Building Resilience | NAMI

As a frontline health care professional, you are already accustomed to stress. While every patient case or emergency response may not noticeably affect you, daily stress can accumulate, along with the trauma of treating patients with especially difficult illnesses and injuries. It can be easy to ignore what may seem like a minor, or an occasional impact — until you realize that the impact is no longer minor.

Resiliency reduces the harmful effects of stress and trauma, acting as a buffer to help you maintain your well-being. Strengthening and adding protective factors, like social support, access to resources and caring for your physical health all serve to help you effectively counteract cumulative stress.

Health care professionals already know and understand the importance of physical health, but it can be easy to forget the basics when managing a hectic schedule or shiftwork. Mental and physical health are intricately linked, so every step you take for your physical health can also improve your mental health.

Whether you are building your resilience as a preventative measure, or seeking to add to your resiliency skills in new ways, there are many approaches you can take. Before getting into specific strategies, start with these essential steps.

  • Have compassion for yourself. Your work is demanding and difficult, and it’s normal for stress and trauma to have a negative effect on your health – mentally and physically.
  • Be aware of how you’re feeling by identifying your emotions: shock, sadness, anger, guilt, fear, relief, etc. These are expected emotional responses, and it’s ok to feel them (in any combination). Calling them what they are helps you gain perspective and focus on your approach for feeling better.
  • Identify the symptoms that are bothering you, as well as how they affect you daily. Then talk to someone about it, whether through peer support or through professional channels.
  • Remember that you can respond to trauma in various ways, including mood, sleep and physical symptoms.
  • Explore resources and keep track of go-to coping strategies that help.

Every step you take to manage stress and trauma puts you in a powerful position to improve and protect your mental health.

Resiliency Skills And Tools

Resilience includes a sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem, optimism and the feeling of personal control and independence. Adding tools like social support, physical activity and other wellness strategies helps counteract the harmful effects of stress and trauma and makes it easier to cope.

Explore resources and share them with others, keep track of go-to coping strategies, and continue to look after your own physical health. It’s also a good idea to check in with your colleagues sometimes. Here are some suggestions to get started.

  • Use specific strategies for self-care during your shift. It can be as simple as box breathing, a quick stretch break, or having healthy beverages and snacks on hand to recharge. You might even try doing nothing for 2 minutes.
  • Take care of yourself off the clock too. Make plans to connect with others and remember to seek sources of relaxation that create a sense of happiness and fulfillment. This could be friends and family connections, pets, music, faith, travel or hobbies.
  • Set the tone for each day by starting with a healthy and positive habit. Try five or ten minutes of mindful meditation or prayer, stretching, or take a few minutes to focus on your goals for the day.
  • Remind yourself of your strengths and abilities.
  • Prioritize relationships and be intentional about connecting with others. Social support and human connection is as fundamental to health and well-being as nutrition and physical activity.
    • Even when you feel like being alone, spending time with a friend or family member can boost your mood.
    • Take a few minutes to call a friend or loved one.
    • Meet a friend for lunch or go to the gym with a co-worker.

Sometimes you can regain perspective by ‘diagnosing’ a problem and planning logical solutions for working through it. Question assumptions you may have about difficult situations and have an open mind about ways to feel better.

Create a list of tips and resources that work for you, as well as a list of things you’re willing to try. Whether or not you find it easy to bounce back after a difficult experience, resiliency is a skill you can learn and enhance. Like any skillset, resiliency requires practice and reinforcement, and this can include trying new approaches to wellness.

NAMI HelpLine is available M-F, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET. Call 800-950-6264,
text “helpline” to 62640, or chat online. In a crisis, call or text 988 (24/7).