Developing Habits of the Mentally Strong
Resilience, the ability to weather difficult situations and events without letting one’s body and mind break down under the pressure, is the ultimate aim of those who wish to succeed in relationships, in academic life, and on a professional level. Whether you are worried about upcoming exams, experiencing a difficult breakup or battling a condition such as anxiety or depression, know that you rise above these hurdles by adopting specific habits which are favoured by the mentally strong.
- Obtaining distance from the event or situation causing distress: More resilient people somehow manage to distance themselves from the negative to obtain a larger picture of the situation at hand. Take the following example: you have a great university professor who you have a good rapport with and who is usually impressed with your work. Despite working hard on your last paper, however, this professor gives you a significantly lower grade than usual. You can either allow yourself to drown in disappointment or frustration, and ‘demonise’ the professor, or balance your less than satisfactory grade against the many good things your professor has brought to your academic life. One small setback does not mean failure; it simply means you should try extra hard next time to really impress her!
- Finding good in a difficult or painful situation: Every single setback is an opportunity for improvement, as mentioned in the example above. Resilient people may be very hurt when they make an effort to no avail, yet they have the ability to bounce back and even be thankful for the insight the problem has brought to their life.
- Experimenting with different solutions: One of the biggest mistakes people make, is sticking to the same strategy, despite evidence that it is not working. Say you are hoping to meet someone special, but your way of doing so is going out to the same club or hanging out with the same group of friends weekend after weekend. Try doing something completely different – join a sports club or take up dancing! Change your gym or sign up for a package tour to visit a city you have always wanted to – even if it is just a couple of hours from where you live. Successful people face life with a dash of daring; they are not afraid to leap into the unknown. You don’t need to go crazy; just make a few small changes and observe how big their effects can be!
- Having many 'bottles' and making sure they are all filled (or at least almost filled): When we put our hopes and dreams into just one thing or person, we risk falling into depression if we do not achieve what we had hoped for. It is therefore vital to have many ‘bottles’ in our lives – friends, a partner, hobbies, sport, cultural interests – and to review these ‘bottles’ once in a while to ensure none of them are being neglected. Friends and/or family are particularly important, since simply spending time with them when we are down can put our problems in perspective and help us realise how really lucky we are to have good people in our lives. Being part of a solid social network also reduces the stress caused by isolation.
- Managing stress naturally: Have you noticed how many successful people seem to take fitness really seriously? Regular exercise helps relieve stress, especially when carried out in an outdoors setting. It also keeps our weight down, which makes it easier to feel positive about ourselves (this is especially applicable to very goal-oriented individuals). Try to avoid relaxing by using alcohol or substances, and choose a sport you truly enjoy playing, irrespective of how good you are at it. Also, balance active sport with mindfulness-based activities such as yoga, which have been proven in scientific research to significantly lower stress. Yoga involves techniques such as pranayamic (or deep) breathing, which are fantastic for keeping worrisome thoughts at bay. Yoga has also been found to enable better sleep, to increase vitality, and to improve mood. It is no wonder that this millenary practice is used as a complementary therapy everywhere from rehabilitation centres for those who abuse drugs, to patients with Alzheimer’s, PTSD, and eating disorders.
Written by Anne Farmer.