One of the most resilient groups in our society today is students. Constantly tested, challenged, and asked to juggle school and personal life without a clear division between them, students foster resiliency even when they may not even realize it. But, like all humans, students can slip.

Resilience is the ability to adjust to adversity using positivity and a flexible set of attitudes. Simply put, when university students have a positive mindset, it enables positive emotions to assist them in recovering from these challenges. The well known saying ‘look at the bright side,’ while mildly annoying at times, is a prime example of adopting a resilient attitude.

flower pushing through pavement

Why is resilience so important for students, you ask?

Well, it is a key life success trait for anyone – not just students. That being said, university students are particularly at risk of mental health concerns. Online students, who can feel isolated in their learning, can be even more susceptible to these kinds of challenges. I am sure many can attest that success and failure are a part of every learning experience. However, it is resilience that is the distinction between overcoming the failures and turning them into positive experiences, rather than letting them overcome you. It is about being adaptable to unforeseen, often chaotic, and always stressful external life events.

Carleton President Benoit-Antoine Bacon and therapy dog Blue

President Bacon and Blue

As Carleton University’s newly arrived 15th President, Benoit-Antoine Bacon, writes in his P15 blog, “life is hard, which doesn’t mean it is not beautiful, but it is for sure hard. It can get you down at times. Resilience through hard times gives us the chance to adapt, and turn things around. It also makes us stronger as we go.”

Dr. Kim Hellemans, a faculty member within Carleton University’s Department of Neuroscience pointed out in her blog post Fostering Resilience Among University Students that there has been an increase in mental health problems among university students. She reports that an approximate one in five Canadian university students experience some sort of mental health challenge throughout their undergraduate career. She also states an alarming statistic: 60 per cent of students surveyed in a recent national survey reported “Academics” as having been “traumatic” or “very difficult to handle.”

Mental health challenges can occur for any number of reasons, but stress is, no doubt, one of the main contributing factors for many, and resilience is a key trait that may help to overcome these external stressors. Ideally, it may even help to mitigate mental health risks for students on the whole. After all, resilient students foster the ability to look past negative experiences, learn from them, and try again.

However you adapt to these external stressors, just the act of adapting, or attempting to adapt, fosters resilience.

Kim Hellemans on Failure and Resilience

It all starts with a positive mindset – as Kim Hellemans has said, accept those moments, because that’s when you grow.

Stay tuned for more on this topic next month!

By Bianca Chan

For more articles, see CUOL’s story archive.

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