Building Resilience During Uncertain Times

How to bounce back from adversity and the challenges that we are facing

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Forest Running
Runners climb stairs through the forest of the North Shore, Vancouver B.C. Photo: Mike Seehagel / Tourism Vancouver

Every athlete knows how to recover from the physical stress that comes from training. They have strategies in place to support their wellness and help their bodies recover quickly. But when it comes to well-being – our mental, emotional, and physical health – recovering is a different ball game.

A lot has happened this year, and the changes from COVID-19 are having an impact on the well-being of people worldwide. Both elite and recreational athletes have been affected in unique ways. Some have been training their whole lives for a chance at Olympic glory only to have the games postposed for a year. Others have been actively preparing for a first marathon, IRONMAN, Gran Fondo or 10K race only to see all that effort not come to fruition when their event is cancelled, creating a big letdown. 

With change can come feelings of fear, disappointment, loss, and/or grief. This can include grieving the loss of certainty, the loss of activities and events that were planned, and/or the loss of a loved one. The circumstances of this year have been challenging and have taken a toll on many. Left unchecked, this can lead to lasting mental, emotional, and physical effects. 

How do we move forward?

Resilience refers to the ability to bounce back from the obstacles and challenges that we face. The recovery point is reaching the previous level of functioning, before the challenging circumstances occurred. However, in today’s world, it’s often not enough just to bounce back. We are expected to learn and grow from those challenges. 

Redefining resilience focuses on post-traumatic growth which refers to positive psychological change that one may experience from the adversity and challenges that they face. This can result in a higher level of functioning. For some, returning to the previous level of functioning will be enough, and that is okay. For others, learning and growing from the experience will help propel them forward.

What can we do to build resilience?

The following strategies can help athletes develop their resilience and thrive. 

  1. Language
    When faced with obstacles, consider the language that you use with yourself. It can take longer to bounce back if negative communication is used after a stressful event. The inner critic plays a role in this. These are the disapproving thoughts, and feelings of failure, shame, and/or guilt. Become the critic of your inner critic and realistically challenge the negative dialogue. 
  2. Control
    Spending time on the variables that are out of our control takes away from focusing on what we can control. Finding control within change can be challenging, but this is where we can take action, and for some, find comfort.
  3. Time
    Give yourself time to adjust. The early stages of the pandemic forced us to find new ways of working, living, and connecting. The weeks that followed reinforced the new routines, and we adjusted. This took time. 
  4. Benefits
    Engage in finding benefits in the setbacks that you’ve faced. This promotes learning and growth, and is closely connected to thriving. Some examples may include: a greater appreciation for relationships, life, and/or experiences; a greater sense of personal strength; revised priorities. 
  5. Ask
    Know when to ask for help. There are resources available in our communities. Know that you are not alone.

We can learn from our experiences, and being mindful of how we treat ourselves during the process is critical. Building our resilience requires us to be kind to ourselves, and this can make us even stronger. 


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