Mental resilience refers to our ability to adopt a fresh mindset in the face of setbacks and stressful situations. The key to building mental resilience lies in cultivating and strengthening certain skills. Let’s explore a few strategies you can implement to build mental resilience and create a foundation for a life that is emotionally balanced.
Practice mindfulness and self-awareness
The practice of mindfulness and being more present enhances your self-awareness. It will help you to understand your thoughts, emotions, and reactions with intention. Mindfulness is about choosing to pay attention to the present moment in a curious and non-judgmental way. Strengthening your self-awareness helps you to recognise when you're feeling overwhelmed or anxious, enabling you to respond in a more constructive and in-control manner.
Breathing is a key mindfulness practice whereby you move from breathing mindlessly (which we do most of our waking hours) to focussing your attention on the depth and importance of each breath. Slow down your breath and perhaps even have a mantra to accompany the ‘in’ and ‘out’ breaths. Having a mantra to accompany the breathing helps a lot such as: “I am here (breathe in), right now (breathe out)”. The breaths should be slow and there should be a two second hold after breathing in, and one again after breathing out. It brings one to the present and will help you focus on the moment and not the matter that is causing frustration or anxiety.
Positive and adaptive thinking
A positive and adaptive mindset involves reframing negative thoughts and focusing on opportunities and solutions rather than dwelling on the challenges. Adaptability helps you strengthen your ability to overcome challenges and take-in setbacks as learning experiences.
It can be helpful to pay attention to your negative thoughts. Write them down and then make a conscious effort to think of something positive about yourself and write that down too. Then cross out the negative thought and focus on the positive one. Asking the question “is this true about me?” really helps, because nine times out of ten, the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are not true. And someone else’s negativity towards you is often more indicative of where they are mentally versus who you truly are.
Build a strong support network
Surrounding yourself with supportive and understanding individuals is crucial for building mental resilience. Having people you can trust and lean on for emotional support, will help you navigate challenges with a bit more ease. As the saying goes, “With a strong support system, there’s nothing you can’t face”. Make the time and effort to build a handful of close connections, people who genuinely care about your well-being that you can turn to in a time of need. Community groups can also be a great source of support. Don’t be shy to share your thoughts and feelings with those you trust, it is true more often than not, that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’.
Develop effective coping mechanisms
Identifying and practising healthy coping mechanisms is essential for building mental resilience. Engaging in activities that encourage positivity and self-care will help you skilfully navigate adversity. Activities such as physical exercise, mindfulness and meditation, journaling and cognitive reframing are some of the mechanisms you can adopt. It's important to find what works for you. And it’s best to start these activities and build a regular practice when feeling good, so it’s your ‘way of being’ when things are not going as great, and you can access the benefits of having developed a disciplined approach to things that elevate one’s mood and mental well-being.
Seeking professional support
Recognising when you need professional help is a sign of strength. If you're experiencing anxiety or anxious moments, it's important to seek assistance from a mental health professional who can provide guidance and support. If you don’t know where to start, chat to your local GP, or Human Capital partner, or to a family member, colleague, or friend. You’ll be surprised how many others are seeking or have sought professional support and are willing to share what they’ve learnt and their network with you.
Learn from the setbacks
Resilience is not about avoiding difficulties but rather learning and growing from them. Viewing setbacks as opportunities for personal growth, learning from past experiences, and adapting your approach moving forward can strengthen your mental resilience. Instead of asking yourself “why me?”, try a reframe of “what is this asking of me?”. It’s not to say that this will be easy, but you need to reframe to reset that internal turmoil.
Building mental resilience is a journey that requires patience, self-compassion, and commitment. It’s about embracing challenges as opportunities for growth and adopting a positive outlook. By incorporating these strategies and actively working on them, you will overcome anxiety, or at least experience improvements over time, and ultimately you can thrive.