The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions suggests that positive emotions can widen the range of potential coping strategies that come to mind and subsequently enhance one's resilience against stress. Studies have shown that high stress, especially chronic levels of stress, strongly contributes to the development of anxiety and depressive symptoms. However, researchers have also found that individuals who possess high levels of resilience are protected from stress and thus report lower levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms. Using a sample of 200 postdoctoral research fellows, the present study examined if (a) positive emotions were associated with greater resilience, (b) coping strategies mediated the link between positive emotions and resilience and (c) resilience moderated the influence of stress on trait anxiety and depressive symptoms. Results support the broaden-and-build theory in that positive emotions may enhance resilience directly as well as indirectly through the mediating role of coping strategies—particularly via adaptive coping. Resilience also moderated the association of stress with trait anxiety and depressive symptoms. Although stress is unavoidable and its influences on anxiety and depressive symptoms are undeniable, the likelihood of postdocs developing anxiety or depressive symptoms may be reduced by implementing programmes designed to increase positive emotions, adaptive coping strategies and resilience. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.