Supportive friends

Reach out to bounce back: how to increase your resilience with one simple step

I was recently running a resilience workshop and we were exploring what resilience means and how to develop more of it.  There was one particular challenge for the participants that stood out to me … and overcoming it involves a relatively simple step that could make all the difference to how resilient you are in life.

In essence, resilience is about the ability to bounce back in times of challenge. Some of us feel we can do this more easily than others. Sometimes it can feel like such a struggle. The exciting thing is that, if you don’t feel like you’ve been blessed with a whole lot of resilience, it is something that you can develop and learn.

Studies have shown that one of the key factors associated with resilience is having strong relationships of connection, love and trust with family and others.

What was very interesting in the workshop that I was running was that almost all the participants said that they had very good family or friends that they could look to for support. However, the vast majority said that they didn’t seek that support, did not open up or share their life’s challenges, and in fact they would shy away from doing so.

One participant expressed what most appeared to be saying: “I don’t share things that are happening because I want to appear strong and I don’t want to burden my family or be vulnerable.” I asked her how that was working for her and her reply was, “It’s not.” Suddenly she looked with wide eyes and said, “I’ve got to do something about this … maybe I’m not coping at work because I’m not letting anyone in at home.”

It is all very well to have good relationships around you but, if you’re not reaching out, you’re missing your opportunity for support and connection … and resilience.

Do you reach out enough to others? Do you share your challenges and heartbreak with loved ones and seek a shoulder to cry on when you need it? Or do you hold it in and suffer in silence, waiting for the pain to pass, distract yourself in other ways or pour another glass of wine?

It is all very well to have good relationships around you but, if you’re not reaching out, you’re missing your opportunity for support and connection.

It’s such a trap for all of us. I know that I didn’t tend to seek support as much as I could have in the past. I did from my parents and partner but, beyond that, I also felt like I didn’t want to burden others or impose on their time. Sometimes it can also be that we don’t feel worthy enough … or it can be hard to show that we’re not managing. We may not want to feel the vulnerability that comes when we reveal we need help or we’re not doing so well. Many people have also told me that they’re very comfortable giving to others but accepting help and support is way beyond their comfort zone.

It was only when I went through a very difficult time in my life, and was in great need, that I sought out some of my friends as well as my family. It was actually a profound experience for me because, by letting my friends into my pain and suffering, I gave them the opportunity to understand and support me in a way they had never been able to before.

I remember a day when I was so distressed and my friend, who gave the appearance of being tough and super strong and who had told me she never cries, sat holding my hand and crying with me. As she turned to me with tears in her eyes and said “you’ve got to change this”, I knew it was time. That day was a turning point in making some important decisions for my life.

So I’m hoping you’ve decided that you’re going to try to reach out more to your close family and friends. How do you start? It can be really hard to change what you’ve been doing for many years and we all know change is not easy. I have a suggestion that might help to get the ball rolling and make it a little easier.

You can start slowly. How about approaching your friend, your family member or other close person and saying something like, “I’ve realised I don’t open up much about what’s happening for me. I want to try sharing more with you so we can be even closer.” This will create the circumstances for an open conversation. You will have your first opportunity to share why you find it hard to open up and perhaps what has been happening in your life. It can be hard taking that first step but as you practice it will become easier.

The most amazing thing you will discover is that, when you start sharing more of yourself, others will do the same with you. You’ll realise that, as much as someone else seems to have it all together, when you uncover what is really happening for them, we’re all in the same boat of being human with different life challenges. You might even make the person you’re sharing with feel better that they’re not alone.

You’re also not alone if you find being vulnerable hard. Check out Brené Brown on vulnerability.  It’s not for no reason that her talk has had an impact on millions of people. I can certainly thank Brené for helping me to embrace my own strength that comes from being willing to be vulnerable.

Also think about how you’ve felt when you have been there for someone else and given them the support they needed. Most responses I get to that question are, “I felt so wonderful”, “it was amazing” or “I loved being there”. Don’t deprive others of the opportunity to deeply know you and provide you with support.

The more willing you are to reach out to others, the more you’ll strengthen important connections and have people to draw on in difficult times. At the same time, you’ll also be taking an important step to becoming more resilient.

You can do it. Lead Your Own Change.

Tulsi van de Graaff

Tulsi van de Graaff

Tulsi van de Graaff is a former lawyer with a psychology background as well as an experienced management consultant, workplace trainer, facilitator, presenter and coach. She is the founder of Lead Your Own Change and for over 7 years has been working with individuals, teams and organisations to solve their communication and conflict challenges. She also helps develop emotional intelligence and resilience, create positive personal and cultural change, manage change and uncertainty and enhance relationships and communication. Tulsi runs public workshops including Teen Talk: a communication workshop for mums and teen/tween daughters, Couple Talk, to enhance couple communication and Beyond Breakup, for people healing after a break up.

Tulsi is a volunteer facilitator and presenter for Dress for Success Sydney (DFSS). At DFSS, she runs workshops for women in need, including Finding Your Vision and Trusting in Your Ability as well as coaching training for DFSS volunteer coaches.

For more information check out Tulsi's website,, her facebook page or email Tulsi at

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