Mental Resilience: How to stay mentally strong

by Daphne Kirkwood

We all have ‘stuff’ in our lives that gives us a gut punch when we least expect it. I have had a few big ones — the ones that send you through the air and knock you off your feet. The blows that take your breath away and leave you stunned. The hit that feels like you are not in your own body, that you are watching your life in a movie. Yes, those hits are what I am talking about.

So what happens to your mind and attitude when you are hit with life-changing health news, a tragic discovery about your child’s safety and well-being, or you have a sudden loss? Do you accept things as they come? Or do you fight the change and difficulty?

“You have been assigned this mountain so that you can show others it can be moved.”
~ Mel Robbins

Our minds are extremely powerful, and we all have the ability to choose how we are going to react when these major life hardships come our way. When I found out I had lymphoma, I went through all the emotional stages of shock, fear and grief, but I didn’t allow myself to stay in the despair stage very long. I chose to believe that there was hope, that there were positive outcomes available. I also trusted that I was under the best possible care and support.

All of these positive thoughts helped me continue to have a positive attitude and outlook towards my life, even in the midst of the terrible health news and pain that I was in. When time passed and I felt like I needed more support for my overall well-being and ‘whole self,’ I sought out additional resources. I didn’t wait for the professionals or people in my support network to find this for me. You have to become your own advocate for your life. After all you only have one opportunity at this life, and it is NOW.

Here are four mental strategies for resiliency that have helped me when huge stressors show up:

1. Accept the new normal and adapt to it. Rather than continuing to look back at the past and waiting for ‘the good days’ to come back, acknowledge change has happened and that this is the new normal.

2. Think and Live every day in a way that allows you to thrive in the new normal that is here now.

3. A better world exists — we just have to make room for it in our lives. It is very difficult to see the ‘good’ in tragedy when you are in the thick of it, but by trusting that there is a silver lining and something good will come from it, this allows us to stay positive and maintain a hopeful outlook even in the midst of a crisis.

4. Do what you can with the wisdom and energy that you currently have, and then accept that this is enough for now.

In my years of being a competitive athlete, I have had my fair share of running injuries. In fact, I’m dealing with a hurt calf muscle right now. Fifteen years ago, sports related injuries really jacked me up mentally, physically and emotionally. Now when I get an injury, I assess the issue, tend to it immediately by doing research as to what it is, and then start treating it (RICE). Then I shift my mindset to a more positive outlook instead of allowing myself to get into the depths of despair!

Not being active while I am injured is not an option, so I alter my physical exercise plans according to what my body can still do while being injured. This positive approach helps me heal. The mind and body needs positive energy, not a negative mindset to get better. Sometimes injuries are the universe’s way of telling us to take a break from something, to rest that part of our body and to try something new.

Instead of getting frustrated because I can’t do what I want to do (such as run), I direct my thoughts to the positive. After all, I can still exercise! I then create a positive attitude for myself about the fun I am going to have while mixing up the daily routine with some new exercise regimen.

Whether you are going through personal hardships for physical injury, illness, or health, remember how powerful your mind is. You can control your attitude and how you react to adversity and crisis!

Ways to maintain a healthy, positive outlook in the midst of hardship

Hardships will come and go and suffering will come and go. Knowing these hardships are only temporary have helped me get through even if they feel like they are lasting forever.

Ask yourself: How do you want to feel? Knowing how you want to feel is one of the most important things you can create in your life. It allows you to be present with your emotions and to allow yourself to positively change your mind and attitude.

You choose your thoughts and what you allow your mind to spend time thinking about. If you don’t want to dwell on the thought that is in your mind, let it pass through your mind. Be an onlooker of the thought. Allow it to move in and then out of your mind without dwelling on it obsessively. If I can’t rid my mind of a thought and it causes overactive brain or obsessive thinking about it, I will talk about it with a friend or I will write about it in my journal. This helps me process the thought and then get it out.

Staying positive has helped me to get through the hard spots that have come up in life. It also has allowed me to use the amount of energy I am allotted each day to continue to be a positive force in this world.  Share with us on our social media channels, how you keep a positive attitude through the hardships.

“You have to become your own advocate for your life. After all you only have one opportunity at this life, and it is NOW.”

Daphne Kirkwood

Race Director and Owner , iDaph Events & Timing

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