7 ways to boost your resilience with Hillary Lauren and Michelle Hill

Profile shot of a person standing with their eyes closed while the sun is setting in the background.

Interview with Hillary Lauren and Michelle Hill.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and, while we tend to emphasize mental illnesses and disorders, mental health can take many forms. In fact, this year’s theme, “you are not alone,” can resonate with each and every one of us as we face a collective traumatic event, COVID-19. This gives us all the more reason to break down the stigma there is around talking about mental health and seeking support.  

The pandemic has led so many of us to rethink our social interactions and has likely created a feeling of solitude for many. During the pandemic, our eyes have also been further opened to injustice and inequality around the world. Now, more than ever, we need to pay attention to our health and well-being and find ways to cope with what’s going on around us and within us.

Resilience as a requisite

When we think of someone with resilience in the physical sense, we imagine a soldier withstanding the hardships of the battlefield or a marathon runner pushing themselves to the finish line. Resilience is about maintaining strength when faced with hardship. Both physically and psychologically resilient people get up every time they fall.

The definition of psychological resilience is the ability to withstand adversity, trauma or significant stress, and bounce back from difficulty. Psychological resilience often requires an individual to be both mentally strong and sensitive when subject to negative stressors. But balancing toughness and tenderness in tandem isn’t easy, so we talked to Journi Health Coach, Michelle Hill (NASM, AFAA, Wellcoaches), and Journi Wellness Consultant, Hillary Lauren (INHC, CIHC), about ways to build resilience that boosts mental health.

Journi health and well-being experts share their 7 strategies for building your psychological resilience.


Question: Michelle and Hillary, tell our readers a little about yourselves.

Hillary Lauren (Hillary): I’m Hillary Lauren and I’m a 5th generation chef. I grew up in my parent’s restaurants, went on to work in Napa Valley, and was an executive chef at Google headquarters. The high stress environment of restaurants led to developing autoimmune issues and food allergies and I had to rethink my career. By thinking creatively and tapping into my resiliency, I transitioned out of kitchens and into wellness about four years ago. Recognizing we each have unique needs for nutrition and self-care, I’m passionate about helping others to find their lifelong wellness through sustainability and setting realistic goals while seeking joy and balance.

Michelle Hill (Michelle): I’m Michelle Hill and I am a Journi health coach and hold certifications as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor, and certified health coach. Working in the health and wellness industry for 25 years and guiding clients to achieve goals with exercise, nutrition, sleep and resiliency I found that using the whole-self approach was most successful. This approach allows you to focus on all components of your life. Putting focus on your whole self enables you to gain a vision of your best self with self-awareness, strategies and the motivation to stay on a healthy path with your wellness journey that can shift and change. Wellness begins with the mind. Once you establish your goal in your mind, you can begin with small steps to accomplish your goals. Sometimes we need someone to help us to establish these steps. I love coaching, as I get to be that guidance that makes a big change in a person’s life.


1. Re-frame challenges

Question: Resilience is most important when circumstances challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone. This is also the time when you’re most likely to react impulsively. What do you recommend for being resilient instead of reactive in moments of stress?

Hillary: It’s important to acknowledge how you feel when a challenge or barrier presents itself. If negative emotions arise, don’t ignore them but try to understand them.

Michelle: Once you have that awareness, take a step back and try to identify the silver lining of the situation, or an opportunity to learn and improve.


2. Practice acceptance

Question: That makes a lot of sense! Sometimes the silver lining can be hard to see, especially when it’s a new situation or something that won’t be positive for a long time. How can you respond when things don't go your way in the moment?

Hillary: Instead of getting worked up, try to practice acceptance. Take a deep breath and simply acknowledge the negative situation and notice your response. This helps you better identify solutions or let go if you need to.


3. Spend quality time with family and friends

Question: What’s something you can do to reset after a challenging day/week/period in your life?

Michelle: One great way to recharge is by spending time with close friends and family—people you can be yourself around. Be present when around these loved ones. Put your phone down and practice active listening when a loved one is speaking to you. Challenge yourself to listen without any intent to respond or judge.


4. Set goals and intentions

Question: What’s something people can do to work on mental resilience on a daily basis?

Michelle: The best thing you can do is clear your head and keep yourself focused on what matters by setting goals and writing out your intentions. Schedule this exercise daily or at least once a week to remain accountable to this practice.

Hillary: Once you have determined your goals, make sure these are visible or set reminders to revisit them each month, week or day to keep them in the forefront as you go through your day-to-day life.


5. Positive affirmations

(Question continued)

Michelle: Ooh yes! Also write down a list of positive affirmations, reassuring words, and positive boosts along with your personal strengths!

Hillary: Yes! Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed or disconnected, take a breath and review these to re-center your mind.


6. Focus on purpose

Question: Goals are meant to be challenging though, right? What’s your advice for when your goals have or are creating roadblocks?

Hillary: Think bigger picture. When times are feeling difficult, dig deeper and ask yourself the ‘why’ behind your actions. Refine your goals as needed to realign with your ‘why’ and continue progressing.

Michelle: Typically, there is a greater purpose to what you’re doing. Finding and identifying that purpose can help you push past barriers. Create a strategy list for obstacles that you have encountered and set a goal to use one of those strategies for the week.


7. Take care of yourself

Question: Any final words or advice for building and sustaining resilience?

Michelle: Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly and track it to see success!

Hillary: Prioritize your self-care. At minimum, that includes exercise, nutrition, sleep, and practicing gratitude. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.


Don’t do it all at once

Question: Where do you suggest people start first for building psychological resilience?

Hillary: I recommend folks choose one or two tips to focus on over a month or so because trying to follow all this advice at once can be a lot. If you are doing some of these things already, find the ones that feel more foreign. This will help you fill in the gaps!

Michelle: Agreed. And don’t focus on perfection, focus on what you can do and repeat. This is how new actions become habits. By building healthy habits and behaviors within each area that can sustain long term, you will promote optimal physical and mental well-being, boost overall resilience, and prepare you for handling setbacks.