Updated: Jun 2, 2020
Written by: Kamil Shah, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Challenging situations can be notoriously difficult for anyone going through it, especially for the first time. The current COVID-19 pandemic is definitely one of the ‘firsts’ seen in recent history, affecting almost all facets of the lives of the global population. As more and more people are affected, the after-effects are yet to be seen. As such, the current situation at the time of writing can be seen as a big ‘blur’. We are in the thick of it, yet unable to be certain of what lies ahead.
This period of confusion can have many implications, more so on one’s mental health. It can easily lead to the feeling of being overwhelmed by it all. The inability to control the situation can make one anxious, which in turn can lead to frustration, anger and inevitably feeling victimized by the situation.
The question then is: ‘How can one navigate through the current situation and thrive?’. One of the key answers is to develop Mental Resilience.
So, what is Mental Resilience, and why is it important? In order to answer these questions, we’ll need to understand what ‘Resilience’ means in the first instance. It is defined as the ‘the ability of people or things to recover quickly after something unpleasant, such as shock, injury, etc.’ (Oxford Dictionary). In the wider context of cultures and civilizations, Resilience refers to the ability of that culture or civilization to survive, adapt & grow when faced with adversity or crisis. Essentially it means the ability to ‘bounce back’ quickly from challenging situations and to thrive. Thus, having ‘Mental Resilience’ refers to the capacity to mentally cope with crisis & quickly recover oneself to the ‘pre-crisis’ status. It is also the ability to protect oneself from the negative effects of stressors. Examples of situations where Mental Resilience is useful include dealing with personal crises such as financial challenges, job loss, or even personal loss or grievances. The benefits of having Mental Resilience include the ability to:
Shift one’s perspective from focusing on the negatives of the situation to a more positive outlook
Develop and strengthen one’s self-esteem
Promote personal development and growth
Provide strategies in dealing with similar challenging situations
Help manage risks and open the opportunity to try new things
Provide a pathway to a happier life
As we know, life will throw us ‘curveballs’ from time to time. The question is, are we prepared and ready to hit them? The good news is that the ability to develop Mental Resilience can be learned, nurtured and strengthened by everyone. However, it requires an awareness, understanding and application of certain components in order to become mentally strong and unstoppable!
Read on to find out the 5 ways to develop Mental Resilience.
Step 1: Give Gratitude
As the saying goes, ‘Gratitude is the Best Attitude’. Being grateful sits at the very foundation of Mental Resilience and can be seen as a ‘cure-all’ for emotional and even physical well being. Saying ‘Thank you’ to whatever life has thrown at you elevates your mindset and sets you on a path of recovery. As mentioned previously, if left unchecked, challenging situations can easily lead a person towards being a victim of a situation. Shifting our thinking from the negative to the positive allows the beginnings of the development of Mental Resilience. Having Gratitude as a base or ‘Ground Zero’ allows us to be open to new possibilities that can help with being ‘stuck’ in a situation. Practicing gratitude also helps improve our self-esteem and build confidence; again, a trait which begins the journey out of being a ‘victim’ towards a ‘victor’. Feeling good about oneself and the prospect of a brighter future also has ripple effects on our physical well-being, which then ultimately strengthens our mental well-being.
‘Gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11’ - Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2003)
Practices such as meditation, practicing mindfulness, daily journaling, simple acts of kindness as well as expressing yourself all contribute towards developing self-care and sets us up for the following components to developing Mental Resilience.
'Gratitude meditation can reliably increase feelings of gratitude’ - Online Training in Specific Meditation Practices Improves Gratitude, Well-Being, Self-Compassion, and Confidence in Providing Compassionate Care Among Health Professionals (2016)
Step 2: Develop Your Belief
Complementing Gratitude as a foundation for Mental Resilience is Belief. Finding out the ‘WHY’ is important. Asking the tough questions like ‘Why do I need to get back on my feet?’, ‘Who am I doing it for?’ or ‘Why is it important?’ gives you your own set of fundamental answers which later will provide you the drive to move forward with. At the same time, looking at thoughts that may be holding you back can help you uncover your ‘Dis-Beliefs’.
Understanding what they are in turn will help you begin to build your self-confidence, by assessing what you’re good at, what you think you might not be good at, and ways you think you can improve on different aspects of your life. This then can help reinforce your own self-belief. As the saying goes, ‘It’s hard for others to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself’.
Having self-belief gives you back the ownership and control over how you react to situations. Believing that everything will be better, that you know you can make it through the ‘sticky patch’ and that you have it in you to make it work begins the process of strengthening your mind. Spiritual belief can also help reinforce self-belief through practices such as prayers, meditations, affirmations, ceremonies or even rituals. This provides an outward connection from the internal to the external.
Together all the above contribute to consolidating a positive outlook on things. As mentioned, changing our mindset by seeing challenges as opportunities for learning, sharing experiences and removing negative elements in our lives can help us focus our positive thinking process further.
‘Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.’ - Henry Ford
Step 3: Start To Strategize
Observe the situation objectively and begin to re-orientate our perspective towards solutions rather than dwelling on the problems. Finding solutions or ‘ways forward’ requires us to strategize. Fundamental to developing strategies is to be resourceful. That is to use any available resources we have to hand, rather than focus on the lack of resources. Starting off with leveraging the skills that you already have to hand helps you build momentum. At the same time, it may require us to be humble enough to accept that we may need to ‘re-tool’. For example, it may require us to learn new skills that are more adaptable to the current economic climate. At the same time, seeking help when needed is not a sign of weakness but one of strength.
So, recognize that family, friends and even professionals can provide some assistance. Another major component of strategizing your way is to plan ahead. Start working up your next move to get back on track and on your feet again. Setting goals has many benefits in acting as a guidance mechanism for our lives and can be a major contributor to its success. Another simple yet effective way of strategizing is to observe how other people have done it. Yes! Learn from others. Someone else has likely gone through a similar situation. Observing how they’ve managed to overcome the challenges could give clues to overcoming your own ones. Finally, it will likely be some of the strategies you adopt may not work. Nothing wrong there. It’s part of the process. You haven’t failed, you’ve only figured out another way in which it didn’t work. That’s part of the process. The key thing is to keep trying until you find one that works for you.
‘Research has established a strong connection between goal-setting and success’ - Matthews, 2015
Step 4: Nurture Your Attitude
Developing the right attitude will significantly increase your Mental Resilience. It’s time to develop new habits, and by this I mean positive ones. Removing unproductive and even negative ones will help you sustain only habits which are aligned and beneficial in reaching your goals. At the same time, energizing yourself will provide the strength to get through the challenges. This can be split between physical energy (exercise and healthy eating) and mental energy (learning, surrounding yourself with positivity and avoiding negative situations and people).
We also need to understand the value of resting in order to recharge the body and mind. Maintaining our focus is sometimes challenging as we can get distracted with many things. Having a laser-sharp focus on the important and significant things allows us to identify and eliminate those which may hamper our progress. Another key element is to develop a ‘never-say-die’ attitude in becoming tenacious. Use setbacks you encounter as your incentive to move further forward and understand that you will get through the challenges. At the same time, enhance and nurture your curiosity.
Developing a thirst for curiosity by being open to ideas, new ways of working and connecting with like-minded people gives you the opportunity to collaborate and share experiences. Finally, one element which can propel you forward is to guard your self-talk. What we say to yourself matters more than what others say. Remind yourself daily of your innate ability to achieve your goals and that you can achieve them by ‘sticking to the plan’.
When setbacks occur, say ‘This is a minor setback and I will get myself back on track.’ Also strengthen your thoughts by simple, yet profound thoughts like ‘I can do it’. At the same time, also look at the flip side of not taking positive action. The possibility of being in the same situation a week, month or year from now should be a good enough reason to take action to change your Life!
‘I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work’ - Thomas Edison
Step 5: Action
You’ve come this far in being aware of your situation, developed a strong belief, strategizing your path and developed a great attitude to strengthen your resolve. All that’s left is to take action!
‘Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.’ - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Taking immediate action gives you the power to start the ball rolling towards your goals. The time of thinking and strategizing is done and it’s the time to start executing and ‘walk the walk’. It may be daunting as you might still be questioning yourself if it’s the right thing to do. Everyone is different. Tackle small items first to get quick wins that can build momentum, or do the more challenging ones if you’re more confident. Whatever it is, start now! Once you’re up and running, take the time to check your progress at intervals.
Getting feedback is an excellent way to track your growth. What went well and what can be improved? Are the strategies making progress? Make a note and assess. Also, don't forget to celebrate your wins, however small they may be! The final stage is to re-calibrate your approach if fine-tuning is required. Revisit your strategies and start to finetune them if needed. Remember, a 1-degree shift in a ship's course may not show much improvement in the short term, but it will get you to a different destination in the long run! Once you're done, repeat the process again through execution.
‘Don't wait. The time will never be just right.’ - Napoleon Hill
Bringing it all together
In essence, developing Mental Resilience can help improve our Life by making us more resilient as individuals to challenges and changes that may happen. The 5 Key Steps to creating a Mentally Resilient mind and are:
Developing a sense of Gratitude as a foundation
Strengthen your Self-Belief because if you don’t believe in yourself, it’s difficult for others to believe in you
Create an action plan through concise Strategies
Develop a set of Attitudes to brave through challenging situations
Take immediate Action of your plan!
You can download my free E-book here!
Read more from Kamil:
Kamil Shah, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Coming from a professional background in design, Kamil previously practiced in both the Education & Corporate Sectors. One life-changing event in his 20s saw Kamil's life plummet from having a progressing career in design, to living on $2 a day virtually overnight. This painful experience has taught him valuable lessons in Life, which he has used advantageously in regaining his feet and ultimately achieving Personal and Professional Success. He now shares his experience and knowledge in helping others achieve their own success through bringing on their own Personal Genius.