I feel like resilient people are able to understand that one situation of stress is not necessarily transferable across the globe or across all situations. They’re able to say, okay, this was just a moment. I can still rise to the occasion.

Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us. I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Modupe Akinola who offered her resilience expertise during the filming of ‘Limitless with Chris Hemsworth’ from National Geographic on Disney+.

Dr. Modupe Akinola is a psychologist from New York, and assistant professor at Columbia Business School. She specializes in the relationship between stress and performance and has spent her career trying to find out why some people thrive under stress and others buckle. Modupe’s central belief is that stress itself is not the enemy. We can all learn to control the stress of high-pressure situations, as well as the anxieties of everyday life — and even turn that stress into a force for good. But to do that, we first have to get to know our stress, make it our friend, and stop avoiding it.

Thank you for joining us in this interview series, Modupe. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

I’m a professor at Columbia Business School and I study stress. I like to say I study stress because it’s in my DNA — I’m the child of immigrants. When you come to the U.S. with nobody, on your own and in a new country life is just stressful. I feel like I watched it, I experienced it, and then I replicated it in many aspects of my life.

From a research standpoint, it is to better understand stress so that I can help others and even myself live longer, healthier, and happier because hypertension is in my family and I want to make sure that I and others find different tools to adapt to our stress.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

I feel like resilient people are able to understand that one situation of stress is not necessarily transferable across the globe or across all situations. They’re able to say, okay, this was just a moment. I can still rise to the occasion.

They’re able to look at and think about the times that they have been stressed and have they can instead of just speaking negatively to themselves and saying, I’m terrible, this is awful, they can channel that and think positively. Instead of saying, I’m a loser and I did really badly, or I’m going to do badly, they can instead say, oh, I’m courageous.

Instead of saying, I don’t know why I’m doing this..this is ridiculous, saying, oh, I’m going to challenge myself in some way. So I think resilient people are aware and acknowledge that stress and then recruit the resources they need to address it.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 resilient steps you help Chris Hemsworth cultivate during the filming of the ‘Limitless’ series from National Geographic on Disney+?

One was reminding him to breathe. When we’re stressed, our heart rate increases because it wants to get ready for action, but sometimes we need to help it decrease and so we want to breathe. I talked that through box breathing.

Another tool was positive self-talk. As I mentioned earlier, to remind yourself in those challenging times. How can you remind yourself that you are a resilient person by reframing your stress.

Another thing that we dealt with was the mind. So Chris Hemsworth did some mindfulness meditation, which is a resource that can be helpful.

His friends were with him in the episode, and sometimes if you recruit your buddies to be with you during those challenging times, to sometimes tell a joke or whatever, that can be very helpful.

The fifth thing, which I think I should have started out with first is just acknowledging and sharing and being self-aware about what stresses you out.


Are there any myths around resilience during the filming of ‘Limitless with Chris Hemsworth’ that you would like to dispel?

Some of the myths are if you breathe, it’s all fine. Or if you sit there and meditate, you’re going to be perfect. No, these things take practice. They take time and one solution technique is not going to work for everybody. So it’s about each person needing to find what’s right for them. We’re all different. So find the thing that works for you.

It’s like Chris Hemsworth as Thor doesn’t get stressed out. Thor can do anything. We all have things that stress us out, and recognizing that we’re all human.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

There are lots of setbacks in one’s journey. One of the things that was the most helpful for me was having mentors, guides and coaches, in the same way, I was there for Chris Hemsworth. And so your social network and your network of support is critical to setbacks. I have to say that one of the quotes that I’ve heard before that I like to use is “setback is a setup for a comeback.”

So know that setbacks are really opportunities to bounce back from whatever situation you’re going through.

Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your expertise, Modupe.


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.