What is mental resilience?
Life has a way of not going 100% your way all the time. Mental resilience is the quality that helps you adjust your heading to cope if your plans go awry, tolerate disappointment, persevere and believe in yourself.
We all feel anxious, down or depressed at times, just like we might feel happy, excited, pleased, angry or upset, at times. These are all normal emotions. However, if these emotions are too intense, lasts too long or interfere with your wellbeing they can become a problem. Feelings of worthlessness, failure, inadequacy and hopelessness are often the result of stress becoming too much and anxiety and depression interfering with how we see ourselves. Developing mental resilience is a foundation of strength that allows us to rebound from adversity, helps us safeguard against stress and have a more loving, accepting, optimistic view of ourselves.
Food for thought
Remember, what you eat and drink plays a huge role in developing resilience. Drinking around 8 glasses of water a day is an example of a habit that makes a big difference while eating foods that promote balance in your nervous system is an essential part of managing stress, depression or anxiety.
Foods on the A list are examples of nutrient-rich sources of energy. We find the most resilient diet includes whole grains, vegies, leafy greens, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, lean protein and fish. Getting enough omega 3 oils is also essential for resilient brains! So load up on deep-sea fish where you can, For the best sources of low-mercury seafood for omega 3 oils, remember MASSH on your shopping list – mackerel, anchovies, salmon, sardines and herring.
Foods that are low in nutrients and highly processed actually put physical stress on your metabolism. Counter-productively, these provide an energy burst that quickly bottoms out, creating cravings and the urgent need to top up on fuel. Thus, limiting foods made from white bread and flour, fried foods, sweets, coffee and alcohol is a choice that supports sustained energy and positive, stable moods.
Helpful things to remember
Hope and optimism is actually something that is learned. In fact, through setting realistic goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them, you will gain confidence in your own abilities and the optimism that you can indeed change your circumstances. What does your inner voice tell you? Is it optimistic or hopeful?
Hopeful self-talk sounds like…
This is tough, but I can do it.
Deep, slow breathing calms anxiety. While feeling keyed-up, restless, worried, fearful or nervous, and the common physical symptoms of anxiety, like shallow breathing and a racing heart, are relieved with this simplest meditation. Try sitting quietly, with your eyes closed and one hand over your stomach. Then count slowly to three as you breathe in 1,2,3…and as you breathe out, 1,2,3… feeling your stomach gently rise and fall. Experiment with this technique for 2-10 minutes and check-in with how you feel before and after.
Getting control back
One of the strongest resources for mental resilience is having a sense of control. This is the belief that we can have some effect on our circumstances. Finding control in a stressful situation can mean accessing your problem-solving skills or using strategies to change your emotional state.
Problem-solving tips: What can I change about this situation?
- Perhaps, if you’re feeling too busy, take a looks at the things on your ‘to do’ list. Then decide what’s really important and what’s contributing unnecessarily to your stress. Ditch the unimportant ones, then delegate. Remember, resilient people ask for help – you don’t need to do it all yourself.
- Seek advice. No-one has all the answers. Ask a specialist for their opinion. Once you have reviewed the options, make a decision. Making a choice directs your energy and releases stress.
- Relationships benefit from developing open heart communication and listening skills. Mediation or counselling can be helpful if this is tough. Going as a couple, family or on your own is a great option.
- When setting goals, break up the steps into small achievable chunks. Slot time into your week to work on one achievable step at a time. As you complete each step, you will see your goals becoming a definite reality.
Mental resilience tips: How can I change how I feel?
- Exercise feeds the body with feel good chemicals. It also helps expend nervous tension and combats exhaustion.
- Engaging the mind in hobbies, meditation or breathing exercises help focus and change your emotional state.
- Acknowledging and expressing how you feel can help change your thoughts. Respectfully communicating your thoughts in a safe space, can be very helpful.
- Check in with yourself – are you feeling stressed due to messages you are receiving from advertising and the media? Sadly, many of these messages are designed to make you feel bad about yourself in order to get you to buy their products. Tricky! Give yourself a holiday from negative messages by putting down the gossip magazines and turning off the TV for a while. Call or visit a friend who reminds you how great you are instead. Check out Jameela Jamil's podcast “I Weigh” for some perspective on advertising and media driven self-expectations.
Happiness Training for mental resilience
According to current research, it takes 21 to 66 days to create new ways of thinking. Positive psychology researchers such as Shawn Achor train people to view the world more positively and optimistically. He suggests a series of daily practices that take only about 2 minutes each day for 21 days to get this done. Read more about Shawn Achor's happiness training here or check out his TEDTalk for an entertaining take on rewiring your brain for happiness.
Local Counselling Services (Melbourne's West)
National Mental Health Services
The above website contains a free online education program ‘This Way UP’, with online support communities and helpful information on stress, depression and anxiety.
Books of Interest
- The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown
- The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor