There are times in life when I feel as though I’m on top of the world… And other times when I feel as though the world is on top of me. As someone who has suffered from (and in some cases still suffers with) depression, anxiety, PTSD and chronic stress, I still have times when I don’t feel very mentally strong. These are the days when even getting out of bed seems like a struggle.
However, over the years I have built up a toolbox of ways to help myself feel more mentally strong and now I want to share these techniques with you. Here’s what to do if you want to boost your mental strength on those tough days.
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1. Accept Your Feelings as Valid
I know a lot of the advice out there is to just pull up your socks and get on with it (or even fake feeling mentally strong until it happens), but I’m not one for that kind of toxic positivity.
If I’m not feeling mentally strong then there’s prIf I’m not feeling mentally strong then there’s probably a reason behind it and I need to accept that it’s okay not to feel on top of the world all the time. Often, we can get stuck in a thought pattern of “Why am I feeling like this? I don’t have anything to be sad/anxious/down about. Someone else has it a lot worse than me.”
This is extremely unhelpful and my first step towards feeling mentally stronger is to accept that I’m not feeling 100%, that my feelings and emotions are totally valid, and then move on to one of the next steps.
2. Schedule in ‘Down’ Time
Nope, I’m not talking about downtime where we binge Netflix for 3 hours straight. I mean scheduling in time to feel low or anxious or sad! I know that if I get caught in a cycle of not feeling very mentally strong, then I can spend a lot of time stuck there.
However, I like to give myself designated time to feel those feelings; whether they’re sadness or anxiety. I’ll promise myself 15 or 20 minutes of ‘down’ time that includes accepting my feelings as valid – and then I’ll start to make a move towards feeling mentally stronger.
Give yourself time to process, but don’t let it consume you for days or weeks on end. Pick an amount of time you’d like to spend in your ‘down’ time and set a timer. Once the timer is up, it’s time to move on to the next step to build your mental strength.
3. Reflect on Times I Was Mentally Strong
We all have times in our lives when we have had to overcome obstacles and proved just how mentally strong we really are. When I run resilience workshops, I always get people to think back to a time when they’ve already been resilient for this very reason!
I find that when I’m not feeling very mentally strong, I can convince myself that I’m just not very good at life. However, by using this trick I can remind myself of all the hard things I’ve managed to achieve in the past.
Grab a pen and paper to jot down at least three times you were mentally strong and were able to overcome obstacles. They might be small things (I convinced myself to go for a run when it was raining) or big things (I survived my darkest days). It doesn’t matter what they are, get them down on paper to reflect on how capable you truly are.
4. Conscious Breathing
If I’m not feeling mentally strong due to something such as fear or anxiety, or because I am really overwhelmed and stressed, then conscious breathing is my absolute go-to.
Breath work can calm our nervous system and make us feel more in control, which is why it’s such a powerful tool to use whenever we’re feeling overwhelming emotions. Plus, it’s something that can be done just about anywhere and at any time.
One quick technique you can use is:
- Breathe in for the count of 4
- Hold your breath at the top for the count of 4
- Breathe out for a count of 8
Making the out-breaths longer than the in-breaths will help activate your parasympathetic nervous system and help you feel calmer. I also highly recommend any of Charlie Moult’s breath work sessions on The Anti-Burnout Club App (they have been game-changers to help build my own mental strength).
5. Move My Body
It’s one of the last things I feel like I want to do when I’m struggling, but actually, it always has the biggest impact. The difficulty is trying to move your body when all you want to do is lie in bed eating your body weight in Ben & Jerry’s (just me?)
Because of this, I have a couple of little tricks up my sleeve to get me moving and start that rush of endorphins.
The first is that I just promise myself I’ll put my workout clothes on, lace up my trainers, roll out my yoga mat, or even just find an exercise video I want to try. I don’t say to myself I’ll do any more than that, but once I’ve started preparing for movement I feel more inclined to carry on with the process!
The second is the kitchen disco, which is a firm favourite at The Anti-Burnout Club. Pick one song that makes you feel like dancing and promise yourself you’ll move for the duration of that one song. This normally happens in the kitchen while I’m making a coffee (hence the kitchen disco)! You might find that once you’ve started, you will want to do a few more songs. Here’s a playlist our members made that might help!.
The key is just getting the ball rolling and your motivation will follow.
When I’m not feeling very mentally strong these five things can help me bounce back, without pushing myself through too much resistance. Giving ourselves that time to process and accept our feelings are the two important first steps. Once you’ve done that, you can use the rest of these tips to help build your mental strength.