by: E.B. Johnson
We are living through unprecedented times, and they’re asking a lot from us mentally and emotionally. It’s not easy being severed from the world we know, and it’s even harder living in fear of our mortality. At the end of this pandemic, the true mark of survival is not going to be in who is left standing. It will be in who has the mental toughness to pick up the pieces and rebuild what we lost.
Strength is a long-term tool.
So many of us spend our lives building up physical walls in our lives. We cushion our environments with material goods and social status, and we believe that these things will carry us through to happiness. When the world stutters to a stop, however, this all changes. What happens when we lose everything we’ve known to be a comfort? We have to look inward and lean into our mental resilience, and our desire to survive.
By finding our strength now, we can build the future we want later.
Now is the moment to build mental and emotional toughness that lasts. By increasing our mental resilience, we’re actually giving ourselves a tool that will help us long beyond the lockdown limits of this pandemic. If you want to give yourself any kind of guarantee of a life when this over, you need to work now to build the mental resilience it takes to bounce back and start again. Do you have what it takes to find the silver lining and keep going? It’s time to build a resilience that lasts beyond the pandemic.
The best ways to build mental resilience that lasts.
There are a number of habits which can help you build mental resilience, and these are also habits you can carry on after the pandemic. These habits can help us to decrease stress and increase our mental and emotional strength by empowering us to see to our physical needs and refocus on the right positive factors (and goals). You don’t have to settle for the panic and the stress. You can find ways to find peace within yourself.
1. Listen to your body
When it comes to mental health and resilience, there’s a lot of emphasis put on the way we think. Too often, though, we don’t also consider the physical aspect of our mental toughness. It’s hard to be mentally strong when your body is physically weak. In order to make sure we have the ability to bounce back against stress, we need to listen to our bodies and nourish our physical needs too.
Before you start doing heavy lifting in your brain, stop and listen to your physical needs. Are you really emotionally devastated? Or is your body exhausted to the point that it’s now causing you emotional anguish too?
Give your body the fuel it needs to carry on. If you’ve started bad eating habits that run down your gut health, change your diet and spend some time figuring out what works for you. Improve your sleep routines. A lack of sleep or erratic nighttime routines can seriously run down our mental resilience. Even if you’re locked in the house, you need to make sure you’re getting enough quality sleep on a regular basis.
2. Find positives to focus on
There can be little denying the power of positivity and gratitude when it comes to improving our mental toughness. Negative and stressful events have a way of soaking up all our focus. To break out of this, we have to recenter ourselves around the tangibly good things in our life that already exist. These gratitude points become motivating engines as we battle the shadows and try to find the light at the end of the tunnel.
Create a gratitude habit that starts every morning. When you wake up, try to focus first on thoughts that make you happy, or things that you’re grateful for. As you make your way to the bathroom mirror, look yourself in the eye and say 3 positive things that you love about yourself.
Continue this habit as you move throughout the day. Each time you encounter a stressful or negative event, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and think (or speak out loud) of at least 5 things you’re grateful for in your life — no matter how small. The more you think about the positives, the more you will begin to see more positivity in your life. This will have a dramatic effect on your mental health and the way in which you perceive your happiness.
3. Unload your stress (often)
We’re all living with an inordinate amount of stress at the moment, and we find that we also don’t have access to the usual outlets we’d use to unload that stress. Whether those outlets are there or not, we still have to find a way to unload this stress or it will overwhelm us. Stress is toxic for the body and even more toxic for the mind. For that reason we have to act promptly in dispelling it.
Stop holding on to the stress until you boil over with explosive emotion. You’ve got to find ways to regularly discharge the pressure so you can clearly see how you proceed or carry on. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. All that matters is you listen to your mind and the types of activities it responds well to.
Make a list of activities you like to do. Start with those that have the highest level of intensity, or those that require the highest level of focus. The more absorbed you can become in the activity or task, the more it will help to pull you out of the stress you’re in. Likewise, relaxing activities or regular self-care time can also go a long way to help you unload the stress that you may be dealing with. Safeguard your wellbeing in whatever way is needed.
4. Make socializing a priority
As humans, we are social creatures and we thrive when we are able to communicate and connect with others. This need for connection doesn’t change just because of distance and time. When your happiness is based around socialization, it’s important that you find new ways to meet that need — even when you’re locked down. Thankfully, we live in a technological age, and that has become easier than ever before.
Get creative and discover new ways to connect with the people who matter most to you. Long gone are the days when the only option was Skype and Facetime. There’s a whole world of Zoom now at our fingertips and exciting new ways to connect and find that social fun we’ve been missing.
Make intentional time to socialize, especially if you feel your emotions tanking out. You don’t have to talk about the pressure or the stress that you’re under. Focus on the positives if that’s what you need and do something fun and exciting. Organize a digital murder mystery night with close friends. Set-up a listening party or a live movie stream. There’s no right or wrong way to connect. You simply need to remind yourself that there’s still people out there who love you and want the best for you.
5. Rethink how you process info
It’s never been more important to be connected to information. Every day, there is seemingly new developments on the virus and the state of the world as it relates to the pandemic. You need to keep yourself up to speed, but most of us have a tendency to over-indulge in the endless news cycle. This is diabolical when it comes to our mental health. We have to rethink how we process information and how often we take it in.
Build new habits for taking in and processing news and important information. Instead of overwhelming yourself in the 24/7 news cycle, limit your intake and pick a couple of solid, reputable sources that you can scan once or twice per day.
While the information we need is always changing, it’s not changing so fast that we have to live in the shadow of constant fear. By doom-scrolling through the same catastrophic articles and death tallies, you’re only overloading your sensory systems with negative emotion and panic. Don’t put more stress on yourself than you have to. Set timed windows in which you scroll and get the news you need. When that time is up, switch tasks and do something else that brings you joy or at least distraction.
6. Give yourself a purpose
You’ll have a hard time getting through all the hardship to come if you don’t have something to look forward to. You need to have a purpose that you’re working toward every day. There needs to be some big-picture goal that motivates you to keep moving. Getting to this goal isn’t a straightforward process, though. Sometimes working toward our bigger purpose requires little side stops along the way.
A lot of feeling fulfilled and complete has to do with giving ourselves something to work toward in either the short term or the long term. We thrive when we have goals, and we give ourselves a mental and emotional boost when we conquer them.
Each day, give yourself small, simple goals that you know you can easily complete. Start small. These don’t have to be goals that apply to your big picture. They also don’t have to involve a great deal of effort. The point is giving your brain something to stay busy with, and something to feel accomplished about. Even getting outside for 10 minutes of high intensity exercise is a short-term goal that can have big results in helping you refocus and gather your emotional balance.
Putting it all together…
One of the most important things we can do right now is focus on building our mental resilience. The true test of this pandemic is not so much how we survive it, as how we act now to rebuild in the wake of it. You need mental toughness now and you will need it when the world slips quietly back into some sense of “normal”. Building mental and emotional resilience is like any other skill, though, it takes time, action and courage to cultivate.
Listen to your body and treat it gently. Nourish it and give it the food and sleep it needs to feed your brain and mental health. Find positive things to be grateful for on a regular basis and unload your stress as often and as creatively as you can. Don’t forget the power of socializing. Stay connected with the people that matter and intentionally make time for one another. Limit and mange the way you take in news, but make sure you stay informed. Above all else, however, find a way to give yourself a purpose. Even the smallest of goals can help you focus on the bigger future you’re going to build after this pandemic calms.
- Three Ways to Build Resilience Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic. (2021). Retrieved 17 February 2021, from https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/how-to-help-families-and-staff-build-resilience-during-the-covid-19-outbreak/