You work out regularly. You eat pretty well and have a healthy diet. You don’t look like you’re struggling. But does this mean you are ‘well’?
There are many misconceptions surrounding the topic of mental health and exactly what it means to be “strong”. Putting strain on your mental health can be dangerous and often the symptoms and signs aren’t visible from the outside.
Absolutely anyone can suffer from a mental illness at any point in their life; even if their social media accounts show otherwise. There are no prerequisites to suffering from a mental illness, it doesn’t just affect certain people; as we have seen from public figures and influencers – the most outwardly happy people can be fighting an invisible battle. Mental illness does not discriminate.
In this article we look at what it means to be mentally strong and how you can improve mental resilience to help be the best version of yourself, reducing stress brought on by everyday life.
Although there is a positive link between regular exercise and good mental health, it doesn’t necessarily mean someone who works out seven days a week is immune from suffering from a mental health issue.
The best way to look at mental health is as a continuum. A large part of understanding mental health is recognising that for one person, something feels exceedingly difficult but for someone else that same thing might feel easy. Acknowledging the difference in everyone is a vital part of understanding mental health within yourself and others. You can find yourself at any point of the continuum at any time, the good news is there are simple ways to support positive mental health and improve your resilience.
Having mental strength
In Mental Health First Aid training, we talk about your stress container – different people can handle varying amounts of stress, represented by different sized containers. The size of the container can depend on many different factors, but helpful coping strategies can support your stress load.
Think of a tap at the bottom of your container – every time you open the tap, it helps to let the stress out so that your container doesn’t overflow.
I personally believe mental strength comes from recognising the size of your container and using helpful coping mechanisms to regularly open that tap to prevent the stress from building up to an unmanageable volume.
Mental strength doesn’t have to be about the current state of your mental health – people with mental ill health can find strength to move towards a more positive place on the continuum.
6 top tips for building your own mental strength
- Change what you can and accept the rest. Worrying about something that can’t be changed will cause unnecessary stress, focus your energy on what you have the ability to change.
- Self love club. Everyone has those days where they’re not feeling quite up to it; have a bath, read a book, take a walk, go for a run – whatever helps clear your mind. It’s important to look after the
people around us, but we can’t do that if we don’t look after ourselves first.
- Stay active. Being physically strong and mentally strong are different things, exercising can help improve the way we feel. Cardio activities such as running or swimming can really help to get the blood pumping and produce natural hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which reduce stress. Yoga is my go-to activity to support both physical and mental strength.
- Re-frame the situation. Often we spend so long dwelling on what’s happening right here, right now. Instead of seeing these as issues, see them as learning opportunities that enable you to move forwards.
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Recognise your own abilities and understand how much you can take on without causing undue pressure. This could be in work or in life. If you’ve been asked to head up a new project but your typical workload is remaining the same, consider the impact this will have on you. While knowing what you’re capable of is important, recognising your limits is vital.
- Sharing is caring. You’ve probably heard the saying that a problem shared is a problem halved and mental health experts still advocate this. You’ll often find that people share similar experiences with mental health and that you aren’t alone or in the minority by any means. As well as hearing other people’s personal accounts, it can also help to hear your own thoughts spoken aloud as this can help us to understand them.
Mental strength comes in many forms and is different for everyone – what gives you strength? We’d love to hear from you…
Find more content on mental health and the mind here.
Author: Alice Rawsthorne, hero Client Success Manager, is also a Mental Health First Aider who helps support mental health initiatives and general wellbeing strategies across the companies hero works with.
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