10 Ways to Stay (Mentally) Strong
Life is tough, perhaps more so in Singapore than elsewhere and we have the numbers to prove it. In the 2019 Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey, a startling 92% of working Singaporeans reported feeling stressed. The global average is 84.9%. Of those stressed in Singapore, more than 1 in 10 say they cannot manage their stress.
All this mental and emotional strain have taken their toll. A 2018 Singapore Mental Health Study noted that those aged between 18 and 34 in the country are more likely to experience a slew of mental health issues – bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, alcohol abuse, obsessive compulsive disorder. Suicide rates also rose in 2018 by 10% with boys aged 10 to 19 seeing the sharpest increase.
It is clear we need to take care better of ourselves, beginning with our minds.
What Does Being Mentally Strong Look Like?
Being mentally strong simply means that you have the psychological edge to cope with demands and stress. In everyday terms, it is grit, perseverance and resilience.
Like being physically strong, mental strength takes training. It is a skill. You are not born with it though you may be more inclined towards it. That is good news. It means you can develop mental strength with the right strategies.
How to Be Mentally Strong
1. Know Your Triggers
Everyone has different triggers that will throw them off. What fazes you may elicit nothing from others, and vice versa.
Are you more prone to insecurity, anxiety, fear or depression? Which do you find more daunting - multiple deadlines, changes, failures or taking risks? Knowing what affects you will help you recognise it and develop ways to cope.
2. Manage Your Triggers
Once you know your triggers, you can develop healthy coping mechanism. Not every way of dealing with your triggers is healthy. Some people eat their emotions, others drink away their sorrows, vent or run away. These are short-term solutions that may make you feel worse in the long run.
Healthy coping mechanisms are those with long-term gains as well. There are several you can try: deep breathing, meditation, exercise, reading, spending time with Nature, humour, breaking down large tasks into smaller ones, celebrating mini milestones, talking it out with a rational friend. Use different tactics to see which works best for you.
3. Build Yourself Up
Coping helps you deal with challenges when they come. Building yourself up helps reduce the number of things you find challenging.
Build up your confidence. A study at the University of Melbourne found that confident people were more likely to succeed at work. Build up your self-image. Take a clear-eyed look at your successes and failures. Eliminate self-doubt.
One way of doing this is to start and end each day on a high note. Tell yourself first thing morning and each night before bed: Every day may not be a good one but there can be good in every day.
4. Refuse to be Negative
Often, it is not the problem but our perspective of it that brings us down. How you think can affect your mood and your actions. Choose not to dwell on the negative. When a self-deprecating, depressing or irrational thought comes (I am such a failure, I will lose my job and become homeless), stop and replace it with a positive one (I did fail but I can learn from that and do better; There are plenty of resources to help me find other jobs).
5. Embrace Change
You know the saying: Change is the only constant in life. Change is going to happen whether you are afraid of it or not. Learn to be flexible and adapt. Look at the possible changes and devise action plans should they take place. This will make you feel less out of control, which is one the things that makes change so frightening.
6. Embrace Failure
Like change, failures are going to happen. Sometimes, they may happen despite your best efforts. Know that mistakes tell you what does not work so you can find the thing that does. Failures guide you towards success.
7. Stay Healthy
Eat right, exercise and get enough sleep. It is well known that long-term sleep deficits can result in mood disorders like anxiety and depression. When your body is healthy, it is easier for your mind to be healthy.
8. Don’t Compare
People who compare themselves to others always find that they fall short. Comparisons lead to dissatisfaction, jealousy and resentment. Focus instead on bettering yourself. The only person you should be competing with is you.
9. Stay Away from Toxic People
Misery loves company. Toxic people can feed your negativity and insecurity, or cause them. Minimise contact with such people.
10. Get Support
Surround yourself instead with people who motivate and inspire you, who are positive and mentally strong, and can make you feel better.