how to become Stronger Mentally

How to Become Stronger Mentally

Have you ever felt like it only takes a small inconvenience to ruin your entire day? But how can something as trivial as getting late for a meeting or spilling coffee on your clothes make you feel so overwhelmed? It turns out that your mental strength (or lack thereof) can make all the difference. Think about it: have you ever gotten upset by things that wouldn’t normally bother you? In these situations, it’s rarely about the circumstances you face but your mental and emotional strength. When you’re stronger mentally, everyday hurdles can’t bring down your mood.

 

A common misconception is that mental strength isn’t something that can be developed, but that’s not the case. There are various habits you can adopt to grow mentally strong and improve your overall well-being. Because it’ll play such a major role in your ability to handle stress and take on new challenges, it’s worth taking a look at what mental strength means, how it differs from physical strength and different ways to build it.

What is Mental Strength?

To put it simply, your mental strength is the ability to deal with life’s challenges, whether they’re responsibilities, pressures, or stressors. Of course, it doesn’t mean that having mental strength eliminates feelings of sadness, frustration, or doubt. Rather, it enables you to cope with difficult situations in the long term. Being mentally strong allows you to show adaptability, self-awareness, and resilience amid changing circumstances.

 

Similarly, mental strength doesn’t imply the absence of mental health concerns or that you’re better at suppressing emotions. If you look at people who have struggled with mental disorders like major depression or ADHD, they’ve likely developed mental strength while dealing with difficult symptoms. After all, developing helpful coping mechanisms takes self-awareness, and sticking to them (even when harmful coping strategies seem much more effective) takes resilience and self-awareness.

Physical Strength Vs. Mental Strength

All this talk about mental strength may make you wonder how it differs from physical strength. As mentioned, your mental strength is the ability to overcome stressful situations and challenges that could cause frustration, sadness, or feeling overwhelmed. Meanwhile, physical strength allows you to take on physically demanding tasks. Instead of measuring your ability to face stressors, it measures your physical capabilities and endurance. While the latter is easier to observe and measure, the former goes unnoticed.

 

Unlike physical strength, which comes from body composition, mental strength is an internal force that motivates you to go beyond your limits. When faced with adversity, it’s what allows you to stick to your goals. And without it, physical strength becomes meaningless.

Am I Mentally Strong?

When you’re faced with a problem, how do you respond? Do you start thinking of ways to solve the problem, or do you ignore it, hoping it fixes itself? Your answer can give you some insight into your emotional strength. But before you label yourself a champion, remember that mental strength isn’t a constant. If it’s one of those days when a small inconvenience is enough to knock you down – that’s fine, too. There are many ways to improve your adaptability and resilience.

Why Mental Strength is Important

Sometimes, your anxiety levels can go through the roof, making it hard to do anything, let alone be productive. But what if you could transform that anxiety into action? That’s where your mental strength comes in. It stops anxiety from leaving you paralyzed and activates your problem-solving skills. Sure, this is a major benefit of mental strength, but there are a few other advantages, too.

You Can Adapt to Difficult Situations

Being able to find opportunities and come up with solutions helps you adapt to new environments. When you’re mentally strong, you spend less time thinking about what’s going wrong and more time on achieving your desired outcomes. You also start seeing more ways or strategies towards success. And since you’re more accepting of change, you won’t feel too distressed when things don’t go your way.

You Can Show Courage

When you have a crippling fear of failure, it can hold you back and prevent you from trying in the first place. With mental strength, you’re no longer afraid of failure. Instead, you think of the best way to solve the problem at hand. Even if the worst-case scenario does occur, you’ll feel confident that it’ll pass.

You Can Stay Focused

Anxiety and worry make it harder to stay focused on the task at hand, especially when you’re receiving criticism left, right, and center. With emotional strength, you’re better able to stay focused, even in times of doubt. After all, it’s not about suppressing your negative emotions but tolerating them. As time passes, you’ll have a better understanding of which emotions you should pay attention to.

You Feel Motivated

A lack of mental strength makes it difficult to hold onto motivation and energy. When small setbacks are enough to bring you down, you’ll start feeling like things are beyond your control and that you have no power over the outcome. By building mental strength, you develop an internal locus of control, which is the belief that you’re in control of your circumstances. The feeling of being in control of your future is a powerful one, and it motivates you to continue looking for solutions.

You’re Less Stressed

Perhaps the greatest benefit of mental strength is that stressors – both big and small – have less of an impact on you. Each time you’re faced with adversity, you take it as a chance to grow. And when you come across bigger challenges, you take a different perspective and trust your ability to overcome them.

How to Be Strong Emotionally

Wondering how you can become stronger emotionally and mentally? Here are a few tips:

1. Be Mindful

Let’s start with mindfulness, an important skill that makes you responsive rather than reactive. When you take a moment to process what’s happening, you hit the brakes on your stimulus-reaction loop to pick a response that delivers desired results. In the long run, mindfulness will help you when you need it most, like situations where most would pick fights or get anxious rather than talk things out or face their fears.

2. Practice Emotional Regulation

Emotional regulation refers to how well you can respond in a socially acceptable way, particularly in response to a situation that elicits unpleasant emotions. These skills are essential for enhancing your mental strength, and you can improve them with strategies like mindfulness meditation, journaling, and deep breathing. These techniques are just a couple of ways you can stay calm and become resilient.

3. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

How will you know when you’ve built up mental strength? You won’t know until you put yourself in challenging circumstances! Like other skills, you can’t test mental strength without practice. Maybe not now, but down the line, you’ll have to face unfamiliar or scary circumstances. It starts with a small step outside your comfort zone, whether it’s applying for a new job or picking up a new hobby. With time, you’ll realize that you’re just as capable of facing challenges, and you may even enjoy the experience.

4. Write a Journal

Although mental strength isn’t objectively measurable, you can still keep track of it using methods like journaling. When you write down how you felt and responded during a particular situation, it’s easier to keep tabs on how much you’ve grown emotionally. If you’re low on time and need ideas on how to write a journal, we recommend taking a few minutes to write down what stressors you faced during the day, how you responded, and things you feel grateful for. Keep in mind that journaling is much more than a writing activity. Rather, studies have shown that the process of writing a journal is therapeutic as it helps your brain navigate different challenges. If anything, it allows you to take a step back and look at the problem from a different perspective.

5. Have Some Self-Compassion

Many people are under the assumption that they perform better under pressure. But being hard on yourself won’t make you more productive. If anything, having self-compassion allows you to focus on the things you do right rather than what you do wrong. Of course, self-compassion is meaningless if you can’t be kind to yourself when you fail or doubt your abilities. Knowing you did your best, learning from your mistakes, and being willing to try again are all part of having a growth mindset.

6. Build Meaningful Connections

Mental resilience doesn’t come from isolation. In fact, having a robust support system helps you adapt to new environments better than doing so alone. When you can turn to friends, family members, or mentors for support during tough situations, it gives your mental strength a boost. By building meaningful connections, you’ll have a source of guidance, feedback, and encouragement when facing different challenges.

Habits That Improve Your Mental Health

Although building mental and emotional strength should definitely be on your list of things that improve your mental health, there’s much more to it. Besides becoming resilient, there are a few other habits you should pick up to start improving your mental health. Let’s look at a few of them.

Get Enough Sleep

How much restful sleep you’re getting has a major impact on your mental health, and researchers have the evidence to prove it. One study in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease gathered data regarding sleep habits from 273,695 US adults. Researchers found that respondents who got less than 6 hours of sleep each night experienced mental distress more frequently than people who got more than 6 hours of restful sleep.

 

However, do remember that we said restful sleep. If you keep waking up in the middle of the night, you’ll wind up feeling more tired.

Make Plans with Friends

Surprise, surprise: it turns out that maintaining social connections is vital to your mental health. That’s because meaningful relationships have a positive impact on your well-being by reducing feelings of loneliness and providing a source of emotional support. You can nurture friendships by making plans for the weekend, giving them a call, or meeting for lunch. Plus, taking the time to catch up with friends allows you to build deeper friendships.

Eat Well

As the saying goes, you are what you eat! If you’re eating food that doesn’t provide your brain with nutritive value, chances are that your mental health will take a hit, too! And we’re not just saying to go on a diet – improving your mental wellness requires changing your food preferences so you savor nutritious meals.

 

While all foods affect your mental health, few of them have a net positive effect. This is thanks to mood-boosting nutrients in foods like whole grains, fatty fish, and berries. These foods contain elements like omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids, antioxidants, and B vitamins, all of which play an important role in regulating neurotransmitter levels.

Get Moving

Countless studies link better mental health to exercise, whether it’s running, hitting the gym, or taking a dance class. It doesn’t have to be an intense workout, either – it just needs to be fun. Choose physical activities that you enjoy and align with your health needs. If you’re not sure about what you like, try experimenting with a bunch of different physical activities and continue whichever one makes you feel good.

Quitting Social Media

Telling you to quit social media right after we told you to build meaningful connections may sound counterintuitive, but hear us out. In this case, we’re referring to passive use of social media, which means keeping up with what’s happening in other people’s lives. When you’re constantly trying to measure up against other people, it leads to feelings of low self-worth, anxiety, and depression.

 

This is where being mindful helps; keeping track of how you’re using social media allows you to build a healthier relationship with it. A few ways to cut back on your use of social media include turning off notifications, deleting applications, and coming up with alternative activities you can try instead.

Building Mental Strength in Students

In addition to the above-mentioned strategies, the kind of challenges you face can influence how you improve mental strength. For instance, a college student may have different challenges than a single parent working a 9-to-5 job. That doesn’t make anyone’s struggles less valid; it just means that some approaches for building mental strength are more effective than others.

 

That being said, it’s important to consider that students of various age groups are among the groups facing immense mental distress. Whether you’re in high school or studying to get your Ph.D., here are a few ways to build mental strength.

1. Have a Routine

Time and time again, studies have proven that routines support the learning process by allowing students to accomplish day-to-day tasks. When you have a fixed routine, you won’t struggle for time. Instead, you’ll be able to complete tasks within designated periods and have a smooth transition when moving from one activity to another. Your routine should be realistic and include time for self-care. Too often, when coming up with a routine, we feel like every waking minute should be productive. Unfortunately, this can quickly lead to burnout. Instead, try to be mindful of fatigue, get enough rest, and keep track of what you’re eating.

2. Have Realistic Goals

As a student, it’s common to feel the pressure of high expectations, whether they’re from your parents, teachers, or peers. Nevertheless, you need to have realistic goals to build mental strength. When you set unachievable objectives, you’re not just being blindly ambitious – you’re setting yourself up for failure. Instead, break down large objectives into smaller, measurable goals. These will give you a sense of purpose, motivate you to take action and help you track progress.

3. Have a Growth-Oriented Mindset

When you’re a student, the next big test, presentation, or project can seem like the be-all and end-all of your academic career, but that’s not the case. For increased resilience and adaptability, you need to adopt a growth mindset. This allows you to do your best and focus on the next challenge instead of wallowing in self-pity over your current failure. Think of each poorly done test as an opportunity to do better in the future.

4. Practice Problem Solving

Statistically, all of us have very little control over future outcomes, but that doesn’t mean we should feel hopeless. It’s why modern-day educators emphasize helping students build problem-solving skills to build resilience.

 

Whether you’re going solo or are preparing for a group project, viewing problems from different perspectives is essential for finding solutions. When you build problem-solving skills, you’re well-equipped to find opportunities in the environment. By taking advantage of these opportunities, you’ll feel more confident about having some level of control over the outcome.

5. Show Gratitude

When you’re a student, it’s statistically impossible to be the very best each time. There will be times when you do great, but there will also be instances when you can’t give 100 percent. Failure is an inevitable part of being a student, and how you cope with failure plays an important role in building mental strength. Studies show that showing gratitude doesn’t just help students cope with negative outcomes but improves academic performance as well.

6. Talk to a Counselor

If you’re overwhelmed about how things are going at school, talking to your counselor can help you prepare for upcoming tests or exams. They can offer guidance on the best way to approach academic, personal, or social issues.

Building Mental Strength in Adults

For most children, adults seem like they’ve got it all figured out, but that’s rarely the case. Once you grow up and enter adulthood, you start realizing that perhaps your parents, relatives, and other adults may have been facing challenges of their own. Adulthood comes with its own set of stressors, so it’s important to prepare for them by building your mental strength.

Stress Management Techniques

Whether it’s a sudden expense, loss of employment, or loss of a loved one, you’re bound to experience stressful situations. And while it’s great to hope for the best, you should be prepared to manage stress, too. How you respond to unexpected stressors is a part of building resilience and mental strength. That’s where stress management techniques come in. These are strategies to alleviate your stress levels through methods like deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and grounding.

 

Deep breathing, whether you try the box breathing technique or the 4-7-8 method, calms hyperventilation. This signals to your brain that you’re not experiencing an active threat, breaking the stress response cycle. In fact, the same goes for progressive muscle relaxation. When your stress response is activated, your muscles contract so they’re ready to fight or flee. By contracting and relaxing them, you remind the brain that you’re not in danger, which helps your body relax.

Be Accepting of Change

As we grow older and develop a preference for the predictable, familiar, and mundane, change can seem scary. However, keep in mind that the only constant in life is change. When years pass by and you’re still not where you imagined yourself at 35, it’s easy to feel hopeless. Sometimes, unavoidable circumstances can make certain goals unachievable. Sure, it’s a hard pill to swallow, but accepting this change and moving on is what will help you focus on things you can control.

Have a Long-Term Perspective

Let’s say you’re facing difficult circumstances and are having a hard time staying positive. In that case, always remember that it’ll pass. Still don’t feel better? Think of it this way: things could be much worse. This allows you to develop a long-term perspective when dealing with hardships and have a hopeful outlook. Being optimistic allows you to focus on solving the problem while being grateful for what you have.

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