1) Practice mindfulness
Based on the ancient Zen Buddhist meditation techniques, mindfulness means being present in the moment and remaining open to how things unfold instead of having preconceived ideas and about how life should be. Most of life’s suffering comes from the discrepancy between how we think life should be and how it really is. Mindfulness helps us to live in the moment and be less concerned with “what ifs” and worries about future events that may never happen. Mindfulness helps to limit worry.
Instead of resisting and being angry at others and the world for things that aren’t right, accept that life IS the way it is right now.Instead of wallowing, figure out what can be done. What can you control? Forget about what you can’t control. Acceptance isn’t the same as passivity – instead it’s about using that energy that we waste of “why me” and “this is so unfair” etc and using that energy to figure a productive and constructive way forward. Acceptance is the first step in dealing with something positively. Denial of a situation is toxic to emotional and mental strength.
3) Be aware of your stress levels
Not only do you need to be aware of stress levels but you also need an effective strategy to deal with high levels of stress. Stress is the main enemy of emotional and mental strength. Managing stress effectively is vital for a well balanced mind. I often check with myself and give myself a score out of ten for where my stress level is. Zero = no stress. Ten = very stressed out. If I feel I am a 6 or above, I usually take action by going for exercise, taking time out or chatting to a friend for support. You may have your own strategies that work for you – keep them in your back pocket, to be called on when you need to feel calmer.
4) Keep perspective
Never lose sight of the bigger picture. Stress feels really intense in the moment but in retrospect we are able to see things more clearly, more rationally and with less emotion. Remind yourself when you’re in the ‘thick of it’ that you won’t always feel this upset. Perspective can strengthen emotional and mental health but helping us to feel more rational and in control of the situation. We are able to think more clearly when we take emotion out of the equation.
5) Know your ‘triggers’
We all have things that set us off. For some of us it could be when we feel used by another person and this triggers intense rage in us. For others it could be when you feel left out and treated badly. Whatever the ‘trigger’ is, it’s important to be aware of what sets you off. When you know where your weak spots are, you can be more prepared for them and find strategies to minimise their effect.
6) Don’t believe your negative thoughts
Thoughts are not facts. Just because you think them, does not mean that they are true. We worry ourselves endlessly about all sorts of possible negative outcomes, and torture ourselves on a daily basis with the crazy thoughts in our heads. Most of the time we don’t even realise we’re doing it. Have you ever been driving in your car and realised that you have been somewhere else mentally for the last few minutes? No doubt – fretting about some upcoming event or possible experience that may never happen. If it does happen it probably won’t be as you anticipate it to be. How many times have your worries turned out exactly as you imagined them? And then what – are you still here, are you okay? Did you get through it? In all likelihood you did, which just goes to show that buying into your thinking is a bad exercise. It works against emotional strength when we listen to and believe our negative pessimistic thinking. Learning to manage our thoughts and use affirmations to think more positively is the way forward.