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Resilience is about taking action to manage whatever life throws at us. Surprisingly, it is often small actions that can produce a big upturn in our quality of life.
This section will guide you through some simple, practical actions that help to improve your resilience and performance.


What is resilience?

Resilience is the physical and mental qualities that allow you to bounce back from the challenges that life throws at you. It doesn’t mean being unrealistically happy and trouble free all of the time.

We can think of a resilient person as being like a spring - they can bend and stretch and get a bit bent out of shape, but eventually they spring back and continue to function as they normally would.

In contrast to a spring, other structures are more prone to breaking when placed under stress (like a twig). Resilient people are able to thrive in spite of conditions that are difficult, and they are able to recognise what things they can control. 

Resilient people also make the best use of the resources they have with the knowledge that life is often not perfect.

What does resilience look like?

Resilience can be recognised when:

  • The demands we face are challenging rather than demoralising
  • Our health is generally good
  • We have healthy habits and good social connections
  • We can identify and use all of our resources to help us stay strong

Assessing your resilience with the Bucket Model

In order to manage our resilience it’s important that we pay attention to what is helping us to be resilient and what is hindering it.

Bucket Model

The Bucket Model is a good place to start to take stock of your levels of resilience.

Think of your resilience as being like a bucket of water. The water is resilience but the bucket has holes that drain this resilience away.

This exercise gets you to identify what those holes are, how you might plug them and how you might top up the resilience levels. It works best when you write your answers down, rather than just thinking of them. So get a pen and paper and:

List things that top up your resilience. e.g. reading a book

Identify any demands or stressors that might be draining your resilience – these are the holes in your bucket 

Some of these stressors or demands can be controlled. Identify which ones can be controlled and write down what you can do to manage them below. e.g. a busy schedule can be controlled by planning in advance

It can also be good to do a regular ‘stock take’ of your sources of resilience, and from there identify the things you can do to add to your levels of resilience. For example, ask yourself: What sources of resilience do you currently have? What additional things can you start doing to increase your resilience?

Some simple actions to help your resilience

A large body of research tells us that there are some very simple but effective ways to fill your bucket with resilience.

Try some of the following tips, some of them are things we think of as common sense but we also tend to underestimate just how effective they are. These things include:

Physical activity

Exercise has been shown to make positive changes to the brain that helps you deal with stress. It also has the benefit of making you healthier.


Eating a healthy and balanced diet helps to give you physical resilience and can also help with mood.


Getting the right amount of sleep is important. Being tired is one of the fastest ways to reduce your ability to deal with challenges. Getting enough sleep also helps you operate at peak performance.


Getting a chance to unwind and relax is very important. There are many ways to do this, playing sports, doing yoga, reading or simply doing nothing every now and then.

Social support

Having people to rely on and talk to is important for well-being.  Put time into your relationships, be a good friend and people will be there for you during tough times. Focusing on others is good for our own wellbeing.

Being optimistic

For some reason humans are hard-wired to notice the bad stuff and pay more attention to it than the good stuff. Sometimes we need to shift this balance so that we recognise all the good stuff that is happening and pay less attention to the bad stuff. A simple exercise you can do is called three good things. A couple of times a week pay some attention to what is going well or what you are grateful for. This can be as simple as work finishing early one day or winning a prize through to getting some good feedback on your performance. 

Self-help techniques to improve your resilience

You can find more information about building resilience in the other pages in this section, or by downloading the complete toolkit below.

View pdf
Everyday Resilience - NZDF Resilience Toolkit
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