3 Ways To Ramp Up Your Mental Resilience & Feel Strong Through Crisis

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3 Ways To Ramp Up Your Mental Resilience

Interrupting your regularly scheduled programming… This year’s focus will continue to be on finding your "strong" so you can be a stress master and a healthier, happier human.

It's difficult to find your mental resilience and strength. But the last few weeks have hauled you up short, and you deserve some special attention.

Clearly, there's no shortage of things to worry about right now. Not that there ever is, but COVID-19 has definitely peaked the collective cortisol of our world, offering an impressive menu of scary places to land your attention and fuel your stress.

RELATED: 10 Simple Techniques For Building A Resilient Mindset In Times of Crisis

It tests your ability to handle the stress of uncertainty, an onslaught of confusing information, incredible life disruption, empathy overload, escalating communal fear, as well as some very real and scary health and economic challenges.

Do any of these random thoughts sound familiar?

  • "How at risk am I?"
  • "Are my loved ones safe?"
  • "What about my job, business, and community?"
  • "How will I keep up with bills?"
  • "How will our family and my marriage weather all this together time?"
  • "How will my kids be impacted?"
  • "How will social distancing affect my mental health?"
  • "How can I help but not increase the risk?"
  • "What about our economy? The global economy? My retirement plans?"
  • "Is our leadership up to this challenge?"
  • "Is our healthcare system able to handle this?"
  • "Will my toilet paper last? What about my hair color?"
  • "Will I gain 10 pounds?"

Staying mentally healthy in these times is a challenge for many people. 

You've heard so much talk about who is more physically vulnerable to COVID-19, but little mention of who's more vulnerable to the challenge of staying mentally healthy amid the broadcasted fears, real health scares, economic upheavals, and collective panic.

The reality is, many of us enter this bizarre new world already struggling to keep stress, anxiety, or depression at bay. Now, you're swimming in a sea of possible triggers, fueling your less healthy, more reactive brain patterns; testing everyone’s coping skills, and overwhelming many.

Please note, if you are really struggling — don’t judge yourself.

If you're feeling edgier, overwhelmed, fearful, or frozen, you have a lot of company.

The grocery store craze is proof — not that you should be panicked, but that fellow humans are struggling with how to manage this added pressure. Stress, depression, and anxiety tends to make you feel more alone, but that is part of your mind’s story, not reality.

You are not alone, and you'll feel stronger when you take action and explore new ways to feel connected.

It’s also part of your wiring that your stressed or anxious minds narrow your perspectives, skew you to the negative, make threats loom larger, make you doubt your self-efficacy, and thwart the creativity you need to find healthier thought and behavior patterns.

Then to further compound the problem, your world has taught you to react with self-judgment or shame for your feelings.

RELATED: 6 Ways To Build Emotional Resilience & Mental Strength When Facing Adversity

But the reality is there are many, many ways we can start to shift our minds to feel more empowered and more in control of the mental test of the COVID-19 and life in general.

Over and over again throughout millennia, the human spirit has proven to be remarkably resilient. You can find inspiration and wisdom in that.

Science, history, and self-reflection can teach you which thought patterns and choices make you stronger and help you find ways to meet challenges and fear with your best self.

You can learn to make space for your feelings and still believe in your capabilities.

Please know, I do not, not, not mean to diminish anyone’s grief or pain — they are real and need processing.

My heart goes out to those dealing with illness or loss, those losing their jobs, the heroic healthcare workers and their families, the armies of grocery stores and other services risking their health to meet our needs, those wondering how to pay the rent, to the parents who didn’t expect to teaching, parenting, and working all at once, to those not surrounded by loved ones, etc.

I just want all of us to feel stronger in the face of mental and emotional stress, so we all suffer less, and even find moments of joy and connection, no matter what your circumstances.

You can find your strong! And you can do it in tiny little steps.

Here are 3 ways to ramp up your mental resilience and feel strong through any crisis.

1. Choose where to spend your attention.

This takes awareness and practice. Notice what choices fuel your better thinking. What helps you stay more positive and feel stronger? What ramps up your worry or negativity? Actually, start listing them!

For example, yes, you need to stay informed, but not swirling in worry, glued to the media hype. How else can you learn just enough, then give your mind what it needs to deal with it?

How can you seek out the positives, the inspirations, and some comic relief?

What physical activities calm your mind? What one activity can you add into your day that will keep your attention on the bigger picture?

Something as simple as changing the Alexa background from current news to art pictures makes me smile a little more.

2. Ramp up connection!

Fight social distancing — or maybe your own withdrawal tendencies — with heartful connection.

If you’re not feeling up to initiating connection, start by just noticing it in others, like the singing Italians. Or, listen to a loving kindness guided visualization on the Insight Timer App.

Send yourself a little love for just thinking about how to take care of yourself or others. Reach out to someone you know is feeling alone. How many other ways are there for humans to let each other know we “see” each other and that you matter?

By the way, this strengthens your immune system!

3. Ramp up self-care!

If ever there was a time to pay attention to self-care, it’s now! This is your toolbox for getting strong — mind, body, and spirit.

Maybe you meant to start working out last January. Well, you still can. Make a list, not of “shoulds,” but of those things you think would fuel your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy — and keep adding to it for several days.

Then, pick just one or two and experiment. Make it fun or you’ll quit. Maybe this week you go to bed 30 minutes earlier.

These are strange times, and while fraught with a plethora of dark spaces to go, they're also full of opportunities to step out of status quo, make some important reflections and realignments, and find new ways to build your own strong and our collective strong, as well.

Part of the good news is the non-denominational nature of this “threat to humankind” may actually rekindle some much-needed connection and humanity that will fuel mental resilience as well as stronger immune systems.

RELATED: This Is How To Turn Your Trauma Into Something Meaningful

Cynthia Ackrill, MD helps clients and organizations find "real life" strategies to take control of stress. If you would like help conquering your OTD and lowering your stress, email today or sign up for a class to take control of your life!