During this heart wrecking pandemic, we all need to stay optimistic and stay mentally and physically strong in order to fight this deadly virus. We all are surrounded by awful situations; somewhere people are fighting to get a bed in the hospital so that they can be treated, whereas some are running out of funds to get proper aid and some are wailing to be able to bid a final adieu. This is the time when we need to improve our mental strength which in turn also improves mental health.
What is mental strength and mental health? Aren’t they both the same?
Mental strength and mental health are sometimes used interchangeably but they’re not the same thing. Many dictionaries define mental health as being “the absence of mental illness”. But not having depression, anxiety, or another illness doesn’t mean you are mentally strong.
In fact, you might still be mentally strong even if you are dealing with a mental health issue. Mental strength involves your ability to think, feel, and perform at your best.
The difference between mental strength and mental health becomes easier to understand when you compare it to the difference between physical health and physical strength. Building bigger muscles can improve your physical health. However, big muscles don’t guarantee you won’t ever deal with a physical health problem, like high cholesterol.
And while a health issue might make it a little more difficult to go to the gym and workout, you can still make choices that help you grow physically stronger even when you have a physical health problem.
The exercises that build mental strength will also improve your mental health. And better mental health makes it easier to grow mentally strong.
You have power over your mind- not outside events. Realise this and you will find strength. — Marcus Aurelius
Fortunately, everyone has the ability to build mental strength. Developing bigger mental muscles takes exercise — just like developing bigger physical muscles. Building mental strength may, in turn, also improve your mental health.
While there are many exercises that can help you build mental strength, here are a few simple ones that can get you started.
Cognitive exercises are those strategies that help you think differently. This could include any exercise that helps you think more optimistically, reframe negative thoughts, or develop a more realistic mindset. Here are some examples of healthy cognitive exercises:
- Write in a gratitude journal: Gratitude journals are an excellent way to activate and strengthen positive thoughts and feelings.
- Talk to yourself like a trusted friend: People are often harder on themselves than they are on their friends. So, try to show yourself the same compassion you would extend to a loved one.
- Argue the opposite: In the moments you’re convinced everything will go wrong, think of everything that could go right.
Emotional exercises increase your self-awareness about your emotional state. They may help you recognise when your emotions are helpful or not helpful, they may assist you in identifying strategies that reduce the intensity of your feelings, or they may help you embrace uncomfortable feelings. Here are some examples of emotional exercises:
- Label your feelings: Noticing your feelings as feelings can help you get some distance from them. This can help you think more logically and get a better perspective on the problems or emotions you’re dealing with.
- Use healthy coping skills to deal with uncomfortable emotions: Instead of only focusing on negative emotions, you can take a walk, give yourself a pep talk, or read a book you enjoy. This isn’t an attempt to avoid or ignore your feelings, but it can help to alleviate some of your painful emotions.
- Take deep breaths: Deep breathing exercises can help reduce anxiety and alleviate tension from your body and mind.
Behavioural exercises are about getting up and doing things that are good for you. These actions help you feel better and perform at your peak. Some examples of behavioural exercises include:
- Perform behavioural experiments: Behavioural experiments help to challenge any thoughts that are unproductive and self-limiting. Behavioural experiments help to test the reality of their beliefs. It can help people recognise that their assumptions are not necessarily accurate. Behavioural experiments can take many forms. For some individuals a behavioural experiment might involve taking a survey to gather evidence about whether other people hold certain beliefs. For others it might involve facing one of their fears head on.
- Schedule positive activities: It always helps your mental well-being to make time for things that bring you joy. Schedule a warm bath before bed or carve out some time to cook a nice meal for yourself.
- Engage in hobbies: Hobbies will engage your mind in something that you love to do. Whether it’s taking pictures or baking, hobbies can bring a sense of accomplishment that can help you feel good about yourself.
A lot of people misunderstand mental strength. They think being strong is about not crying at sad movies or not acknowledging hurt feelings. But experiencing and expressing normal human emotions takes more strength than suppressing them. So, don’t believe that showing emotion means you are weak.
Similarly, don’t buy into the notion that mentally strong people don’t ask for help. It takes incredible mental strength to admit you don’t have all the answers or to recognise when you might need help.
Gauging the current scenario that we are living in, everybody will need help. So start getting your mental strength muscle stronger to stay menatll healthy. We all need to stand beside everyone emotionally, optimistically and mentally strong. So don’t wait and start doing the exercises required to get your mental strength muscle stronger.
STAY SAFE!! STAY STRONG!!