In an overwhelming and overstimulated world, with regular doses of pandemics, economic crises, and social media dominance, young adults can often feel a sense of threat or isolation. In such contexts, when unpredictability becomes a norm, resilience demands attention. Resilience is not just about endurance but is linked to coping and bouncing back using one’s strengths, resources, and skills in challenging circumstances.
A survey published in August 2023 by MindPeers, a platform for fostering mental strength, focused on the need to build resilience among young adults aged between 18 and 35. For long, defining resilience has been a challenge for researchers as it can be used in different contexts. The term was first used in physics to define properties of elastic objects that can recover their original shape after being stretched. In the context of mental well-being, resilience refers to the emotional strength to cope with stress, trauma, and adversity.
In the MindPeers survey, researchers found that various stressors can have varying impacts on young adults’ mental well-being. For instance, 70% of more than 72,000 surveyed young adults reported high levels of stress. About half of the surveyed participants said the stress was due to a lack of work-life balance, career anxiety, strained friendships, and ageing parents.
“Between ages 18 to 27-28, there is constant imposition of obligatory expectations. From securing a good job to marriage, everything around them is futuristic; it’s all always about ‘what’s next’. Constantly worrying about designing a future and not living in the present can lead to immense stress among young adults, especially among those who don’t have support structures. They have to turn inward and build resilience,” says Bengaluru-based psychologist Vaishnavi Jeyachandran.
Resilience is often thought of as a moment or a phase when it should be seen as a building block of mental well-being, something that can help people manoeuvre the roadblocks. Today with more talk about mental health, people are relatively open to reaching out for help, an important step in building resilience. For instance, the study showed that more than 80% of the surveyed people prioritise mental health awareness over monetary compensation when joining a new workplace.
“This is a more of an informed generation. Many have access to mental health services and support structures, and they are willing to put in the effort to learn more about mental health and how to shift focus to it,” says Jeyachandran.
According to a 2014 study published in the journal Indian Journal of Health and Wellbeing resilience can have four elements: social competence, problem-solving, autonomy, and sense of purpose. Within these, one can find responsiveness, communication, empathy, forgiveness, and altruism. On social media, there have been scattered talks of different concepts of resilience, without necessarily linking them to it. For instance, there is more awareness and discussions about having a good self-support system, which is linked to resilience, says Jeyachandran. “Having a healthy relationship with self can often go a long way. This can be built gradually through different practices such as journaling or mindfulness,” she explains.
One of the most talked about practices in recent years is mindfulness, which is a non-judgmental awareness in the present lived experience, as defined in a 2016 study published in the journal International Journal of Adolescence and Youth While many see mindfulness as a way of enhancing mental well-being, it’s also a coping strategy, says Jeyachandran. It can be looked at through two different lenses: attention to one’s immediate experience and an orientation to approaching life through meditative practices that focus on attention regulation and bodily experience. For instance, mindfulness practices are useful for adaptive coping for students to build academic buoyancy, as the study revealed.
The 2016 study also found that mindfulness can also increase self-esteem among adolescents and help them cope with transitions, from one life phase to another by grounding them in the present. Resilience through mindfulness comes with a friendship with self.
Another way to build internal resilience is by practising gratitude and forgiveness. People who practice these are able to understand situations from others' point of view. The 2014 study published in the journal Indian Journal of Health and Wellbeing showed that people who regularly experience gratitude are more likely to enjoy better well-being and longer life satisfaction. They also show emotional attributes such as empathy, self-esteem, and acceptance.
Environmental factors also influence the energy, time, and mindset one has towards building resilience. However, it’s important to understand, that resilience differs for different people. “It’s not a mould but a tailor-made skill that one learns after considering their internal and external environment. There can’t be a one-fit-for-all approach,” Jeyachandran says.