27 Resilience Activities for Students and Adults (+PDF)

27 Resilience Activities and Worksheets for Students and Adults (+PDFs)

You may think you’re not very resilient.

The word “resilient” might bring to mind all of the struggles and setbacks that have plagued you in your life.

You might be thinking about how hard it is to recover from some of the worst ones. You may be thinking, “I’m not resilient at all. Look at how often I’ve struggled to get back up!”

If you’re thinking any of these thoughts, then you are probably one of the most resilient people. You have suffered, you have struggled, you have waded through a seemingly unstoppable tide of difficulty – and you have survived.

The human capacity for burden is like bamboo – far more flexible than you’d ever believe at first glance.

Jodi Picoult

We tend to think of resilient people as those who are unaffected by the challenges of life, or who take a setback with a smile and laugh in the face of their obstacles. But this is not resilience.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back, again and again, with every obstacle we face.

Before you read on, we thought you might like to download our 3 Resilience Exercises for free. These engaging, science-based exercises will help you to effectively deal with difficult circumstances and give you the tools to improve the resilience of your clients, students, or employees.

The person showing little emotional distress in difficulty is not necessarily displaying resilience. The person who fails and feels intense negative emotions, yet tries again the next day, is displaying resilience.

Put simply, resilience is the ability to adapt and we can all demonstrate resilience. Granted, some people may be more resilient than others, but it is not an immutable trait or characteristic that you either do or don’t have. Resilience is a learned ability and one that you can build.

Resilience is not the absence of distress or difficulty. Resilience is the ability to adapt and grow following adversity.

Some of these resilience activities and exercises may help you develop your resilience, while others might make you realize how resilient you already are.

Either way, the outcome is more confidence in your ability to bounce back.

Read on if you’re ready to learn more about how to boost your resilience and meet challenges with confidence in yourself and your ability to succeed, even after failure.


4 Resilience Activities for Adults

resilience activities adultsWe’ll provide several resources for building resilience, but first, let’s take a look at what the American Psychological Association has to say about building resilience.

According to the APA, there are 10 ways to build resilience, many of which will be applied in the training, exercises, and activities listed later:

  • Making connections and building your social support network;
  • Avoiding the tendency to view crises as insurmountable challenges;
  • Accepting that change is a natural and unavoidable part of life;
  • Moving towards your (realistic) goals;
  • Taking decisive actions that will help you face your challenges;
  • Looking for opportunities for self-discovery;
  • Nurturing a positive view of yourself and your abilities;
  • Keeping things in perspective and in context;
  • Maintaining a hopeful outlook on life;
  • And taking care of yourself (APA, “10 Ways”).

These ten basic principles of improving resilience can be applied on your own, in a guided therapeutic relationship, or in training and courses on resilience.


PositivePsychology.com Realizing Resilience Coaching Masterclass

If you’re a helping professional seeking a comprehensive resource to help your clients build resilience, take a look at our Realizing Resilience Coaching Masterclass.

In this course, you’ll gain science-backed tools to show your clients how to navigate life’s ups and downs with poise and resilience, enabling them to improve their overall well-being.

The course comprises six modules.

1. Positive Psychology 2.0

You’ll begin by delving into the darker side of the human experience, often triggered by adverse events. In doing this, you’ll gain the skills to teach and apply positive psychology principles in a holistic and balanced way.

2. Resiliences

Next, you will discover the characteristics that make up a resilient person and the four key elements of resilience. The modules that follow explore these four elements in more detail.

3. Attention

In Module 3, you will learn about the first element of resilience–attention. In this module, you’ll develop an understanding of how resilient people direct their attention to positive and negative life events.

4. Thoughts

The second element of resilience you’ll learn about regards thoughts. In this module, you’ll gain a range of practical tools and exercises to help your clients direct their thoughts in constructive ways based on the best scientific practice and theory.

5. Action

Resilient people are quick to adopt adaptive coping strategies in the face of negative events. Module 5 will teach you to arm your clients with these strategies.

6. Motivation

What drives resilient people to persist and engage in positive coping in the face of adversity? This final module will answer this question and teach you about the last key element of resilience–motivation.

The Realizing Resilience Coaching Masterclass© includes a range of useful materials, including live recordings, a workbook for your clients, 19 PowerPoint presentations, and extended usage rights to save you time developing your own materials.


Adult Resilience Program

This program is intended for teenagers and adults over the age of 16. It is offered online and is especially helpful for older students dealing with stress or pressure from school, family, and upcoming transitions.

This program will help participants:

  • Identify their feelings and develop empathy;
  • Control and regulate difficult or intense emotions;
  • Learn relaxation techniques;
  • Practice mindfulness;
  • Prevent bullying, for both bullies and victims;
  • Resist peer pressure and develop positive relationships;
  • Compromise in difficult situations and avoid conflict;
  • Choose appropriate role models;
  • Set realistic and achievable goals;
  • Learn organizational and focus skills;
  • And develop non-internet-based friendships and relationships.

This course is delivered through five sessions of 2 to 2.5 hours and guided by a facilitator. Click here to learn more about this training endorsed by the World Health Organization.


Samaritans Resilience Training

positive relationships resilienceThe Samaritan’s organization trains for adults in their “Building Resilience and Wellbeing” course.

This course helps participants:

  • Explore the connection between emotional health and resilience, and understand how resilience can positively impact our lives;
  • Assess their own resilience skills;
  • Recognize the indicators of stress and identify sources of support;
  • Learn the Keys of Resilience;
  • Identify practical steps they can take to build resilience;
  • And build a personalized action plan.

The course generally takes place over one day and can be delivered at locations throughout the UK.

Click here to learn more about this course.


Reaching In Reaching Out (RIRO)

If you’re a parent, coach, therapist, or mental health professional seeking a more structured approach to helping clients or children build resilience, the Reaching In Reaching Out Resiliency Skills Training program can help.

It consists of 12 hours of training divided into two parts:

Part 1 helps adults build their own foundation in resilience and learn resiliency skills they can model and encourage in their children. These skills include:

  1. Identifying and strengthening resilience abilities.
  2. Using strategies to stay calm and focused when experiencing stress.
  3. Recognizing how thoughts can affect the ability to cope.
  4. Challenging thinking patterns that hinder resilience.
  5. Generating alternative ways to deal with conflict and stress.

Part 2 teaches participants how to apply these skill to children, through:

  1. Modeling the skills and fostering resilience in children.
  2. Using their own resiliency skills to help them understand their children’s or clients’ behavior.
  3. Incorporating resiliency skills into their work by using child-friendly approaches.

This training can be completed in two full days, four half-days, six after-work sessions, or 10-12 brief sessions.

To access the RIRO skills training, click here.

10 ways to develop resilience

You can download the printable version of the infographic here.


4 Resilience Worksheets for Youth and Students

There are many resources out there to help students and youth build resilience, including worksheets that they can work through on their own or with the guidance of a trusted adult. A few of these worksheets are listed below.


1. Coloring in for Emotional Clarity

The goal of this worksheet is to help children and students explore their feelings through color.

At the same time, it’s a good way to help them gain some insight into the feelings they experience in different situations.

Resilience Mandala Worksheet

To guide students through this worksheet, ask students to recall a recent emotional experience. This could be positive, such as an exciting birthday party, or negative – like an argument with a friend.

The instructions are simple: have the students close their eyes and try to reconnect with their feelings during that situation, color in the Mandala in a way that represents how they feel.

They can use a variety of colors or just one color, as well as their own choice of materials – however it should best represent their feelings.

After they have colored each section in, discuss the color(s) with them. Ask them to reflect on why they chose the color or colors they used, and use questions and active listening to open up more dialogue if you feel it will help.

This Coloring in for Emotional Clarity worksheet can help students discover and express their own feelings, as well as help parents or teachers, learn about how the student or child is doing with each area of their life. Before issues can be addressed and learned from, they must first be discussed.


2. My Gifts – Traits and Talents

Completing this exercise can help children and students recognize and appreciate the talents, strengths, and positive traits they have. Encouraging kids to see them as “gifts” adds a fun twist to the whole activity as your child creates a creative “gift box”.

To guide you through this exercise, you will need:

  1. Gift box template (find this in the worksheet)
  2. Scissors
  3. Glue
  4. Markers
  5. Craft items to decorate with (such as stickers, sequins, glitter, etc.)
  6. Small pieces of paper with different gifts, traits, and strengths written on them.

Begin by explaining that this exercise will focus on who you are inside.

The first step is identifying the gifts, traits and talents that students feel they have. These include qualities like:

  • Modest
  • Considerate
  • Patient
  • Creative
  • Calm
  • Gentle
  • Helpful
  • Bubbly
  • Kind

There is also space at the end of this page to write down a few qualities or characteristics not already listed, so encourage students to be creative if they think some of their gifts” or good qualities are missing.

The second step is for students to share these traits and talents that they chose. Students should describe why they chose each gift or quality and give examples of how these qualities fit them.

Step Three is to give students the gift box cutout provided. Have them cut along the dotted lines and arrange the box, then decorate it with their name, their favorite color(s), or any of the craft items they would like to use.

Click the link to download My Gifts – Traits and Talents.


3. Learning From My Work

This exercise helps students learn from how they did on a particular assignment or task and learn how to improve in the future.

In order to develop resilience, it’s important to be realistic about setting and striving towards goals, learning from one’s mistakes, and trying again.

This worksheet presents nine dichotomous pairs of statements with a scale in between. The student should be instructed to indicate on the scale how they feel in regards to these two opposite statements.

The statements include:

  • “I did better than I thought I would” vs. “I didn’t do as well as I imagined”
  • “I pushed myself and worked hard” vs. “I could have tried a bit harder”
  • “I took a chance by trying out something new” vs. “I stuck to what I knew, because that’s what I feel sure of.”
  • “I changed my work as I went along” vs. “I stuck to my approach throughout”
  • “I listened to others’ feedback” vs. “I kept going using my own approach”
  • “My work and ideas were my own” vs. “I had help from other sources”
  • “I was clear on the task” vs. “I was unsure what I was supposed to do”
  • “I’m satisfied with my results” vs. “I’m not content with my results”
  • “I was working on a deadline” vs. “It was a continuing project”

Use the students’ responses on this Learning From My Work exercise to help them discover where they are satisfied with their work and where they could devote more attention. Encourage them to do better next time, and emphasize that their performance is always a work in progress.

If they feel they have failed themselves or their teacher, help them to see that failure is a crucial part of life and not the end of the world when we learn from it.


4. What Is Hope?

hope resilience exercise

This simple worksheet can help students learn to develop hope and build resiliency.

It will guide students through a thought exercise in what hope is, how they tend to think about and experience hope, and how to facilitate greater hope in their lives.

This worksheet includes a series of questions to help students explore this topic, including:

  • Aristotle once said: “Hope is a waking dream.” What do you feel this means to you, personally?
  • Have your own hopes changed throughout your life? How?
  • What are three of your biggest aspirations right now?
  • How has being hopeful, or feeling hopeless, influenced choices you’ve made?
  • Has anything happened to you that caused you to lose hope?
  • What kind of things, people, or activities give you hope? Where do you feel your hope, or your hopelessness, comes from in life?
  • In what ways do your surroundings give you more or less hope? How have they given you more or less hope in the past?
  • What kinds of things need to occur for you to feel more hopeful about your life?

You can find this worksheet here.


4 Resilience Building Games for Kids in Primary School

Primary or elementary school is an excellent time to begin building resilience. Children are so adaptable already that introducing the idea of resilience is much easier than teaching resilience to adults.

There are many resources out there for helping build resilience in young children, but games are certainly one of the best ways. Listed below are some of the best games for teaching resilience in primary or elementary school.


1. I Love My Classmate

kindness resilience kids activities

This is a great game for helping foster kindness in children. Kindness is important on its own, but learning kindness for others in addition to the self is also vital as a piece of resilience.

This game is played with a number of chairs formed into a circle. Make sure there is one less chair than the number of players.

The game is played in the following steps:

  1. The person standing in the center of the circle begins by saying “I love my classmate, particularly my classmate who…”, completing the sentence with a piece of information that is true for him- or herself. For example, the player could say something like “… particularly my classmate who has a cat” or “… especially my classmate who plays hockey.”

  2. As soon as s/he is finished, everyone who this applies to (including the person in the center) moves from their chair to an empty one that is not right next to them.

  3. The person who remains in the middle begins a second round of the game.

This game will help children get to know each other if they don’t already know each other well, learn about what they have in common with others, and practice kindness towards one another by repeating the phrase “I love my classmate.”

Download the instructions for I Love My Classmate.


2. It’s Not a Secret…

This game can be played with only several pairs of children and some space. If there is an odd number of children, you can play with them to make an even number.

To play, separate students into pairs of two and designate one of them as student A and the other student B.

Instruct student A to listen to student B for a specified amount of time, perhaps 15 seconds for very young children or a minute for older children.

Instruct student B to finish the sentence “It’s not a secret that…” They can finish this sentence with any information about themselves, whether it’s their family structure, the classes they like best in school, their hobbies, their pets, their favorite or least favorite things or anything else they’d like to share.

Student B repeats this sentence several times, completing it with a new piece of information each time.

When the time is up, have students A and B switch roles, so A speaks while B listens.

This game is another good way for students to get to know each other and to practice active listening. It may even help strike up a few friendships! Having meaningful relationships and practicing kindness is a great way to build resilience.

Download the worksheet to read more about It’s Not a Secret.


3. Shuffle

Shuffle is played with a four-square court or four markers forming a square with an additional cone in the middle. Review rock-paper-scissors with the children before you begin.

The steps of the game are:

  1. Five players can play at a time, with each player occupying either a corner or the middle. All other children should be in a line, ready to play when their turn comes.

  2. The game begins when the person in the middle says “Shuffle.”

  3. At this point, all players must find a new corner or cone to occupy, but no one can go to the center cone.

  4. If two players arrive at a corner at the same time, they must play rock-paper-scissors for the corner. The winner stays in the corner, and the loser is “out.”

  5. The next person in line becomes the person in the middle and begins the next round.

This game helps children learn how to deal with conflict. Meaningful connections are vital to developing resilience, but conflict arises in all relationships at some point. While most conflicts cannot be solved with only “rock-paper-scissors,” this teaches children that conflict can be solved. Although they may be disappointed by being “out” of the game, they will quickly learn that, in life as in the game, their turn will come again.

You can read about this game and its other variations at this link: Shuffle.


4. Do The Hula

hula hoop resilience activities

Do The Hula is played in a circle, with all children holding hands.

First, demonstrate how to get your body through a hula hoop without using your hands. Make sure that each child has a space in the circle.

Then, play the game as follows:

  1. Place the hula hoop over two people’s interlocked hands so it cannot escape the circle.

  2. Tell the children that the goal of the game is to get the hula hoop all the way around the circle without anyone letting go of their neighbors’ hands.

  3. Start the game, and have everyone cheer on the children that are currently trying to move the hula hoop.

  4. Once the game has been played for one round, discuss the group’s successes and challenges and try it again.

This game is a great way to show children that when conflict or challenges arise, there are ways to deal with them. Even if they face seemingly insurmountable challenges, together they can find a way to overcome them.

Variations on this game include challenging the group to beat a chosen time, playing with eyes shut, or dividing the circle into two circles and having them compete against each other.

To see more about this game, click Do The Hula.


5 Exercises for Developing Resilience

There are many resources for developing resilience in adults aside from courses. For example, there are several exercises that can help build resiliency skills. A few of these exercises are listed below.


1. The Brief Resilience Scale

The Brief Resilience Scale is an assessment for understanding your current resilience. While this may not build your resilience directly, it can give you a general overview of your current resiliency skills and abilities. In order to increase your resilience, it’s important to know where you stand.

Designed to be compact, the scale itself includes only six questions. Each self-report item is answered on a five-point Likert scale, where 5 indicates “Strongly Agree,” and 1 represents “Strongly Disagree.”

Example items include:

  • It does not take me long to recover from a stressful event; and
  • It is hard for me to snap back when something bad happens.

Doing this exercise will help you to recognize where you are in terms of resilience and begin to identify where you can improve from your current state of resilience.


2. Exploring Past Resilience

This exercise focuses on your past experiences with resilience.

Start by thinking about a time in your life that was particularly challenging or demanding, especially one that was emotionally draining or difficult emotionally. Think about how you handled that situation and eventually came through on the other side.

Next, answer some questions to consider the different resilience skills and strategies you applied. For example:

  • What was your objective at the time?
  • What challenges did you need to overcome?
  • What difficult thoughts and emotions do you recall experiencing at the time?
  • What skills were helpful to you in dealing with the situation? What perspectives or mindsets in particular?

Going through Exploring Past Resilience and answering these questions will help you to realize the resilience skills you already possess, which can aid you in further building on those skills.

Use this exercise to remind yourself that you have already practiced resilience many times before and that you are fully capable of handling whatever comes your way.


3. The Resilience Plan (The 4 S’s)

This exercise can help you set goals on improving your resiliency and making sure you keep your resilience-building on track.

First, identify a recent experience in which demonstrating resilience helped you overcome adversity. Working through the sheet, you’ll then learn about the 4 S’s of resilience and how they helped you cope at the time:

  • Supportive people – People who gave you advice, or perhaps helped you develop a new, more helpful perspective

  • Strategies – Methods and approaches you implemented to deal with difficult thoughts and feelings

  • Sagacity – Wisdom and insights that may have been helpful

  • Solution-seeking behaviors – Planning, for instance, or searching for useful information.

Next, identify a current challenge you’d like to deal with by applying your resilience plan. The exercise will guide you through the steps of crafting a plan, and the worksheet includes examples and templates to get you started.

Finally, you’re invited to apply and evaluate your 4-S Plan so that you can continue developing resilience for the future.

Resilience is like many other skills or abilities, in that you cannot put forth effort once and consider your learning done. To truly build meaningful resilience, it must be a practice rather than a crash course. Use this goal-setting exercise to facilitate your goal striving.


4. It Could Be Worse…

This is an exercise that you can use for yourself or guide your clients through when they are feeling down or excessively worried.

“It Could Be Worse” refers to thinking about three ways that their situation could be worse, specifically for yourself or your client).

For example, if a friend flaked on your plans, you might feel upset or disappointed, which could lead to feeling abandoned or even to feelings of worthlessness. Instead of focusing on what happened in this situation, think about three ways that it could be worse.

For instance, you could think “I could have no friends at all,” “I could have no family members to talk to,” or “I could have nowhere to sleep tonight.”

Spend a few minutes truly imagining each scenario. Think about what you would see, hear, and physically feel in each scenario.

It may seem counterintuitive to imagine things being worse, but thinking through these three ways can actually remind you of what you already have and instill gratitude for the good things in your life.

You can read more about this exercise here: It Could Be Worse.


Integrating the Science of Resilience in Schools: 5 Lesson Plans

Lesson Plans for Primary/Elementary and Middle SchoolAs mentioned earlier, school is an excellent place to begin building resilience.

While parents can and should help their children develop resilience, a classroom setting with their peers and a qualified teacher guiding the way can be an excellent place to learn.

A few resources for resilience lesson planning are below.


Lesson Plans for Primary/Elementary and Middle School

Elementary or primary school is an excellent time to begin teaching resilience to children. The earlier children begin building resilience, the more likely it is to “stick.” However, resilience is not something that can only be built in young children; children in middle school can also benefit greatly from resilience building.

The PDF from Lynne Namka and Talk, Trust, and Feel Therapeutics in Tucson, Arizona is an excellent source for lesson plans for young students. To access the PDF click here. It covers teaching a growth mindset, stress inoculation, giving effective praise, helping children deal with emotional trauma, and “bouncing back” after a setback.

There are tons of exercises, tools, and lesson plans in this PDF that teachers can use to help young students develop resilience.

Another great resource for lesson plans and suggestions for resilience building in young children comes from Professor Helen McGrath’s Bounce Back! program.

“Bounce Back!” is an acronym for some of the foundational principles of resilience, specifically:

B – Bad times don’t last, and things get better.

O – Other people can only help if you share with them.

U – Unhelpful thinking only makes you feel worse.

N – Nobody is perfect – not you, not your friends, not your family, not anybody!

C – Concentrate on the good things in life, no matter how small.

E – Everybody suffers, everybody feels pain and experiences setbacks; they are a normal part of life.

B – Blame fairly – negative events are often a combination of things you did, things others did, and plain bad luck.

A – Accept what you can’t change and try to change what you can.

C – Catastrophizing makes things worse – don’t fall prey to believing in the worst interpretation.

K – Keep things in perspective. Even the worst moment is but one moment in life.

McGrath applies these principles to building these components of resilience:

  1. Courage
  2. Managing feelings
  3. Humor
  4. Relationship skills
  5. Self-knowledge
  6. Goal setting skills
  7. Optimistic thinking
  8. Helpful thinking skills (avoiding cognitive distortions)

You can access a slideshow on the Bounce Back! program here to learn how to apply McGrath’s resilience building principles and activities to each of these areas.

Additionally, the PDF from Connect with Kids provides a lesson plan for children in grades 3 to 5 called “Resilient Voices.” It can be found on page 6 and guides students through listing problems they face in their lives, defining resilience, and building a foundation for resilience. To access the PDF click here.

Another lesson plan that can help students develop resilience can be found in the previous PDF on page 8 or in the PDF from Connect With Kids and the Drug Abuse Prevention Program in New York. To access the PDF click here. There is great information throughout this PDF, or skip to page 4 to see the Resilient Heroes lesson plan.


Lesson Plans for High School

resilience high school exercisesWhile it’s best to begin early, high school is still a time that is ripe for building foundational skills like resilience.

High school teachers should not be discouraged from incorporating resilience exercises and activities into their lesson plans, as high school students may be one of the groups that need resilience the most!

The website reachout.com provides excellent tools and lesson plans for teaching resilience to adolescents. These plans can be incorporated into classes to help high school students deal with difficult situations, including:

  • Illness;
  • Changing schools;
  • Transitioning from primary/elementary to middle school/junior high, middle school to high school, and high school to life beyond;
  • Difficult family situations like divorce;
  • Changes in friendship groups;
  • Conflict with peers;
  • Conflict with family members;
  • And a heavy student workload.

The lesson plans you can find here will help students to explore and build seven elements of resilience:

  1. Emotional awareness and self-regulation
  2. Impulse control
  3. Optimism
  4. Flexible and accurate thinking
  5. Empathy
  6. Self-efficacy
  7. Connecting and reaching out

Exercises and activities are provided for each element, with tips for implementing resilience building and encouraging students along the way.

This lesson plan will help students learn about the Seven Resiliencies (insight, independence, relationships, initiative, creativity, humor, and morality) and explore the life of a historical hero, as well as apply the Seven Resiliencies to their own life.

If you are a school counselor, therapist or teacher, you would appreciate this excellent resource which will teach you how to teach resilience to others. Aptly named the ‘Realizing Resilience Masterclass©’, the course consists of 6 modules that cover positive psychology, resilience, attention, thoughts, action, and finally motivation.

Highly recommended, this online course will enable you to empower others and make an impactful difference in their lives.


Bonus: 5 Shame Resilience Theory (SRT) Exercises

Aside from the benefits and advantages we know resilience can bring, there is another type of resilience that can greatly enhance the quality of life.

The Shame Resilience Theory was developed by author and researcher Brené Brown. Brown noticed that the fear of being vulnerable hindered meaningful connection with others, and one of the many reasons we fear vulnerability is the feeling of shame.

Shame is an intense and negative feeling of being hopelessly flawed and unworthy of love and acceptance, and it affects all of us at one point or another, but it can be especially gripping for some people.

Shame resilience is a specific kind of resilience to this intensely negative feeling, and building it can do wonderful things for our self-confidence, empathy, and human connection.

According to Dr. Brown, there are four elements of shame resilience:

  1. Recognizing shame and understanding our shame triggers (physical sensations like elevated heart rate or shaking).
  2. Practicing critical awareness, of ourselves and of our environment and the way things work.
  3. Reaching out to others and sharing ourselves and our stories (building a social support network).
  4. Speaking shame to keep it from flying under the radar (Graham & Graham, 2015).

When we recognize shame and understand our triggers, practice critical awareness, share with others, and keep shame out in the open, we lay the groundwork for a type of resilience that will greatly improve our connections with others, our self-esteem, and our overall well-being.

There are a few exercises that can be especially helpful for building shame resilience. A few of these are listed below, but many more are out there if you’re interested in learning more.


Self-Compassion Exercises

self compassion break resilience activityDeveloping self-compassion can be an excellent way to combat shame and build resilience to its effects.

Dr. Kristin Neff is the pioneer of self-compassion research, and her website offers several guided meditations and exercises to increase compassion for the self.

1. How Would You Treat a Friend?

For example, a simple exercise that can set you on the right path is “How would you treat a friend?” This is a quick and easy exercise that anyone can do. All you need is a piece of paper, a pen, and a willingness to answer honestly.

To give this exercise a try, use your paper and pen to answer these questions:

First, think about the times when a close friend feels really bad about him or herself or is really struggling in some way. How would you respond to your friend in this situation (especially when you’re at your best)? Please write down what you typically do, what you say, and note the tone in which you typically talk to your friends.

Now think about the times when you feel bad about yourself or are struggling. How do you typically respond to yourself in these situations? Please write down what you typically do, what you say, and note the tone in which you talk to yourself. Did you notice a difference? If so, ask yourself why. What factors or fears come into play that leads you to treat yourself and others so differently?

Finally, respond to this prompt: Please write down how you think things might change if you responded to yourself in the same way you typically respond to a close friend when you’re suffering.

To see this exercise on Dr. Neff’s self-compassion website, click here.

2. Self-Compassion Break

To practice the self-compassion break, you must first call to mind a situation in your life that is causing you stress or pain. Think about this situation and how it makes you feel, both emotionally and physically.

When you have it in mind and get a handle on the associated feelings, say the following things to yourself:

  • This is a moment of suffering.” This will activate mindfulness.

  • Suffering is a part of life.” Saying this helps you realize that you have this in common with all other human beings on the planet – suffering is an unavoidable part of life. You can follow this up by putting your hands over your heart or using whatever soothing self-touch feels right to you.

  • May I be kind to myself.” Alternatively, you can use other phrases that may apply better in your current situation, such as “May I forgive myself.” or “May I be patient.”

Here is the Self-Compassion Break exercise.

3. A Letter of Self-Compassion

Writing a self-directed letter can help you express your emotions and, recognize that you are your own most important source of support. It gives you a chance to exercise self-kindness and keep in touch with yourself in a more understanding, forgiving way.

All you need to start journaling is paper, a writing instrument, and a willingness to write honestly.

At the end of the week, or once a month, take a quiet moment to sit down and practice if you’re hoping to turn your letter-writing into a habit.

To help you along, this exercise suggests following a few steps:

  1. Think of an aspect of yourself or your life that you often criticize, or dislike. This might be something that you feel self-conscious about, or which makes you feel inadequate. Examples include aspects of your job or your relationship. You’ll write about the feelings this evokes, as well as any thoughts or images that come to mind when you think about it.

  2. Next, you’ll write a letter to yourself from the perspective of a good friend or loved one. Rather than writing about your own thoughts on the issue, try to imagine what they would say to you instead. Try to write from a place of genuine understanding, empathy, and unconditional acceptance. What are some of the ways they would show you compassion, support, and care?

  3. When you’ve finished, set it aside for 15 minutes. Return to it after this, re-reading what you’ve written and really allowing yourself to absorb what you’ve written. It may not come naturally, but try to open yourself up to the kindness, support, and compassionate feelings throughout the letter.

The Letter of Self-Compassion exercise can be found in our Toolkit.

4. Taking Care of the Caregiver

taking care of the caregiverThis exercise is intended specifically for those in a healthcare profession or those who take care of a family member.

People who spend so much time providing care for others often have a greater need for self-compassion and self-care.

The beautiful thing about this exercise is that you can practice it, however works best for you – the only requirement is that you do something for yourself that will meet your needs and help you recharge. This could be getting a massage, taking a long and leisurely walk, going to a yoga class, or spending time relaxing and doing nothing at all.

If you just can’t find the time to do any of these in a specific moment of need, practice “on the job” self-care. When you’re feeling overly stressed or overwhelmed in your caregiving, use soothing words or touch, or take a quick self-compassion break. Only you know what will work for you in the moment, but above all, give yourself permission to be human—with all of the flaws and pain that come with being human.

To read more about taking care of the caregiver, click here.

5. The Daring Way

This isn’t so much an exercise as it is a program, one that requires committing time and energy in order to engage and reap the benefits. The Daring Way is an experiential methodology, facilitated by certified professionals and appropriate for individuals, couples, families, teams, and organizational leaders.

The focus of this training is on helping people build shame resiliency skills and become braver, more vulnerable individuals who accept their worthiness and live a fuller, more authentic life.

To learn more about The Daring Way, visit thedaringway.com.

shame resilience theory how to overcome shame infographic


A Take-Home Message

This article covered several ways to help build resilience in adults, young adults, adolescents, and young children. There are many more ways to build resilience, so don’t feel constrained to these resilience activities.

I hope you find these exercises useful. How do you think resilience can shape the mind and strength of yourself and those around you? Did you try any of the exercises? Please leave us a comment below and let us know how it went. We love hearing from you.

Thanks for reading, and happy resilience building!

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our 3 Resilience Exercises for free.


  • American Psychological Association. “The road to resilience.” APA. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx
  • Graham, S., & Graham, M. (2015). Shame resilience. Concilium. Retrieved from www.shameresilience.com
  • Tyrrell, M. “A quick therapeutic exercise that boosts emotional resilience: How regularly feeling grateful can help your clients feel better.” Uncommon Knowledge. Retrieved from http://www.unk.com/blog/quick-therapeutic-exercise-that-boosts-emotional-resilience/
  • www.edutopia.org
  • www.howtothrive.org
  • www.playworks.org
  • www.reachinginreachingout.com
  • www.samaritans.org
  • www.self-compassion.org
  • thedaringway.com
  • www.unk.com
  • www.working-minds.org.uk


What our readers think


    This is a comprehensive, doable and grounded resource material on Resiliency. Applicable though lifetime. You are such an amazing writer, Ms. Courtney

  2. Bradley McMahan

    This is pretty amazing stuff i enjoyed reading , and the chance to learn more about this. i am currently in school and we have an assignment on this article. so thank you.

  3. Sana Hafeez

    i would like to choose the “The Gifts” ….Positive regard is very important factor in an individual’ life especially for children because it motivates a student to move on and work hard. Positive reward cause positivity, motivation, passion for learning and confidence in children

  4. Sandra Mohabir-McKinley

    I just read the resources on this page and although it’s July 2021 and somewhat late in the day, I really want to say ‘thank you’ to you, Courtney! This is AWESOME material and SO helpful. I am halfway through a year-long evidence-based coaching program and we have recently been discussing positive psychology which really resonates with me. So finding your blog was a real gift! Thank you so very much for sharing!

  5. Rosanne

    You might want to remove your “Thrive” link, in the adult section. It now attempts to redirect to a Russian p*rn site.

    • Annelé Venter

      Thank you so much for that warning Rosanne. Link removed! Will be replacing it soon with a better recommendation.

    • Jo Wilkie

      Great resources here! Thanks for sharing. We all have to keep promoting resilience wherever we can.

  6. Nic

    What a treasure trove of inspiring and invaluable content! Thank you so much for sharing these resources, Courtney. That’s so creative, kind and generous of you. I’m so excited by positive psychology and it’s really helpful and so appreciated when I find great content like this ???

  7. Younes Bounou

    I work with migrant children in Detention Centers, they have been through a lot of pain and traumas, i received trainings on Resilience, it helped me and my team to make the children’s life better; however, we have been facing many challenges and some of them are still existing.
    The children in the detention centers are from different nationalities, ethnicities, age groups and races. We are trying to find activities that can dissolve those challenges and make our efforts more fruitful.
    Is there a way to contact you and discuss the issue in deep so we can help those children be more resilient knowing that their period of detention varies and can be so short (few weeks sometimes).

  8. Denise Pfaff

    Do you have this in a word document or pdf? I loved the article!!! I would like to give it to teachers in a class.
    Thank you

  9. Carol

    I absolutely loved and appreciate the above resource. Thank you.

  10. Nimra

    A brilliant resource, thanks a bunch!

  11. Janice Vertreese

    This is so cool! I don’t have time to read all of it right now, but it definitely gave me a lot of ideas and more tools for my toolbox! Bookmarked and ready to use!

  12. Missy

    Thank you so much Courtney!

  13. Joy

    Awesome article. I’ll find it really useful for children in my sphere of influence. God bless you real good.

  14. Bonnie Kahl

    Thank you for this wonderful resource! I can’t wait to start using it.

    • Hervi Kaur

      omg!!!!!! this is brilliant resource I will be using it in the next 15mins, can’t wait-its just perfect THANKYOU SO MUCH!!!
      have a fab day 🙂 !!!!!!!

      • Angela Kehinde Mamukuyomi

        Awesome! This is very interesting, thanks so for a job well done.

  15. rajyalakshmi k

    its simple and easy to go through

  16. Kellie

    Very helpful in that this article goes beyond explanation and into practical application. Thank you so much!

  17. Pranab Paul

    Very nice feature

  18. Kathleen Boccio

    Enjoyed the material and will continue to utilize the site.
    Thank you

  19. Jean

    These are great articles and suggested activities to start a new resilience program at my school. Our school is challenged to address and rehabilitate trouble some city students. There is a need to have such program to personalize student of their strengthens and weaknesses and to give a sense of positive self esteem and hope.
    I look forward to using these suggested activities to adapt and blend in our school ,community and cultural context

  20. LCR

    Wow this is amazing. The resources are top notch. Thanks so much.

  21. kate

    Hi Courtney, This is a great article thanks! I was wondering where the exercise on Exploring Previous Resiliency came from? I would really like to use it in some information we are writing for students about resilience building and want to make sure I reference it correctly. Many thanks, Kate

  22. Anca

    Thank you! Great article and materials!

  23. Rita Pimenta de Devotto

    Thank you for this fantatisc and pratical summary!

  24. Anupama

    This is such a great read, the fact that it available to all free of cost is greater joy. Thanks a lot.

  25. Kristine Ann Exito

    I love this. I was about to prepare an activity for high school students. I was thinking of facilitating a talk on Crisis Management but when I received this article, I was so fascinated with the content that I can even apply it to myself. Thank you for this.
    Best Regards!

  26. Mark Orpen-Lyall

    Hi Courtney, this is brilliant..so practical, and broad in its offering. This is a real value adder, keep up the excellent work.
    Dr. Mark Orpen-Lyall

  27. Benaifer Khisay

    You guys are amazing!! If you could write sometime on empathy-building exercises we could use with clients pr some REBT homework assignments, it would be awesome!!

  28. jorin jacot

    Ms. Courtney, this article is so great! So much helpful in my group guidance for students and adults!

  29. Barry Heggie


  30. Mallika

    An excellent set of resources! Thank you!

  31. Grant Donnelly

    I have been researching resilience as part of a coaching program I am developing and this article. Well dozens of articles really is AMAZE balls really. Looks like I have more reading to do. Thanks Courtney, love the graphics too

  32. Caridad

    I am a therapist and find this very helpful. I will apply some of the exercises. Very useful!!! Thanks

  33. Connie Friman

    What a great job you have done – is the article in a PDF?

  34. Stephanie Thomas

    Really enjoyed reading this article on resillience. I found out alot about myself

  35. Bob Conlon, Ph.D.

    Excellent article and resources. Thank you for your effort to summarize and share.
    Has anyone else had difficulty with the link to How to Thrive’s resilience training? I also tried the Bounce Back! link but it took me to Ronald McDonald House, Australia, but I couldn’t find the Bounce Back! resources on that website.

  36. Manon Porelle

    wow!! So much useful, interesting information!!! Thank you!

  37. Kimson

    Beautiful work Courtney, this is pretty darn amazing, attractive and well put together. There is so much out there and this is clear and concise with great graphics. Thank you for your generousity!

  38. Alfred D. Herger Ph.D.


  39. Tara Agajanian

    This is a super, terrific article! Thank you so very much for sharing such wonderful ideas and exercises!
    Warm Regards

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Thanks for your comment, Tara! I’m so happy you enjoyed this piece.

  40. Kathleen Divino Omoso

    thank you so much for this post. It help me a lot!

  41. Ammar Saifullah

    Thank you for this wonderful post Courtney! 😀

    • Courtney Ackerman

      You’re so very welcome, Ammar! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  42. Harold Fisher

    Excellent resources Courtney!! I have been looking for some GRIT ideas for my first-year college students. Thanks so much!!

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Thanks Harold, I’m so glad you found this piece useful! Grit is such an excellent concept for first-year college students to start learning.

  43. Milagros Ramos

    Excelent article! Very apropiate for students returning to class after Huricane María in Puerto Rico.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      I agree Milagros – resilience exercises are totally applicable for the many people suffering in the aftermath of these hurricanes. Thanks for reading!

  44. Sheela

    Excellent post with very good exercises that can be used both personally and for working with others. Thank you Courtney for sharing and wish you much success in your work

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Thank you, Sheela! I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

  45. Paul Kenney

    Fantastic post – thanks for this and all the resources!

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Thanks for the comment Paul. Happy to help!

  46. Rebecca Williamson

    So very very helpful. Many thanks for the obvious work and effort you have put into compelling these resources.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Thank you for your comment, Rebecca! I’m so glad you found this piece helpful.

  47. Gopal Bhattarai

    Great!It will give me some insights for my research. Thank you.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      I’m glad you found it useful! Thanks for your comment 🙂

  48. rachel

    Yes, when I click on the resources it automatically downloads them. It worked for other worksheets, just not the developing resiliency exercises, which are unfortunately the ones I really wanted to give to my friend to see if they help while she is waiting to see a proper counsellor.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      How odd! I’ll speak to someone on the team about this and see if there’s a way to help.

  49. hina baloch

    very nice exercies to build up self confidence in our practical lives wonderfull 🙂

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Thank you Hina, I’m so glad you found them useful! Reading about resilience is great, but there’s no substitute for practical solutions.

  50. Maria Montero-López Lena

    Congratulations Courtney!!!!! The material on resilience that you developed is amazing!
    I am a full professor at National Autonomous University of Mexico-UNAM. And as part of my research interest is to improve the inner resources (emotional and behavioral) in elderly people. Now a days I am thinking in expand my professional activities to the private environments and be “personal couch” at middle and top level. Reviewing the material that you sent I have a question: Do you think that these exercises would be useful to promote well-being in private organizations?

  51. rachel

    I can’t get the developing resiliency exercises workbook to print. I managed to print off other downloads such as the mandala exercise, so it is definitely not my printer at fault. Any ideas?

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Hmmm I’m not sure. I have no problem getting it to print. Have you tried downloading it first, then printing from your computer instead of online? If so, I’m fresh out of ideas!

  52. Morongoenyane

    This is really good stuff. I have been told I’m strong willed and can relate to most of the aspects

    • Courtney Ackerman

      There are definitely perks to being strong-willed! Make sure to nurture such an advantageous quality 🙂

  53. narmada devkota

    very good article

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Thanks for reading Narmada, I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  54. Susan

    This is truly awesome. I am just finishing the MSC course (Mindful Self-Compassion. This supports so many of the notions.
    Thank you

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Great! I’m so happy you found it useful. Good luck finishing the course!


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