What is resilience?

Resilience is a process. It’s a process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or financial stressors. Having resilience means "bouncing back" from difficult experiences.

Being resilient does not mean that a person doesn't experience difficulty or distress – we all do at some point in our lives. Emotional pain and sadness are common in people who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress.

Resilience is not a trait that you either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.

How can you develop resilience?

The key is to identify ways that might work well for you as part of your own personal strategy for fostering resilience. Using guidelines from the American Psychological Association and the book Self-Care for College Students by Julia Dellitt as a guide, we have come up with some tips to use:

Make connections.

Good relationships with close family members, friends, or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience.

Introduce yourself to someone new

“Having an impactful first impression and cultivating good relationships are both important for a successful career in any field. You’ll have the chance to introduce yourself to someone new pretty much every day, whether you’re saying hello to a professor you haven’t met before, getting to know the people living on the same floor of your residence hall, or starting a conversation with the person who sits next to you in class. The more you practice introducing yourself, the more your confidence around new people will soar!” (Dellitt, p. 179)

A great way to meet new people and make friends is by going to UVU events! From exciting basketball games to phenomenal theatre performances, UVU has a wide variety of events for you to enjoy, a lot of which are free! Check out what events are going on.

Get to know your classmates

As a student, you have the option of making the most out of your college experience. You get to choose how you want each day to go. You are the author of your journey! When you go to class, talk to the person next to you. Introduce yourself, ask what they’re studying, you are sure to find some commonalities and, who knows, a new friend. As you get to know the people in your classes, you are more likely to enjoy going to class. This is an investment in yourself and in your education. Go for it!

Join a club

Check out what clubs UVU has to offer! At the beginning of each semester, UVUSA holds Club Rush, which is an opportunity to check out all of the clubs on campus and join as many as you would like. Don’t see a club you want to be part of? You can create your own! The UVU clubs website has all the information you will need to get started.

“Whether you’re looking to learn more outside of class, make new friends, or just enjoy a favorite hobby, clubs are a fun (and free!) way to get even more out of college. Being involved in an activity you enjoy is good for your well-being, give you a break from studying, and opens doors to all kinds of things that can influence your career down the road.” (Dellitt, p. 190)

Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems.

You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events. Try looking beyond the present to how future circumstances may be a little better. Here we offer some examples for responding to specific crises.

Coping with the death of a loved one

Everyone grieves death differently, it’s human nature. It is important to understand that it is okay to be sad and to allow yourself to grieve. If you need to talk to someone, UVU has resources for you. Reach out to UVU’s Student Health Services to speak to a licensed therapist.

Moving away from home for the first time

You may feel a lot of pressure and stress when you move out and are living away from your family for the first time. This is a big first step into the “adult world” and that can be scary. Start talking to the other students in your class, make some friends, and get involved on campus! Soon you will find your home away from home.

Failing a class

Don’t worry, this is not the end of the world! One failed class is not going to keep you from graduating. It’s up to you to decide how to react and how to respond. Work with your academic advisor to create a plan and set some goals to overcome this obstacle. You have options.

Accept that change is a part of living.

Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.

Let go of what you can’t control

“Fate. A higher power. Chance. Whatever you believe in, you know that there are always going to be things that are out of your control. Sure, it’s a little scary or at least uncomfortable to think about… but it’s also liberating. When you let go of what you can’t control, you experience more freedom.” (Dellitt, p. 115)

Ask your friends about their beliefs

Do you find yourself questioning your own faith-based beliefs? UVU’s Reflection Center provides a wonderful space for students to share their own beliefs, practice what they believe in, and to ponder personal reflection. The Reflection Center also hosts events where students can enjoy the company of one another and have meaningful conversations in a safe space.

“But why does it matter in college specifically? Well, because now is the time when you are really discovering and growing what exactly you believe, and why. Try to stay curious, open-minded, and respectful, and ask for the same in return. The goal is not to be “right,” but to better understand the people in your life.” (Dellitt, p. 116)

Be vulnerable

By allowing yourself to be vulnerable, you are going to be more susceptible to change. It can be scary, there is no doubt about that. But sometimes we need to be vulnerable to allow change in our lives and to find peace in those changes.

“Being vulnerable allows you to establish and strengthen relationships with others so you have more support when you do go outside your comfort zone for a new experience – or realize something you thought you loved isn’t really for you.” (Dellitt, p. 81)

Move toward your goals.

Develop some realistic goals. Do something regularly – even if it seems like a small accomplishment – that enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?”

Set short-term and long-term goals

Setting short-term and long-term goals will help you define your next steps. When you can see where you want to go, it will be easier to identify what it is going to take to get there. As Stephen Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind.”

“It’s not about squashing your dreams; setting realistic goals means making those big aspirations easier to achieve by breaking each larger goal into smaller, realistic steps or “mini-goals.” This makes those dreams less overwhelming and helps you measure your progress through milestones that you check off on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.“ (Dellitt, p. 184)

Meet with your academic advisor

Your academic advisor is one of the most important people you will want to meet with on campus! By planning out your semester or two of classes, you can work together to set goals for yourself as you progress through your degree. If you’re in the first year of your degree, visit the First-Year Advising Center to meet with your advisor. If you’re into your second year or further, you can find your academic advisor’s information on your myUVU account under “My Academics”.

Take decisive actions.

Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.

Do something terrifying and exciting

“Breaking out of your comfort zone can be pretty scary – but it can also be exciting! When new opportunities and challenges arise, saying yes to the excitement and “you’ve got this!” to the fear helps you go after what you want and broaden your horizons. And over time, you’ll start to realize that getting outside of your comfort zone in this way makes life much more interesting.“ (Dellitt, p. 182)

Consider Switching Majors

“At the end of the day, it’s not worth suffering through a major if you’re stressed out 24/7, are getting poor grades no matter how much tutoring or extra credit you get, or just aren’t interested in pursuing a job in the field anymore. You might panic at first about the time and money you’ve already invested, but here’s the thing: it’s perfectly okay to change your mind – trusting your gut is way better in the long run.“ (Dellitt, p. 213)

Drop a class and find a new one

You may find that one of your classes just isn’t working for you. Whether it’s the teaching method your instructor uses, or the content is just a bit too difficult, it’s better to take action sooner rather than later. Have a conversation with your academic advisor to see what your options are! Chances are, you will be able to find a new class that you will be able to succeed in.

Look for opportunities for self-discovery.

People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggles in life. Many people who have experienced hardship and shown resilience have reported better relationships, greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality, and heightened appreciation for life.

Write a personal statement

If you are feeling lost or overwhelmed with the stresses that college brings, take some time to write it down! By writing it down you can organize your thoughts and see them on paper in front of you, and hopefully provide you some clarity.

“A personal statement is also a great way to organize your academic and career goals, feel empowered, and even figure out the next steps toward success. Think of it as a way to tell the story of who you are, versus just what you have done.“ (Dellitt, p. 207)

Write down 5 words that describe you

“Learning how to describe yourself in a few key words is useful not only from a career perspective, but also as a way to reflect on your strengths, skills, and values as you grow over these crazy, awesome years. It builds confidence and offers an easy way to appreciate yourself. It also helps you focus on the type of person you want to become.” (Dellitt, p. 152)

Take a personality test

If you are interested in taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or the Strong Interest Inventory (SII) personality test, reach out to the First-Year Advising Center! By scheduling an appointment to meet with one of the advisors, they will be able to discuss the results with you and put you on a path that best matches your personality and/or skill set.

“…these types of tests can help you understand your best qualities and how to put them to use. For example, if you take a Myers-Briggs personality test and learn you’re more of a “caregiver” type, you might how have a light bulb moment and think, “Oh, that’s why I’m drawn to a nursing career!” That result can then give you insights into what strengths can be built on and what things can be improved to see those aspirations through.” (Dellitt, p. 204)

Nurture a positive view of yourself.

Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience. It is important to value yourself and believe in your abilities. Surround yourself with positive people to reinforce your confidence and to pick you up when you are down.

Determine your top three values

“As you think about a future career, you might spend a lot of time considering which classes you like most and which you hate – but determining your core values is equally important. In fact, the two go together. Values guide your personal choices, represent what you stand for, and shape how you interact with others.” (Dellitt, p. 124)

Treat yourself

Doing something indulgent for yourself is a great way to nurture your mental health. Everyone deserves to feel pampered! Take some time to do something nice for yourself, something that makes you happy. In doing so, you will feel rejuvenated and ready to conquer the day.

Build a support system

“Your support system might include family members, friends, and mentors – all of whom champion your academic success but also look out for you in times of stress. These are the people who give you practical guidance and advice, as well as comfort and love; they hold you accountable for your goals, listen to your hopes and fears, help you problem-solve, and know just how to make you laugh.” (Dellitt, p. 151)

Keep things in perspective.

Take a step back to evaluate your situation from different perspectives. Allow yourself time to consider all the options available, especially in stressful situations. Give yourself a moment to find clarity, focus on what is best for yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for the second opinion of someone you trust.

Spend time in nature

UVU’s Outdoor Adventure Center is all about getting you outside and exploring nature. Disconnect from the world for a couple of hours and go on a hike, find a bike path up the canyon, or even raft down the Provo river. By connecting to nature, you can connect to yourself and clear your mind. Doing this every so often will help you to focus on what you have going on in your life.

“Fun fact: you’re made up of all the same things that make up the planet (carbon, oxygen, good ol’ H20…). So, in a way, spending time in nature aligns you with what’s already true about yourself. Spending time in nature not only reduces stress and inflammation in the body – it can also lead to a stronger relationship with the world around you.” (Dellitt, p. 129)

Focus on the present

To take a step further to help you focus on the present and to care for your mental health, UVU offers a variety of services through the Student Health Services At low costs, they offer individual, group (general group, women’s, men’s, LGBTQ+, eating/body image concerns), and couples therapy. By calling ahead you can schedule an appointment for any of these services.

“It’s time to hit the pause button. Bring yourself back into the present by taking a deep breath (or five), telling your thoughts to be quiet, and observing your surroundings. This simple act of mindfulness will help you feel more connected to your own spirit – and the universe at work around you.” (Dellitt, p. 117)

Surround yourself with positive people

“While you’re in charge of your own emotions, the people you surround yourself with also affect your attitude: positive friends lift you up, while negative friends bring you down. Try to build friendships with people who support your goals, bring joy to your life, and genuinely want you to thrive.” (Dellitt, p. 147)

Maintain a hopeful outlook.

An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.

Write a letter to your future self

“Be specific about what you hope for! Writing everything down in a letter to your future self helps you create a clear vision for what you want, and encourages you to take action now on those dreams.” (Dellitt, p. 164)

Identify emotional triggers

“Emotional triggers are the things that automatically make you feel uncomfortable, stressed, frustrated, or sad. Sometimes, these triggers are easily identifiable, like if you’re used to being a top-notch student and get a terrible grade on a history test. Other times, they seem to come out of nowhere, such as breaking into tears when hearing a certain song. By being aware of a trigger, you can also think through how you might manage any painful feelings if that trigger is harder to avoid.” (Dellitt, p. 156)

Take care of yourself.

Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.

Give yourself a mini-massage

“Between classes, homework, and a busy social calendar, a luxurious 90-minute full-body massage may not fit into your schedule (or budget). Instead, you can opt for a quick, DIY version at home! Taking even a few minutes to work out a knot or rub a sore area can also improve focus in class, increase dopamine (otherwise known as the feel-good hormone), improve circulation, and help you feel better.“ (Dellitt, p. 28)

UVU has massage chairs! Located within the Wellness Programs, recliner massage services are available throughout the semester. At $2 per 15 minutes, this can’t be beat! They even offer FREE massages during finals week! Stop by SL 211 for a massage that will rejuvenate you and put an extra spring in your step.

Learn your burnout signals

“More than just a bad day, burnout is when you’re mentally and physically depleted; you’re feeling down, frustrated, and exhausted, and you can’t really put your finger on one specific reason why (which is even more frustrating!). When you notice yourself feeling the symptoms of burnout, it’s time to slow down and practice some extra self- care. Disconnect from technology if you can, reconnect with friends or family members, and add more breaks into your daily routine.“ (Dellitt, p. 83)

Get enough sleep

“…getting enough sleep helps you stay alert and improves memory. It also protects your body against viruses that typically roam college campuses from one semester to the next. Aim for a solid 6-8 hours of sleep each night in order to wake up feeling rested and ready to take on the day.“ (Dellitt, p. 25)

Contrary to popular belief, staying up all night studying for a big test the next day is actually doing you more harm than good. Make sure to get a good night’s rest before your test, you’ll find it easier to concentrate and you will probably get a better grade than if you stayed up all night!

Dellitt, J. (2019). Self-care for college students: from orientation to graduation, 150 easy ways to stay happy, healthy, and stress-free. New York: Adams Media.

UVU Resources for when Hardship Impacts Your Life

Money Management Resource Center

Stressed about finances? We can help! Our services are free!
Visit Money Management Resource Center

Women’s Success Center

Graduating Women, Transforming Lives
Visit Women’s Success Center


Third party mediation. We are here to listen.
Visit Ombuds

Student Health Services

Medical services. Mental health services. Psychiatric services. Learning disability assessment.
Visit Student Health Services

Academic Tutoring

Science, business, computer science, engineering and technology, humanities and social sciences tutoring.
Visit Academic Tutoring

Math Lab

Free one-on-one tutoring in various math courses.
Visit Math Lab

Language Lab

Free tutoring in: American Sign Language, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish
Visit Language Lab

Writing Center

Receive free one-on-one feedback on your writing at any stage of the writing process.
Visit Writing Center

Wee Care Center

Childcare provided during the hours parents are in class.
Visit Wee Care Center

Student Success Specialists

Personalized support through phone calls, emails, and one-on-one visits.
Visit Student Success Specialists

Crisis Services

UVU has services available if you, or someone you know, are in a crisis.
Visit Crisis Services

Stories of Resilience from UVU Students and Faculty

Resilience through personal challenges

Resilience through academic challenges

Resilience through death of a loved one

Resilience as a first-generation student

Resilience as a student with children

Resilience as a cancer survivor

Six-Word Stories

These 6 word stories are meant to provide a brief narrative that captures how students feel in their times of struggle and in their times of resilience. By limiting yourself to 6 words, it makes you think, “What matters the most to me right now?” or, “What is the most important piece of advice I can give to someone that struggles the same way I struggle?” These 6 word stories were written by UVU students.

Make happiness a priority in life!

Failure is a part of learning.

Keep: working, growing, trying, falling, rising

It was never wrong to try.

My OCD does not define me.

I completed a solid research paper.

Be here for you, not them.

Shoot your shot, seize every opportunity.

Life got hard, friends were there.

It’s okay to ask for help!