Diana Reyers knows a thing or two about bouncing back and building resilience. After being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in 2005, the Ontario mother of two couldn’t keep up with her 50-hour-a-week management job. She went back to school to pursue a less stressful, more satisfying career as an esthetician, and even opened her own spa in 2008. But she had to give up that career, too, when she developed painful osteoarthritis (OA) in her thumbs. “I was left with little money and an immense feeling of being unfulfilled,” she recalls.

One day in 2010, during an especially bad neck spasm, she says, “I lay down to rest and had an epiphany: I was not going to beat arthritis, but I could live with it in a better way.”

She worked with her rheumatologist to find an effective medication combination and took yet another professional turn, training to become a life coach. Now, she says, she has an “incredibly rewarding” career that allows her time to take care of herself and her family.

What makes people like Reyers not just survive, but actually thrive in the face of obstacles? In a word: resilience.

Resilience, says psychologist Robert Wicks, is “the ability to learn from and rebound from challenges, adversity and stress.”

When you’re resilient, you’re able to keep going mentally and physically in spite of the pain, grief and anger that may come with adversity. You can look beyond the problem and draw on constructive coping mechanisms like optimism, acceptance and faith that you can change things and get past setbacks without giving in to hopelessness and frustration.

Developing resilience is especially important for those with arthritis, adds Wicks, a professor at Loyola College in Maryland and author of Bounce: Living the Resilient Life (Oxford, 2009). “Chronic disease poses regular, and often immense, psychological and physical setbacks,” he says. “You have to be able to cope with them in order to care for yourself. Resilience is the difference between making arthritis one part of your story and [allowing it to be] your entire narrative."