7 Ways You Can Build Resilience

Thoughts from Chief of Staff Brian G. Donley, MD


While most work around building resilience focuses on children, studies have shown that it is useful to work on building resilience throughout life. A recent article in the “Well” section of The New York Times says we may actually be more successful in building resilience during midlife, when we are better able to regulate our emotions and have a clearer perspective gained from life experiences.


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I can’t think of another field in which this would be more important than in healthcare, where stress is a factor every day. Here’s a brief overview of the seven keys to building resilience in midlife:

Practice optimism. Optimists acknowledge challenges in a more hopeful way. Optimism, like pessimism, is contagious. So choose to spend time with optimists whenever possible.

Rewrite your story. We all have the ability to reframe the narrative that shapes our view of ourselves and the world. Question what you say to yourself and try to reframe negative thoughts.

Don’t personalize it. If you make a mistake, consider there may be many factors that contributed to the problem. Focus on the next steps you should take.

Remember your comebacks. You can get a big boost by reminding yourself of challenges you have overcome in the past.


Support others. Having a strong support network certainly helps us overcome crisis. But studies show we build even more resilience when we reach out to help others through difficult times.

Take stress breaks. Your body needs time to recover from stress. Take a walk, meditate or have lunch with a friend to give your mind and body a break after stressful situations.

Go out of your comfort zone. You build resilience when you put yourself in challenging situations. Your stress hormone system actually becomes less responsive to stress, making you better able to handle future stressful situations.

I highly recommend you read the full article and I hope you find these tips valuable in improving your well-being, as well as your relationships with your patients and colleagues.

Brian G. Donley, MD
Chief of Staff, Cleveland Clinic


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