean helplessly giving in to the circumstances and accepting everything. Rather, it means distinguishing between what I can change and what I have to let go of. And then to actually do so. This can relate to very obvious things - like skin: the time of soft peach skin is over once and for all. Let go of this ideal. Instead, see what you can do to feel comfortable in your (new) skin.

Acceptance can also help you with bigger issues, such as your own patterns. By now at the latest, it's time to accept that you can't (and don't want to) be 'everybody's darling'. If you allow your own ideas and visions of life without developing feelings of guilt, if you accept life as it is and if you accept that sometimes your own expectations remain unfulfilled, this will liberate you immensely. And makes you more resilient at the same time.

Practical tip: Farewell rituals have immense power because they honour what has been and at the same time provide a break to digest something and adjust to the new. Perhaps you will take advantage of this. You can say goodbye to life phases and partners, but also to feelings or "banal" things like your previous hair colour. Nothing is too small. Write a letter and burn it, put something in a matchbox and place it on a river, do something crazy - it doesn't matter, the main thing is that the ritual suits you.

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Many women are masters of problem solving - when it comes to the problems of others. Always ready to help, always thinking of everyone, always ready. When it comes to themselves, many women are not so proactive. A common reason is postponing necessary decisions, especially if they are unpleasant, harbour potential for conflict or bring uncertainty. Drawing a line, daring to take a necessary new direction or seeking a difficult conversation, are all great examples. Unfortunately, problems that we ignore and postpone do not disappear, but rather slowly get bigger. And they certainly don't get any easier either. Solve the problems while they are still "small".

Is there simply no solution to the problem? Solution orientation does not mean finding an immediate solution for every situation. It means being able to expand your own "scope", which opens up space for new solutions. Sitting down, taking a deep breath and getting in touch with your own feelings can create space for new possibilities. Knowing where a woman can turn in difficult situations and being able to ask for help is also part of a "healthy" solution orientation.

Practical tip: We react faster and more strongly to negative things than to positive things - especially when it comes to ourselves. In neuropsychology, this effect is called 'negativity bias'. This gives rise to classic black and white thinking or constant worst-case scenarios. Whenever you notice that this spiral is gripping you, ask yourself: How likely is it to really happen? That almost always defuses it. And then dare to ask yourself: And what would happen then? Would it really be that bad? What opportunities might even arise from it? The courage to think something through to the end often takes away the leaden fear and opens your eyes to new future scenarios.


"Why me?", "Something like this always happens to me"; "I can never..."

There are situations in which we feel the world is conspiring against us and we are trapped. These moments of frustration are completely normal. However, if we permanently adopt the inner attitude that we are victims of fate, this naturally reduces our self-efficacy. It is always someone else's fault or the fate of the world, then we relent to the idea that we cannot do anything ourselves to fix it. 

The victim mentality is a strategy to protect ourselves from stress, disappointment and hurt. Unfortunately, this assumption is deceptive because it makes us mentally small and incapable of acting. Only when we see ourselves as designers of our own lives, reflect on ourselves and take personal responsibility do we become resilient. To do this, we need to know ourselves well - know our strengths, weaknesses, sensitivities, values, desires and beliefs - and accept ourselves without resting on our laurels.

Practical tip: Most women are pretty good at formulating their own weaknesses. Many find it difficult to praise themselves, to be proud of themselves, to express their strengths out loud. Treat yourself to a little self-praise: what are you really good at? What are you really proud of? Write it down.

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When you leave the victim role, you almost automatically take responsibility for yourself. As with solution orientation, this is not about taking responsibility for your family, in-laws, the weekly shop or team harmony - it's about taking responsibility for yourself and your own well-being. This means taking care of your physical and mental health, being aware of your own wishes and needs and creating a healthy balance between your professional and private life.

This is not easy between the many roles we take on in everyday life. But it is particularly important in the current phase of life. Because your own 100% performance capacity is no longer the same as it was when you were eighteen. You notice this not only in the time it takes to recover after that glass of wine, but also in the constant tension of the daily deadline madness. Taking responsibility therefore means accepting your own limits and setting them accordingly. Especially when the outward "no" is a "yes" to yourself and your energy resources.

Practical tip: We all need time and places just for ourselves. Since it's not always realistic to incorporate a big relaxation break with a wellness treatment, at least make sure you have consistent micro-breaks: separators in your busy everyday life where you make yourself aware of where you are in terms of energy. This could be a few targeted breaths, a few rays of sunlight on your closed eyes or the first sip of warm tea. Take at least 3 micro-breaks a day and create a time slot or a place somewhere where you can let yourself go for a little longer.


Relationships - whether amorous, friendly or collegial - offer real support in times of crisis. If they are on an equal footing, so that both give, take and also accept. This sounds mundane and obvious, but it is difficult for many women in particular. While it is often easy to help others, the belief that you can "solve everything yourself", that you don't want to ask for help or that you always have to appear strong, often prevents you from asking for support.

Everyone has their limits. However, others cannot look inside your head to see exactly where yours are and when they have been reached. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but of strength - because you are using your network and are able to build equal relationships.

Resilient women are also characterised by their ability to deal with loneliness. They can then approach people again to form new relationships. The network is changeable, at any age.

Practical tip: Look around your network. Who is really good for you? And who is an "energy vampire" who has been sucking you dry - perhaps for years? It's time to get rid of them and focus on inspiration, partnership and acceptance.


"Life can only be understood backwards. You have to live it forwards," says philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. But if you're in the middle of a crisis, an energy slump or a depressive phase, looking forward is incredibly difficult. At the same time, it is particularly important to look ahead and set goals. Because if we make plans for the future - and these can also be small plans - then other resilience factors are also activated.

We take responsibility for ourselves and get into action. If we are active ourselves, it is almost impossible to remain in the role of victim. We accept the current circumstances and look for feasible solutions to change things. Combine this with an optimistic attitude that our actions will have a positive effect and there you have it!

Overall, many women find it difficult to put their own goals first and not constantly focus themselves towards helping others achieve theirs. However, this is a necessary first step in consciously deciding on your own goals in life and setting the necessary course. Letting go of unimportant obligations that you have placed on your shoulders over the years can be the next step in gaining more clarity about what your future should look like.

In order to shape these better, it is sometimes necessary to deal with your own past. The better you manage to make your past and present useful for the future, the more resilient you will be in the face of life.

Practical tip: What do you still want to do or experience? Write yourself a bucket list (i.e. everything you still want to do before you have to "kick the bucket") and look at what's on it. Deciding on "the essentials" is often a milestone in shaping your own future.

Time to get started

We are actually aware of many of these aspects, but it is precisely when things are not going well that we fall back into a "problem trance". We focus on the negative or remain in our comfort zones - which are actually debilitating patterns and habits. But when you start to free yourself from this, you strengthen yourself and build up a thick layer of resilience.

Studies & References

Gut angepasst? Belastbar? Widerstandsfähig? Resilienz und Geschlecht

Freiburger Zeitschrift für Geschlechterstudie, Ulrich Bröckling, 2020

Breaking the stress cycle. 7 Steps to Greater Resilience, Happiness, and Peace of Mind

Andrew Bernstein, Atria Books, 2010