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Building Resilience: Lessons from Duncan Kirkwood


Three years removed from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, rates of depression and anxiety have increased among young adults across the country. According to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, anxiety symptoms increased from 9% to 21% during COVID-19 in young adults aged 18–39. Moderate to high depression symptoms also drastically rose from 9% to 39%. Now more than ever, it is essential that, as young adults and corps members, we take the time to care for our mental health needs. Duncan Kirkwood is on a mission to help those looking to improve their mental health by building resilience.

Kirkwood was featured to be a part of City Year’s Speaker Series event. He is a renowned motivational speaker and author who teaches people how to become resilient. Tabbed as a global resilience trainer, Kirkwood has traveled worldwide, giving speeches to help people become the best version of themselves. He does this by drawing from his experiences to illustrate how adversity and resistance can strengthen us. Kirkwood explained how in his lifetime, he had been rejected from a few colleges, lost two political races and had to cancel many events for his book because of the pandemic. Instead of giving up due to all of this, he used his setbacks to make him a stronger person. Kirkwood explained how he would have never had the chance to write a book on building resilience had he not experienced adversity in his lifetime.

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Missed the event? Visit the City Year Speaker Series: Duncan Kirkwood event page to register and watch the recording!

Kirkwood articulated that resilience isn’t about stopping setbacks. It’s about learning from those setbacks and filling your glass up whenever it gets low. He then gave suggestions on how to build your resilience. Kirkwood explained that as humans, we often focus on all the negative things going on in our lives, but if we take the time every day to think about the good things that happened, we might be able to change our mindsets.

He later goes on to break down resilience into a four-part process.

  • The first part is Acceptance and acknowledging that everyone will have setbacks in their life and can get through them.
  • The second part is the Journey and embracing that when we experience a setback, we know it will only help us become stronger.
  • The third part is finding Joy in the process and realizing that we are all working towards something more significant.
  • Lastly, the fourth part is to Know Who You Are, meaning that we are all more than just our setbacks, and they do not place any value on us as a person.

Everyone will experience setbacks at some point in their life. We all shared some of these setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic. Duncan Kirkwood is trying to help everyone turn those setbacks into something positive and meaningful by building resilience.

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