10 ways to build mental toughness
Navigating life’s real challenges doesn’t have to be “hard”. It takes awareness, finesse and knowing your own mind. We have experts to answer the questions we hear the most about building mental toughness. Use their strategies to improve your game. Not a single answer tells you to ‘stand up’.
1) Can you get stronger physically without leaving your mental comfort zone?
“The body can only adapt if it is facing something new, and new challenges won’t always be comfortable,” says Ebenezer Samuel, MH’s director of fitness, CSCS. no. Your mind will also adjust to the discomfort, and you will increase your mental and physical strength. The secret: start small. “Each week add one to the goal you’re chasing,” says Samuel, “whether that means doing one more push-up rep each set, adding an extra minute to your morning run, or holding a plank for one. second longer. “
2) I hate to fail. Is there a way to stop obsessing over what went wrong?
Start thinking like Michael Jordan. He considers himself a failure: according to his tally, he missed more than 9,000 shots. “Twenty-six times I was trusted to shoot the winning shot and I missed the game,” he said. “I have failed time and time again in my life.” How has it evolved? He moved forward. “Making a mistake is just a source of feedback letting you know you’re off target,” says Lisa Stephen, Ph.D., career, personal and athletic coach and owner of Ignite Peak Performance in Vermont. “Use that data to focus on what to do next. So forget about the mistake. You can visualize yourself throwing it down the toilet or releasing it into a balloon. The point is to leave the mistake behind and build on what you have learned. You can’t be your best while focusing on the worst.
3) Can I let go of negativity without writing a fucking gratitude list?
Yes, by doing something for someone else. “One active approach to purging jealousy and negativity is to practice acts of kindness,” says psychiatrist Tracey Marks, MD, of Marks Psychiatry in Georgia. Start by giving others compliments and positive comments. If you’re feeling particularly generous, pay it up front in a cafe or behind the wheel. There is some evidence that acts of generosity are linked to activity in the regions of the brain responsible for happiness.
Still, if giving frustrates you (like, what about my needs?), Try gratitude without the list, says Dr. Marks. Just spend a moment each morning thinking about what you’re grateful for.
4) My workload is ridiculous. How to avoid burnout without losing the hierarchy of the office?
Learning to use the word “no” comes naturally to some of us, but slowly to others. Many people don’t use it because they fear losing opportunities or being seen as reluctant by employers or clients. In reality, the reverse may be true. “My experience is that when I say no, my worth goes up,” says Elizabeth Day, creator of How to fail podcast and author of Failosophy. “When you respect yourself, others respect you more too. Anyway, “I can’t handle any other project” is an easier conversation to have than “I can’t handle this job anymore.”
5) I am a desperate procrastinator. How can I work faster?
Let go of the concept of creative inspiration or having to be “in the zone” to do what needs to be done. There will never be a good time to get the job done, and if you wait for the mood to strike, you’ll wait a long time. James Clear, author of the bestseller Atomic habits, recommends committing to a timetable rather than a deadline. If life keeps you from doing what you need to do, reduce the size of the task – devote ten minutes to it instead of the 30 you planned – but still stick to the schedule. Don’t give yourself the opportunity to ignore it.
6. I am dealing with the loss of a loved one, but I need to be strong for my family. What can I do?
Being “strong” doesn’t mean holding back your emotions and tears. “The way to show your strength is not to be afraid to reveal your injury,” says Dr. Marks. “When everyone is in pain, the people who depend on you will look to you as a role model for how to manage themselves. If you remember everything, perhaps you are telegraphing that sorrow is shameful. To be strong, show how you feel.
7. Reading the news upsets me and often makes me angry. How to reset?
It’s understandable; the news causes stress because of the sense of hopelessness and feelings of injustice it can arouse. To deal with difficult news, try to create boundaries around how you get it and find people to have meaningful conversations with about it, recommends psychiatrist and mental health counselor MH Gregory Scott Brown, MD. flight response in the overdrive, do something to cool it down, like meditate or at least watch a nice non-topical, non-dramatic show.
Another solution: swap passive consumption of information for active discussion Using the Black Lives Matter movement as an example, Eugene Ellis, founder and director of the Black, African and Asian Therapy Network, highlights the mental health benefits of talking with others . It can also help you know what action to take. “It’s an antidote to the feeling of helplessness that many of us experience. When you start to engage, you discover that underneath the desperation is the connection. And when you find a connection, it’s easier to know what to do.
8. I am doing an ultramarathon. Is it true that it is the mind rather than the muscle?
“Ultras are probably 90% mental and 10% physical,” says Michael Wardian, a professional endurance runner who is one of only three people to complete the Leadville 100 mile / Pikes Peak marathon combo (and who also won the 2020 Backyard Ultra, a mentally and physically intense race). To pull off an ultra or any endurance feat, “you have to have a big why. Not just for social media, but for your kids or to prove something to you, ”he says. Also useful: count on “chunking”: set yourself small goals such as reaching the next mailbox or the next aid station. You don’t always have to run to build mental toughness. “Get used to doing things that make you uncomfortable,” he says. Set your alarm clock for 4 a.m. or just wash the dishes
9. I don’t have the patience to meditate. Can I reduce my stress in another way?
“Yoga is a great way to de-stress, and it’s good for the person who can’t sit down long enough to meditate,” says Dr. Marks. It also gives you stress reduction benefits in two directions: As with meditation, you focus on the breath, which can help relax the body. “And by stretching tight muscles, you relieve tension,” she explains. You don’t have to be flexible to do yoga, and these days there are tons of virtual options for practicing it. Two of our favorites are Alo Moves and Apple Fitness +. Both offer a wide range of classes, from hour-long stress relief to ten-minute yoga snacks. (A side note: meditation is definitely worth persevering, so keep going. Try an app like Calm, Headspace, or Ten Percent Happier to make it less boring.)
10) What should I say to someone who tells me to “get up”?
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This story originally appeared in the July / August 2021 issue of Men’s health.
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