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What is resilience and why are doctors beginning to talk about theirs?

Resilience is the ability to bounce back – a capacity to absorb negative conditions, integrate them in meaningful ways, and move forward.

Resilience derives from the Latin word ‘resiliens’, meaning the pliant or elastic quality of a substance.

Other professional groups, the military in particular, have begun to include resilience training in their staff development as they increasingly recognise the impact such distressing work can have on it’s employees.

Doctors, indeed all clinical staff, are subjected to difficult and emotionally challenging situations frequently in the hectic, demanding and hard to control front line of healthcare. It is, therefore crucial that the inherent stresses are recognised and staff are prepared, preferably in advance, for the potential impact of such work on their wellbeing.

Making the transition between levels of responsibility are additionally stressful and are key moments for clinicians to review their own resilience and perhaps try to put in place some habits to protect themselves and keep well.

Other factors can ramp up the stress such as;

  • Rapid pace of change and radical changes to how care is given
  • Changing employment and rotations
  • Revalidation and increasing public scrutiny of care
  • Exams and possibly dealing with disappointment
  • Challenging work environment with second victim issues
  • Changes in personal circumstances
  • For some, health concerns

The American Psychological Association recommend ten ways to build and maintain resilience

  • maintain good relationships with close family members and friends
  • avoid seeing crises or stressful events as unbearable problems
  • accept circumstances that cannot be changed
  • develop realistic goals and move towards them
  • take decisive actions in adverse situations
  • look for opportunities of self-discovery after a struggle with loss
  • develop self-confidence
  • keep a long-term perspective and consider the stressful event in a broader context
  • maintain a hopeful outlook, expecting good things and visualizing what is wished
  • take care of one’s mind and bodyexercising regularly, paying attention to one’s own needs and feelings


How resilient are you? Are you at particular risk? Family, past experiences, your personality type and where your locus of control is sited can all play a role in how and why you experience and react to stress.

 Take the i-Resilience test and find out

Optimism – Try the optimism test and train to have a more optimistic approach here

Webcast – Listen to the “All in the mind” webcast about Emotional Brain Training here



It is obvious, but easy to forget, especially when we are tired and stressed, that other people may not think or feel the way we do, nor find the same things stressful and annoying. There are lots of different personality tests, here are a couple which may help you get to know yourself better – self awareness being a major part of knowing how to look after yourself.

Myers Briggs Test – Human Metrics

Personality Test – 16 personalities



You will have your own definition of happiness and what it means for you. Here are some websites which will help you explore your own happiness and work/life balance.

Action for Happiness

Authentic Happiness

Meaning and Happiness


Locus of control

A personality trait which can affect resilience levels. This is an idea developed by Julian Rotter in 1954: 

“The extent to which individuals believe they can control events which affect them or The control you feel you have over the environment around you. Everyone sits on a continuum between having an internal or external locus of control. The things that drive you may differ depending on your locus of control”.

Internal Drivers


  • Enjoyment
  • Interest
  • Self Esteem
  • Sense of achievement
  • Desire to win

External Drivers


  • Job security
  • Approval/praise/pleasing others
  • Promotion
  • Prizes
  • Salary/bonuses


Too busy? Ten minutes to stay well

  • Physical: the seven minute exercise regimen
  • Cognitive : three minutes of mindfulness
  • Happiness: three things you are proud of achieving today and three things your are grateful for
  • Do something unusual: clean teeth with other hand
  • A daily random act of kindness
  • Remember your values



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