Resiliency Project

What is Resiliency?

Resiliency is defined as the ability to recover quickly from difficulties, or, “toughness”. Resilient people are better equipped to handle transition and life changes and typically bounce back from setbacks more quickly and with less trouble.  Resilience is a combination of skills and attributes that are gained and developed over time. The great thing is that resilience skills can be practiced and learned. Student Affairs has worked together to develop this website to help you learn and practice resilience

Why practice resilience? --  there is a strong correlation between the practice of resiliency skills and student success.  Resiliency skills are grounded in best practice and have been proven through years of research to be effective in increasing life satisfaction, happiness and ability to cope with stress, all of which correlate with success, improved academic performance and quality of life.

Change and transition inherently cause stress.  When something unexpected happens or we find ourselves challenged by a situation, resilience can help us get back to balance.

Three Minute Breathing Space

A great skill to practice when you’re feeling overwhelmed is the “Three Minute Breathing Space” (this is an audio of the Three minute breathing space)

Three-minute Breathing Space meditation Script

(from:; accessed September 17, 2018)

Step 1: Becoming aware

Deliberately adopt an erect and dignified posture, whether sitting or standing. If possible, close your eyes. Then, bring your awareness to your inner experience and acknowledge it, asking: what is my experience right now?


  • What thoughts are going through the mind? As best you can, acknowledge thoughts as mental events.

  • What feelings are here? Turn towards any sense of discomfort or unpleasant feelings, acknowledging them without trying to make them different from how you find them.

  • What body sensations are here right now? Perhaps quickly scan the body to pick up any sensations of tightness or bracing, acknowledging the sensations, but, once again, not trying to change them in any way.


Step 2: gathering and focusing attention

Now, redirecting the attention to a narrow ‘spotlight’ on the physical sensations of the breath, move in close to the physical sensations of the breath in the abdomen . . . expanding as the breath comes in . . . and falling back as the breath goes out. Follow the breath all the way in and all the way out. Use each breath as an opportunity to anchor yourself into the present. And if the mind wanders, gently escort the attention back to the breath.

Step 3: expanding attention

Now, expand the field of awareness around the breathing so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture and facial expression, as if the whole body was breathing. If you become aware of any sensations of discomfort, tension, feel free to bring your focus of attention right in to the intensity by imagining that the breath could move into and around the sensations.  In this, you are helping to explore the sensations, befriending them, rather than trying to change them in any way. If they stop pulling for your attention, return to sitting, aware of the whole body, moment by moment.

Next time you find yourself challenged by a situation, feeling overwhelmed or stressed or having difficulty with something, pause … try a three-minute breathing space … and see what happens.

Mindful Moments

What is mindfulness?  Mindfulness is about being present in the moment.  

Jon Kabat-Zinn writes,  “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

Trudy Kergon, Student Health and Wellness Counsellor says “mindfulness is a way of being in the present moment, attending to what is going on in your thoughts, your body and your emotions without judgement.  This allows you to respond to thoughts/feelings/events intentionally instead of reactively.”

Mindful moments is a series of brief videos we will share weekly.  Each week Trudy will show you another small way to practice mindfulness in your daily life -- one that takes virtually no time at all.

Check out some mindfulness resources:

The Greater Good Science Centre -- Greater Good online magazine turns scientific research into stories, tips, and tools for a happier life and a more compassionate society.  Visit here:  

There’s an App for that …

Free mindfulness apps worthy of your attention


 Everyone experiences stress at some time.  Feeling overwhelmed is a sign that we need to make a change.  One of the first steps in this process is recognizing that we’re struggling and reaching out.

How can I become more resilient?

All human beings are resilient!  You have these attitudes and skills within you, even if you don’t think you do ...

Think about the last time you encountered a challenge -- how did you manage it?  Ask yourself: what did I do to make the situation better? Who did I ask for help? What character strengths and resources did I use to achieve the desired outcome? Do you have any role models who have coped with similar problems and are there actions you can emulate?

Dr. Diana Brecher developed the “Five Factor Model of Resilience” based on research in the field of positive psychology.

The five factors are:

  • Mindfulness
  • Gratitude
  • Optimism
  • Compassion
  • Grit

By practicing certain behaviours and developing certain habits we can wire our brains to be more resilient.

Who can help?

Here at Lakehead, we want to remind you that you are not alone.  There are many resources both on and off campus to help. Check out what is available:

Student Health & Wellness offers medical and counselling clinics on campus

Student Success Centre offers academic support and career advice

Student Accessibility Services offers assistance to students with disabilities

Office of Human Rights and Equity

Student Central academic advising, scholarships and financial aid questions

Good 2 Talk

Big White Wall

Practice Self-compassion

When we experience a challenging situation, a set-back or a moment of suffering, it is helpful to remind ourselves that we are not alone.  Difficulty and challenge is inherent to the human condition. When we remind ourselves that “I am not alone in this” we are practicing self-compassion.

Dr. Kristin Neff identifies three elements to self-compassion:

1. Self-kindness vs. Self-judgment.



Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.  

2. Common humanity vs. Isolation.



Self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.  It reminds us “we are not alone in this”.

3. Mindfulness vs. Over-identification.



Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time.  At the same time, mindfulness requires that we not be “over-identified” with thoughts and feelings, so that we are caught up and swept away by negative reactivity.

How self compassionate are you? -- Take the self-compassion quiz here:

How self compassionate ar you? and check out the exercises and meditations that can help you practice self-compassion.

Want to learn more about mindfulness -- check out Mindful Moments.


When we find a way to overcome a challenge we grow and learn. We are now better able to handle stress in the future.  This concept is called “growth mindset” and we can cultivate this.

What is a growth mindset?

two mindsets


When things go well, use optimism to explain why (personal, permanent, pervasive) -- ask yourself: what role did I play in making this happen? How can I make this permanent? What can I do to have this success spill over into other aspects of my life?

When things go badly, use optimism to explain why (bad luck, temporary, situation specific) -- ask yourself: in what way is this also the responsibility of others or circumstances beyond my control? How can I keep this temporary? What must I do to contain the damage of the long-term effects of this event?

adapted from: Ryerson University Student Affairs.  ThriveRU: 10 Tips for Resilience; (accessed October 1, 2018).

Expressing gratitude is scientifically linked to better relationships, improved physical and mental health, reduced aggression, better sleep, improved self-esteem and increased mental strength.

Morin, A. (2015, April).  Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude.  Retrieved from

Practice gratitude:

  • Keep a “gratitude journal” and write down 1 thing you are grateful for at the end of each day.

  • Go on a “gratitude scavenger hunt” here

  • Write someone a thank you note -- the more specific and detailed the thank you the more impact it has.


Grit enables an individual to persevere in accomplishing a goal despite obstacles over an extended period. ( accessed October 2, 2018).

When you stick to your goals despite the obstacles you are using your “grit”.  

When you are doing something you love, you somehow find a way to stick with it and deal with obstacles and challenges, you keep going.  Learn from your existing grit, ask yourself -- what did I do to overcome these obstacles? Which attitudes, beliefs, and strategies work best?  Did I ask for help? Brainstorm in a team? Take a break? Use humour? (adapted from: Ryerson University Student Affairs.  ThriveRU: 10 Tips for Resilience; (accessed October 1, 2018).