Today’s question is “How do I build mental toughness?” Also known as mental resilience
- Let’s take a parallel – say you want to build physical strength -How do you do it? Exercise, right? Regular exercise. If I want to build up upper body strength say my arms, I might do press-ups every day I may do barbells or pull-ups. If you do it regularly then after 2-3 weeks you will start getting results. Equally, if you stop, after a week or so your body starts reversing the effect.
Why is that you’re wondering and what exercise?….. We’ll get to that!
Why is mental resilience important?
- When it comes to a setback – let’s say you get a rejection, you fail or you make a mistake, something bad happens – It’s how you respond to it that determines your mental strength.
- Does it worry you for hours? Worry you for days? Does it take you a week? Does it keep you up at night? Two weeks later, do you suddenly wake up and worry about it? If it takes a long time to recover and you are still worrying and still stressed about it, you are weakening your body as well. Your body is in survival mode.
- Mental strength comes from the ability to say “OK, something bad happened, I’ve experienced the emotion” I’m not saying you should deny it but you don’t stay in it. If you stay in the emotion it can easily wind down to depression.
- I’ve been there – if you continue those thoughts, they keep chewing in themselves, they can easily lead you down to depression.
So the way you bounce back is….
- You experience the emotion but then you overcome it so you are in a place to move forward, to take action, to dust yourself off, to apply for another job, to propose something again to make amends.
- It’s about activating, this fear response comes from your fear part of the brain – anger, worry, stress. What you need to do is activate the Prefrontal Cortex the part of the brain associated with self-control, creativity, insight, intuition, decision-making, proritising – Wise executive functions 😊
- The way you quickly activate that part of the brain is to begin to control your thoughts, you begin to control your attention. Say to yourself – “I’m not going to chose that thought- I’m going to start thinking that thought.”
You might be thinking “What? Control my thoughts? Are you crazy?” …..It is possible
- Here’s how – just for 3 minutes a day (yes just 3 minutes is a good place to start!) It’s just 3 minutes to get started and to do something consistently.
- After this video, switch your phone notifications off, turn it upside down, close your laptop, set your timer for 3 minutes. Sit down, close your eyes and watch your thoughts for 3 minutes.
- What am I thinking? Oh! that Amazon show I want to watch, can’t wait for the next episode, Oh! must do that shopping, Oh! I must reply to that email, whatever it might be – just watch them and be aware of what pops up in your head.
Why am I asking you to do that?
- The reason we get stressed is because our thoughts and emotions control us, that’s where the problem comes from. We are not taught this at school – I worked out myself how to overcome my depression and addiction and so on.
- You control your thoughts, that’s how you build strength. But you have to start by observing them. When you are aware of them, watching the thought creates a detachment. Instead of being attached to it and taken all over the place by them and down the negative loop – which is what mostly happens.
- Your Brain has this thing called negativity bias it’s a habit of thought. We are constantly bombarded by negative messages, advertisements, news, social media, thread responses, comparing ourselves to others.
- Our ego feels like it is constantly being attacked until we feel like we are in psychological danger. When we feel like we are in danger, the brain triggers the stress and fear response and that appears in the body – increased heart rate – shallow breath – tense stomach.
- When your body is in survival mode it stops your body’s natural repair system. It delays you getting over illnesses, it delays recovering from cuts, it delays your physical resilience as well.
- That’s why it is really important to bounce back from these things so you can go from the stress to being in control.