The world we live in seems very different from what it was a few weeks ago. As the news about the coronavirus pandemic dominates our daily news intake and governments and businesses issue closing or work-from-home directives, many of us are experiencing a variety of uncomfortable feelings.
Nobody knows how long the CO-VID 19 pandemic will last or how long it will be until we can resume our regular lives. Many people are worried that they may be laid off and lose their livelihoods. The pervasive uncertainty of the situation makes it hard to plan a course of action and creates a high level of stress.
To add pressure, our typical ways of de-stressing, such as working out in a gym, watching sports, meeting for happy hours with co-workers or hanging out with groups of friends, have largely come to a stop.
What is mental toughness?
Mental toughness is remaining strong and resilient in the face of adversity. It is your ability to remain focused, driven and determined in spite of the events going on around us.
Being mentally tough gives you the strength and resilience to cope under pressure and use internal motivation strategies that keep you on track. Mental toughness gives you the strength to manage your emotions when events around us are overwhelming. Mentally resilient people use strategies to manage anxiety, deal with stress and cope with extreme situations.
How can we remain mentally resilient during the Coronavirus era?
Our thoughts and feelings are dominated by the pandemic and there is no getting away from that. One of the first measures we can take is to accept our uncomfortable feelings. It is important to acknowledge that a lot of anxious thoughts and emotions will show up during this time, and to accept them rather than trying to push them away or suppress them. Research has shown that avoidance of such emotions will only make them stronger and longer lasting. These emotions will be triggered continuously as 80% of our current new intake revolves around COVID-19.
1) Identify what you are feeling
Try to define what emotions you are experiencing. Is it sadness or disappointment? Are you angry or just upset? Scared or worried? The English language has over 3000 words to describe feelings. If, like me you do not know all of them, just grade them on a scale of 1 to 10. If you feel worried for example, level 3 or level 8?
Identifying your emotions will help you to better understand it and know what you are feeling.
2) Record your thoughts
Write down your thoughts and what is going through your mind. You will probably have a lot of them; according to The National Science Foundation, the average person 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those thousands of thoughts, 80% are negative. It is important to identify your dominant thoughts.
3) Record your actions before, during and after
Emotions, thoughts and actions are closely linked to each other. What you do affects how you feel, how you feel affects what you think and what you think affects what you do. It is a circle. Recording your actions will bring you valuable information for the last part of the process.
4) Understand your emotional patterns and strengthen your mind
Staying mentally strong is avoiding losing the rational part of your mind. When the brain detects a danger, real (such as a hungry lion in front of you) or virtual (such as a hungry lion on TV), it will switch to survival mode. Your brain will suppress any logical thoughts which could slow down your survival instincts. This is what is know as emotional hijack.
An emotional hijack is what makes people buy liters of hand sanitizer or dozens of toilet rolls. Hijacks usually come from defective and irrational emotional patterns. When you write down your feelings, your thoughts and your actions, allow yourself time to identify any emotional patterns. For example, you could realize that your anxiety levels go through the roof every time you are checking your social media. This is an emotional pattern.
Part of staying mentally strong during tough times is understanding what drags you down emotionally and mentally.
This crisis offers an unexpected chance to check in with yourself. What brings you meaning when the noise of modern life quiets down? Do your priorities reflect what truly matters to you? As the usual pursuits of status and wealth and success are put on hold, where do you find your life purpose and transcendence?
Finally, keep in mind that experiencing stress and uncomfortable emotions can have positive consequences. Studies show that people who go through very difficult life experiences can emerge from them with a stronger sense of psychological resilience, rekindled relationships and a renewed appreciation of life. Some describe starting to live more fully and purposefully. With care and planning, we, too, can stay psychologically strong during the pandemic and perhaps even grow from this transformative experience.
If you have found this article useful, please comment below. Other articles and free webinars are coming soon to help you staying strong mentally during these difficult times.