The language of resilience

Resilience is a complex phenomenon that has been well researched and broken down into many constituent parts. It's something we develop over time from our experiences of dealing with challenges and adversity and it enables us to grow and become better at coping and solving problems proactively as well as reactively in the future. We sure know when we have it and times when we don't!

From working with clients as a therapist and coach over the last 20+ years, I've noticed a lot of common phrases people use to describe their experiences when they are not feeling resilient. 

The language is a reflection of how and what we're thinking which in turn affects and is affected by our emotions and behaviours and the feedback we get from others.

Reframing our non-resilient language into language reflecting resilience may just seem empty words, but the more we use words of resilience the more we become what we are suggesting to ourselves as they become our support strategies to keep us feeling positive in times of need. 

For example, when we are not resilient we use language reflecting overwhelm, a tendency to dwell on problems and use unhelpful coping mechanisms. We tend to use generalisations, deletions, and distortions and overthink things.

Once we start using terms of acceptance, optimism, solutions rather than problems, responsibility-taking, appropriate control taking, support, appropriate coping method/strategy, we develop a sense of hope, health and well-being and an ability to cope and act even through the toughest moments.

Here are some common phrases people use and useful reframes that enable resilience:

I wish this pain would go away I can’t cope anymore > This pain isn’t the worse I’ve had so I’m sure I can cope okay by keeping busy and taking my mind off it.

I feel so ill and I can’t do anything about it > if there was something I could do right now to solve this what could I do?

I just can’t go on anymore > life sucks when this happens but I know it’s temporary and I can get through this okay

If only someone could take this pain away > I wonder what I can do to manage this better?

I can’t cope > I can and will cope just like I have before

I just don’t know what to do > I’m going to have a think about what I can do to make this better

I feel so tired and helpless > Perhaps it’s time to listen to my needs and have a rest

Reframes enable action i.e., they help us to think and do things differently to make change happen rather than feel defeated, despondent and helpless which can leave us feeling powerless to influence our experiences.


Keep a journal of the language you use to describe your thoughts and feelings.

What is your language telling you about how resilient you are?

How can you reframe your language to help you become more resilient in managing your challenges?

Need more help? Call for a free chat to learn more about how you can learn more strategies of resilience 

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