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How to Develop Mental Resilience

Veterans and caregivers embrace various outlets to build mental resilience. Warrior Bill Geiger enjoys jumping on his motorcycle and hitting the open road.

There are many words people use to describe mental resiliency, from having inner strength to being steely, tenacious, or tough as nails.

By definition, resilience is "the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

Being resilient is necessary in the military. Navigating the twists and turns of life after service also requires resiliency. Some days, it takes more work to adjust, however.

Recognizing the challenges servicemen and women face, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) offers various programs and resources to help warriors keep moving forward.

WWP™ asked several warriors and family members to share what mental resiliency means to them and their advice for others. 

"There is an old saying – Sometimes you need a curvy road to get your mind straight.
At least, this is how I say it. 
I think that is true."  – Bill Geiger, warrior

Army veteran and father of two, Bill Geiger, is quite familiar with resiliency, noting it is something taught to every generation of children. “We tell our kids things like, ‘If first you don’t succeed, try again.’ Or ‘It's not how many times you fall, but how many times you get back up,’” said Bill.

But on dark days when he struggled with managing symptoms from a mild brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Bill says it was easy to forget those lessons.

“You think, today sucks, tomorrow is never going better. You forget that you’ve lived through other bad days before and gotten back up.  You need to be reminded that things will improve,” said Bill, who retired from the military in 2014.

A friend invited Bill to a WWP event. “It was just amazing being around other veterans, being around the staff. I signed up for other programs then,” said Bill, who now credits WWP with helping him thrive – and remember his resiliency.

Over the years, Bill has participated in many WWP activities and mental health programs, including Warrior Care Network® and Project Odyssey®, a 12-week  adventure-based mental health program that helps warriors enhance resiliency. Today, he serves as a peer mentor.

Bill offers these top tips for building mental resilience:

  • Embrace your feelings but have faith. “It’s OK to be sad, to sit there in bed on bad days, feeling down, mourning the loss of something. Feel how you feel, but have faith that it will get better. It could be tomorrow, it could be next week, but it will get better.”
  • Reset your mind through activity. “Find something you enjoy. I know vets who play video games online with others; some walk or swim; others garden. On the bad days, don’t sit there, do something. For me, it’s riding my motorcycle. There is something about just riding, having that freedom of the road to zone out with the breeze, the trees, the sun, the rain. It brings a different aspect to things.”
  • Build connections with like-minded people. “There is no single, right way to navigate life after the military, but it’s often helpful to connect with other warriors and people who are familiar with some of the obstacles you may be facing. Wounded Warrior Project makes it easy to meet and bond with peers,” said Bill.

"Resiliency is all about training our resolve to withstand life’s trials and tribulations. For me, resilience has been about holding on to hope, no matter how tough things get. There is always a path forward."  
– Jennifer Jenkins, caregiver

It was Jan. 25, 2005, when Jennifer Jenkins’ life became a whirlwind of uncertainty. Her brother James, an Army specialist, had been wounded in Iraq. As his next of kin, Jennifer became his caregiver. 

"Stepping into that role for my brother pushed me into uncharted waters. It was a challenging time that made me fear the future, tested my limits, and forced me to confront my vulnerabilities,” said Jennifer. “But love and commitment can turn our challenges into opportunities for growth and fulfillment.”

In her journey, Jennifer learned to adapt to the unexpected by consciously embracing obstacles as opposed to trying to fight them.

Recalling a time her brother needed specialized treatment, Jennifer was told she would need pre-approval authorization from at least four other physicians.  “This was a huge obstacle, but I realized if I stopped being angry and accepted the circumstances, my brother would get what he needed.”

Over time, Jennifer connected with WWP and eventually joined the organization as a member of its Warriors Speak team, sharing her experiences with people around the country. 

 Jennifer Jenkins and Cindy Parsons – Alt caption goes here

Connecting with others is important to Jennifer Jenkins (right), who finds time to share experiences with fellow caregiver and family support member Cindy Parsons.

Her top pieces of advice for building and maintaining mental resiliency:

  • Focus on what you can control. “It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the things outside your control. Concentrate on actionable steps you can take to improve things one day at a time.”
  • Practice self-care. Acknowledge the effort it takes to be a support system for others and take time for yourself. “WWP is where I first heard about caregiver burnout. I realized that self-care isn’t selfish; it’s necessary for resilience,” said Jennifer, adding that WWP exposed her to many self-care opportunities. “From mindfulness and breathing exercises to physical fitness routines, yoga, and tai chi, to doodling, and writing, I have a menu of things that I choose from now based on how I feel.”
  • Stay connected. Taking advantage of programs from organizations such as WWP is helpful in meeting people who have gone through or are currently on similar journeys. Find your peer network and lean on them. Stay engaged with those who care about you. “Isolation can magnify challenges, while connection will foster ongoing resilience and healing.”

Connect with WWP to learn more about veteran mental health services and programs for warriors and their families to build a more positive future.

Contact: Cynthia Weiss – Public Relations,, 904.738.2589

About Wounded Warrior Project

Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.

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