Types of Resilience: Psychological, Emotional, Physical, and Community
The word resilience is often used on its own to represent overall adaptability and coping, but it can be broken down into categories or types:
What Is Psychological Resilience?
Psychological resilience refers to the ability to mentally withstand or adapt to uncertainty, challenges, and adversity. It is sometimes referred to as “mental fortitude.”
People who exhibit psychological resilience develop coping strategies and capabilities that enable them to remain calm and focused during a crisis and move on without long-term negative consequences.
What Is Emotional Resilience?
There are varying degrees of how well a person copes emotionally with stress and adversity. Some people are, by nature, more or less sensitive to change. How a person responds to a situation can trigger a flood of emotions.
Emotionally resilient people understand what they’re feeling and why. They tap into realistic optimism, even when dealing with a crisis, and are proactive in using both internal and external resources. As a result, they are able to manage stressors as well as their emotions in a healthy, positive way.
What Is Physical Resilience?
Physical resilience refers to the body’s ability to adapt to challenges, maintain stamina and strength, and recover quickly and efficiently. It’s a person’s ability to function and recover when faced with illness, accidents, or other physical demands.
Research published in April 2016 in The Journal of Gerontology showed that physical resilience plays an important role in healthy aging, as people encounter medical issues and physical stressors.
Healthy lifestyle choices, building connections, making time to rest and recover, deep breathing, and engaging in enjoyable activities all play a role in building physical resilience.
What Is Community Resilience?
Community resilience refers to the ability of groups of people to respond to and recover from adverse situations, such as natural disasters, acts of violence, economic hardship, and other challenges to their community.
Real-life examples of community resilience include New York City following the 9/11 terrorist attacks; Newtown, Connecticut, after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting; New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina; and the communities of Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in the wake of recent mass shootings.
Research and Statistics on Resilience
Research into what promotes resiliency supports the idea that certain protective resources, rather than the absence of risk factors, play a significant role in a person’s capacity to confront and work through stressors. Things like social support, adaptive coping skills, and the ability to tap into one’s inner strengths can help develop and strengthen resiliency in an individual.
When it comes to the idea of “natural resilience,” or a person’s innate ability to recover from adversity, the research is mixed.
More on Resilience Research
Some studies suggest human resilience in the face of adversity is fairly common. To support this, one study reported that even though 50 to 60 percent of the U.S. population is exposed to traumatic events, only 5 to 10 percent of those people develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Nevertheless, other research highlights the difficulty in studying resilience. One particular study, published in March 2016 in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, examined spousal loss, divorce, and unemployment and found that the statistical model used to interpret the resilience scores greatly influenced the results. The authors concluded that prior research may have overestimated how common resilience is, and suggested that resilience may be more difficult to quantify and study than previously thought.