Building Mental Resilience
If you wanted to lose weight, get fitter and stronger, you would probably go about doing the following:
• Join a gym
• Lift weights
• Walk more
• Cook more nutritious meals
• Rinse and repeat
As a result, over time, you would probably start to see definition in various body parts, more energy levels and better health markers all around. It doesn't happen overnight. However, you have to put in the work to see the benefits. Not only that, you have to keep putting in the work to keep those benefits.
Similarly, building mental resilience is no different. Just like you need to learn proper technique to exercise effectively in the gym, learning the "mental techniques" allows you to build your resilience capacity and mental strength.
An important part of this is identifying your values. Previous research findings suggest that aligning with personal values helps people be more resilient in the face of stressful situations. For example, according to resilient school leaders, the process of "privately clarifying, publicly articulating, and consciously acting on" core values is a great source of strength in helping them face adversity and emerge stronger than before (Patterson and Keller, Resilient School Leaders. 2005, p. 51).
Another study by Creswell and colleagues (2005) showed that reflecting on personal values buffered physiological and psychological stress responses during a laboratory stress challenge.
In essence, values provide a reason to keep going which is a cornerstone in becoming more resilient. For example, if "providing" and "safety" was an important value for you and you lost your job, it's easier to move quickly and seek out other jobs because you're aligning with your core values. The values themselves act as motivators.
Your values are the things that you consider to be important in life, such as leading, kindness, safety, freedom, helping others and so on. Let's start with a value affirmation task to align the values that are important to you and which you can harness during challenging periods in your life.
Step 1: Describe a stressful life event
Grab a piece of paper or pull out the notes app on your phone and take a moment to consider a challenging area in your life that is currently taking place. For example, you may have recently lost your job because of a pandemic or perhaps your partner has there is more pressure on you financially to provide for your family. Briefly, write down what this stressful life event is.
Step 2: List reasons to come out the other side
Consider why it is worth it to you to keep going and get through this stressful, challenging period in your life. For example, getting through the challenge of losing a job and securing a new job may show your kids that overcoming adversity should be embraced, and therefore you have shown this by being a role model to them. They might see you as a "hero" as a result. Write down as many reasons as you can.
Step 3: Pinpoint your values
Now it's time to pinpoint what your values are, paying attention to the list of reasons you wrote in step 2 - Identify what your values are. For example, if a lot of your reasons were providing for your family, being a role model, and paying off your mortgage, your values might be caring role modelling and stability.
Step 4: Create a visual reminder
In times of stress, it can be difficult to see the wood through the trees and stay connected to our values. That's why creating a visual reminder is a great way to make sure you pull yourself back into alignment. When you do, your thoughts and actions will be much more rational as a result.
Below are some ways you may wish to do this:
• Draw illustrations in a journal or a notebook
• Put photographs on a pegboard
• Make a "Values PowerPoint" and put it on your desktop
• Keep photos in a file on your phone
The key is the make sure to choose a place to store your values where you'll come across them often. In this way, it will help you stay in touch with what makes your struggle worth going through and grow your resilience threshold
Rooting For You!