7 Ways to Build Resilience in Challenging Times

An interview with Dr. Kaiser Ahmad Dar on methods for growing more resilient.

Posted Aug 16, 2020

Kaiser Ahmad Dar, used with permission
Source: Kaiser Ahmad Dar, used with permission

Building resilience is no easy task. Here are some useful methods to grow and help others well during COVID-19 and other challenging times.

Kaiser Ahmad Dar is an Assistant Professor at the Postgraduate Department of Psychology, Government Degree College, Baramulla, Jammu & Kashmir-193301 (India). He received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi (India), in 2015. His research interests lie in the pathology-personality nexus, exposure to traumatic events and mental health, transdiagnostic approach to psychopathology/treatment, statistical approaches to assessing mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis, and Islamic perspectives on psychology.

This is part two of a two-part interview with Dr. Kaiser Ahmad Dar; you can find part one here.

Jamie Aten: What are some ways people can cultivate resilience amidst this pandemic?

Kaiser Ahmad Dar: We know that COVID-19 has brought with it a new wave of crises. The potentially telling effects of this pandemic have engulfed roughly all spheres of human affairs including the economy, health system, education, mental health, and safety and security.

However, one thing that psychologists believe could help us get through the crises triggered by the pandemic is the ability to be resilient. In fact, researchers suggest resilience should be regarded as an emotional muscle—one that can be cultivated and strengthened. Resilience is the ability to adapt well and bounce back from difficult and traumatic experiences and may involve extensive personal growth.

Now, coming to what we can do to build our resilience. Typically, times of adversity call for doing a variety of things to aid ourselves in getting through the tough and challenging times.

  1. One of the key strategies suggested by professionals includes having/evolving meaning and purpose in life or, put more aptly, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
  2. Second, cognitive, emotional, and behavioural flexibility can be helpful in incrementing the level of resilience. To put it more succinctly, flexibility is the ability to adjust your expectations and the way you respond.
  3. Third, practicing mindfulness or mediation can go a long way to boost your resilience.
  4. Fourth, following resilient role models who do not tell you, but show you, can potentially aid you in building resilience.
  5. Fifth, leaning on your support systems when you need it is crucial in building your resilience.
  6. Sixth, while it is hard to be positive in adverse and tough times, an optimistic outlook encourages you to expect that good things will happen to you, and thus, increases your resilience.
  7. Seventh and last, staying true to your belief system can actually be great for your health. Practicing religious or spiritual activities brings comfort and can exponentially enhance your resilience.

JA: Any advice for how we might use what you have learned to support a friend or loved one struggling with a difficult life situation?

KAD: Actually, it depends on the nature and magnitude of the situation and the person who needs or seeks help. However, if someone you love is having a tough time right now, he/she may look to you for support and it is important to understand the best ways to help. How you respond to a friend or someone you care for often depends on the width and breadth of your relationship with that person. If you happen to have a more proximate and meaningful relationship with someone who is showing signs of mental or emotional distress, you may be a key player in the helping process.

I believe the best way to respond to your friend’s call or someone who is struggling is to be around—however, not necessarily physically. Though the situation triggered by COVID-19 does not allow and strongly discourages physical or person-to-person contact, there are other ways of connecting, such as calling, texting, or via social media outlets. Other ways to show your support and care may be:

  1. Telling your friend(s) or someone you care for that we all go through tough times;
  2. Treating them with respect without being judgemental;
  3. Listening to their stories with compassion;
  4. Guiding them to believe it is alright to seek help;
  5. Telling them that nothing is everlasting and the situation precipitated by COVID-19 will also pass.

JA: What are you currently working on that you might like to share about?

KAD: I am currently working on a number of assignments, though I am working from home due to lockdowns in view of COVID-19. I have been working on understanding some potential mechanisms and boundary conditions, such as resilient coping and support systems in the association between COVID-19-related fear/stress and mental health/well-being in the Indian student population. I am also a co-investigator of an India-Serbia project, titled “COVID-19 Related Fear and Mental Health among Indian and Serbian Healthcare Professionals: Examining the Role of Compassion Fatigue and Moral Distress” lead by Professor (Dr.) Naved Iqbal of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India.

Another assignment I am currently working on is called “Online learning amid COVID-19 pandemic and low speed (2G) internet: How to pick the right technology” in Jammu and Kashmir. In addition, I teach Research Methodology and Statistics in Psychology to postgrad students and Industrial/Organizational Psychology and Counselling Psychology to undergrad students at Government Degree College, Baramulla besides offering tele-counseling to people who need or seek help amid a wave of crises triggered by COVID-19 or otherwise.


Iqbal, N., & Dar, K. A. (2020). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic: Furnishing experiences from India. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 12(S1), S33-S34.