Cultivating Hardiness, a life skill



A not-too-often-spoken-of stage of grieving is finding resilience or hardiness. You may be struck out of left field by a sudden event and need to find your way forward and at such times you will either have the knowledge you’ve done the work to be able to deal with this or you have to work it out in a hurry.  Of all the things I read about mental health issues, I don’t tend to bring them to my blogs, but there’s so little in the public domain about this and it is so useful.

I received the July 2022 newsletter from Self-Management of Depression outlining what is meant by hardiness, why it’s important and what it takes to cultivate these traits.


What is meant by hardiness?

Previously labelled as existential courage, hardiness is a pattern of attitudes and strategies that together facilitate turning stressful circumstances from potential disasters into growth opportunities.  It’s about knowing there’s going to be dark days and bright days in life, whether or not you are grieving a specific situation, and being ready, having the tools and developing the thicker skin required to get through that time.  It means that you understand your situation is temporary and this time will pass – and having a way to get through.


Why it’s important?

Research has been done (Bonanno, 2004; Kobasa et al., 1982) to show that it’s important to understand and build your hardiness in response to life’s ups and downs, to improve your general well-being.  Your confidence levels come up with the belief that life is essentially good, but into each life a little rain must occasionally fall.  You generally have better discipline in your life because you prioritise doing the things necessary for good self care (e.g., exercise, adequate rest, moderation in food, and substance intake).  Also, this research shows that people who have good resilience or hardiness are more likely to reach out, in times of stress, to other individuals or organisations.

There’s other research quoted (Rhodewalt & Zone, 1989) to show that people who do not have ways to cope experience symptoms of depression more frequently, they see life’s events that are not positive as much more catastrophic and they do not adjust well to life events – which is to say, they’re less flexible emotionally.  They tend to be more prone to burnout, stress and experience low well-being generally.

So we should be motivated to dig deep during times of stress or times of grieving to see if we can help ourselves.  Some grieving is good and expected, should not be avoided.  But the danger is staying in that situation for too long.


The 3Cs of Hardiness

Here’s the list of things it’s good to have to be hardy:


  • Have a sense of purpose (this might only be getting up in time for the regular school run)
  • Have well-defined and measurable goals (routines, are good)
  • Use growth mindset and self-compassion to overcome failures (be kind to oneself and expect to be sad sometimes)
  • Seek support, if needed, to deal with stressful events


  • Have an internal locus of control (routines are good)
  • Believe that you have a personal influence over events rather than feeling powerless (routines are good)
  • View stressful situations as normal everyday occurrences rather than something out of the ordinary
  • When in a stressful situation, focus on the small things that you can control
  • Break down the task into smaller parts that are easier to handle
  • Learn time management skills (routines are good)
  • Prevent scope creep


  • Turn challenges into growth opportunities (more efficient school run time?)
  • Be assertive and challenge the status quo, especially if the current processes are ineffective
  • Check if fear of failure or embarrassment is creating an obstacle to overcome a challenge
  • Recall previous challenges you have faced to remind yourself of your successes in the past
  • Be open to taking calculated risks
  • Use problem-solving instead of denial and avoidance as coping strategies
  • Have the cognitive flexibility to adapt and change goals, make new decisions, and set priorities

Do note that these assume we make this part of our daily lives and so do the maintenance before a stressful situation strikes.  That way, these become part of who we are, how we navigate the world.  I have noted where we don’t have to be talking about running a global organisation, we can apply this in our everyday lives.

HARPREET S. DUGGAL, MD, FAPA Self-Management of Depression. July 2022

Bonanno, G. A. (2004). Loss, trauma, and human resilience: have we underestimated the human capacity to thrive after extremely aversive events? American Psychologist, 59(1), 20-28.

Rhodewalt, F., & Zone, J. B. (1989). Appraisal of life change, depression, and illness in hardy and nonhardy women. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56(1), 81-88.