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3 Practices to Foster Mental Strength

Emotional Resilience is a Necessity for Navigating our Stressful Lives

Standing up from a sitting position, I pulled a muscle in my lower back. Just standing up, not hiking the Himalayans. I tried everything I could think of to get some relief from what can only be described as wretched pain. Ibuprofen didn’t put a dent in it. Heat brought little relief. Medicated cream did nothing. Electric massager irritated rather than relaxed. At one point in the middle of the night while the world slept, I was climbing the walls — out of my mind. After two days of ingesting muscle relaxers which basically knocked me out, I was beginning to recover. I enjoyed one full day of operating at 100% before I fell walking down the hall. (My junior high days revealed a true klutz but this seemed out of character, even for me.) This fall was so unexpected that I landed flat out. Everything hurt. As I caught my breath and mentally took inventory of all my parts, it appeared I was all still there. My knees hurt but the thing that was screaming the loudest was my left big toe. (Turns out, I fractured it.) As the day progressed, my right ankle begin to announce how wrenched it was and my left toe was twice it’s size. Physical pain has a way of demanding all our attention. We search endlessly for solutions — essential oils, medication, heat, ice, elevation, compounds. These two painful experiences back to back served as a metaphor for a different kind of pain I’m navigating.

In an attempt to do something beyond me, something bigger then my efforts can accomplish, I find myself in mental pain, at times. Sometimes frantic for solutions. Often impatient in the waiting. Always a little unsettled about how this will resolve. Climbing the walls might be a good description of me. However, climbing the walls never gets me closer to the destination. It only leaves me on the ceiling.

I’m discovering three maneuvers that foster mental strength. Mental strength is forging a mindset that keeps us moving forward and it takes a variety of intentional action.

Take Baby Steps

I’ve already set goals. Sometimes staring at the big goal is the problem. Taking our big goal and breaking it down into more manageable steps is a key to finding the strength to follow through. Take the big goal and break it down into 5, 8,10 parts. Take the first part and write out the steps needed to accomplish that one part. Now we know the next baby step. Mental strength involves seeing the next thing and doing it, not being overwhelmed by the huge end result. The big goal can paralyze us. Focusing on the next baby step is totally manageable.

Practice Tolerating Discomfort

Discomfort can drive us to look for short cuts. Rather than face the obstacle, we reach for something that’s going to give us immediate emotional relief — like binge watching tv or eating a pan of brownies. For me, tolerating discomfort only happens when I remind myself I am willing to be uncomfortable in order to have the results I want. Learning to tolerate discomfort increases my mental strength.

Use the 10 Minute Rule

When tempted to put something off, let’s give ourselves permission to put it off in 10 minutes. But for now get started. When the couch is calling but it’s time for a walk. Start the walk. If we still want to lay down in 10 minutes, we can. Getting started is sometimes the hardest part. Once we take the first step, we’ll realize it’s not as hard as we thought it was going to be.

T. Harv Eker said, “Successful people have fear, successful people have doubts, and successful people have worries. They just don’t let these feelings stop them.” Emotional resiliency affects how we deal with stress and challenges. Using these tools to build our mental strength and emotional resiliency means we can just do it, rather than be stopped by overwhelm.

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