How to Be Mentally Tough
Love of My Life Dress, also in red, white and blue (I’m wearing an XS) | Sam Edelman Sandals, similar here, also love this pair | Straw Circle Bag, also love this one and this one | Retro Sunglasses | Tassel Earrings, also love this pair and this pair
This post was originally published in May 2018 and has been updated!
If I’ve learned anything over these past two months, it’s that being mentally tough is essential to staying positive and moving forward. It’s so easy to get caught up and bogged down in the things we can’t control.
I think we’ve all found ourselves in so many stressful situations—maybe it’s a loss of work, caring for sick family members or simply stuck at home with a toddler while trying to work full-time. Stress comes in so many different shapes and forms. Personally, I’ve felt it both physically and mentally lately.
Growing up, I admired my mom for her strength, and I still do today. Even in the most frustrating of situations, she kept her cool. I, on the other hand, have always been more emotional.
These past two months have been a serious test to build mental strength and patience. I’ve learned that I’m more capable and stronger than I ever imagined. Does that mean I’ve been a rock through this whole thing? Definitely not, I’ve had my fair share of breakdowns and serious cries.
What Is Mental Toughness?
Some of us just seem to be born tough people and have different levels of mental toughness. I’m on the softer side, but to me, being mentally tough does not mean you’re an emotionally-void stone wall. I think we can agree that bottling up your feelings never ends well!
My definition of mental toughness is the ability to remain calm, cool and collected no matter what the situation. The qualities of mentally strong people include compassion, caring and patience. They’re emotionally intelligent and can read situations as they are happening.
Life is always throwing curveballs our way—lost jobs, sick family members, a child that’s falling behind at school, dealing with toxic people, an unexpected home repair that you hadn’t planned for, a global pandemic and the list goes on.
Any of those can easily derail your thoughts and feelings, but the stronger we are mentally, the more we can handle these types of situations with less fear and panic and more grace and understanding.
Building Mental Toughness
Becoming mentally tough doesn’t happen overnight. It’s practice that takes work, but if you work hard, you’ll get there!
You have to actively choose to change your perspective, to think positively and to stay calm in all situations. The more you practice it, the more it becomes second nature. If you work to build your mental strength, you’ll feel more confident and calm in all situations.
One thing that’s really helped me has been meditation. I definitely don’t do it enough, but when I do, it completely changes my outlook on life.
When you have a moment of weakness, which is going to happen—we’re human—I think it’s best to tackle those feelings head on. Take a little time to mourn, cry, get your frustrations out on paper before as they happen.
Taking the time to process your feelings and emotions is really important in building your mental strength. It allows you to process them, understand them and move on as better, stronger woman (or man!). Overtime, this practice will make you a calmer, less stressed and happier individual!
How To Be Mentally Tough
Like I said, learning how to be mentally tough doesn’t happen overnight. It takes practice and time to understand what works for you. If you want to build your own mental strengths for the long term, you’ve got to ditch negative emotions and thoughts every day.
It’s not an easy process, but to become mentally tough it takes practice and dedication to talk positive to yourself and others. As I work to develop mental toughness, these are a few things that really help and I imagine a lot of these are the habits of mentally tough people.
It’s so easy to get sucked into thinking negative thoughts and being pessimistic about everything. Honestly, sometimes it feels really good in the moment to just be a downer.
But, how do you feel an hour later?
For me, when I do this, I walk around the rest of my day in a bad mood. It’s so easy to let one negative thought spiral out of control, but it’s also well within our control to change our mindset.
It can be hard to change our thoughts, but remember that you have that power. Look for the silver lining in situations that you’d normally deem “bad”, on your walk to work, look around and try to notice something beautiful you haven’t seen before. Don’t check the news first thing in the morning. Instead, try a positive mantra to start your day.
Positivity attracts more positivity and the more you look for it, the easier you’ll start seeing it. This practice will do wonders for building your mental toughness because when something truly bad happens, you’ll already be looking for the positives in it.
In my opinion, part of developing mental strength, is being in touch with your feelings and emotions. When I find that my mind can’t stay calm, I know that I’ve got a lot on my heart and taking a pencil to paper (yes, I do prefer pencils!) and actually writing those things down is so therapeutic.
By the time I’m done, I usually discover something about myself—something that’s been bothering me more than I realized or something I really want to do, but haven’t made time for.
Journaling is a great way to be mindful about your thought patterns. You can easily tell if you’re going the negative route and make necessary changes.
Easier said than done, right? If you’re confident in yourself, judgements and criticisms won’t sting as bad because you know your worth. One of my favorite ways to build confidence each morning is to start with a positivity mantra.
I talked about how I created one for myself in this post and while it might seem funny to sit in front of the mirror and recite it to yourself, it really works.
Feeling good should be the reason we do things, not the result of doing them. When people feel good, everything falls into place. I know it’s so true for me. When my day starts with a good night’s rest, yoga, meditation and a green smoothie for breakfast, the universe just seems to jive with me.
I hit all green lights on my way to the grocery, I go to pick up new pajamas for Owen and there’s a 50% off sale, I find a parking spot that doesn’t require me to pay, my best friend from college randomly calls to chat and we have an awesome conversation—you get the point. Like attracts like, and this works for both positive and negative thoughts.
HEALTHY LIVING TOOLKIT
Making your physical and mental health a priority will help with every single one of these tips! Take some time to set up some healthy habits that work for you. This is key in staying mentally strong and will make you feel better overall!
Don’t Fear Change
Even though I’m an emotional person, I like to think I’ve welcomed most change in my life with open arms. Instead of thinking about the negative things, I like to look for potential new opportunities for personal growth and discovery.
It takes guts to make big changes, but from my experience, change usually brings about things that are so much better than what I ever could have dreamed up for myself. Trust that there’s a purpose for the change and look for those opportunities.
A great example for me is when I found out Rob was moving to Chicago for a new job. I didn’t have a job there, but I’d been on the verge of going full-time with my design business. I took it as a sign and made the leap without thinking twice.
Our move here was been one of the best things that ever happened to me. We got married, had a baby, have lived in five apartments (which, honestly is more than I’d like, ha!), and I get to do what I love every single day.
Don’t Think About the “What Ifs”
This is such a scary road to go down and it can easily spiral out of control, but many people (myself included) do this far too often. But, we’ve got to put an end to it!
Start by paying closer attention to your thought pattern, and you’ll soon catch yourself playing the “what if” game. This game is stress and anxiety inducing and serves no good purpose.
How often do the terrible situations we dream up actually come true? Almost never. Let’s stop wasting our precious energy and minds on this type of activity. Instead, start visualizing what you do want—I learned this technique from the book The Secret, and not only is it really fun, but it puts you back in control of your life. It’s a great, quick read for anyone who wants to create the life you love for yourself.
Learn to Focus
This one will be different for everyone, but know what helps to clear your mind and focus. We’ve talked a lot about single-tasking over here and that can be a great way to help you get focused if that’s a struggle for you.
As a mom, I know how tough it can be. Your mind is constantly racing from one item to the next, but being able to slow down and focus on one item at a time will make things more manageable and make it easier for you to stay tough.
Finally, we’re only human! Mentally tough people don’t do it all alone. We’re simply not expected or designed to take on every single thing on our own. Which is why it’s so important to have a strong support system.
Learn to talk to someone about the things you’re struggling with. It could be anyone—your husband, mom, best friend, sister—just find someone who you can confide in and share your feelings when you need to. Being mentally tough doesn’t have to be an isolating thing.
In fact, I think we’re stronger when we know we can count on others to support us! This one is so important to remember right now, and make sure you’re taking advantage of things like Zoom or FaceTime to connect with he people who are supportive and give you mental strength and encouragement!
Do you think of yourself as a mentally tough person? What tips do you have to become mentally strong?