Mental Health

Finding Resilience in the Midst of Challenges

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“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” – David Brinkley

One thing is certain, and that is that each day presents new challenges. It isn’t the fact that challenges occur that is most important, however, but how well an individual is able to adapt and bounce back from setbacks and go on to face daily challenges. The secret is resilience, yet a little known fact is that it is possible to find and tap into a wellspring of resilience even in the midst of challenges.

Are You Up for Today’s Challenges?

A common misconception for many people is to wonder if we’re up for the challenges today brings. For some, the go-to course of action is to do anything and everything to avoid what is happening today. More specifically, to avoid what responsibilities should be attended to today. The difference between someone who acknowledges, accepts, and rises to meet the challenges and one who shirks, denies, ignores, or blatantly refuses to take action may well be their attitude.

The good news is that this is one area where proactive steps can be taken to turn a negative outlook into a more positive one, thereby improving outcomes regardless of the challenge at hand. Hence, going back to the reservoir of resilience can produce dramatic results.

How to Deal With Difficult or Unpleasant Tasks

Many people find that they steel themselves to tackle difficult or unpleasant tasks experienced on a more or less regular basis. Another common behavioral tendency is to shy away from anything unknown. Why is that? For one thing, people often feel at a loss as to how to deal with the situation, not having sufficient (in their estimation) experience or knowledge to take on the task with any degree of success. For another, they may be afraid – either that they’ll fail at it or that they’ll succeed. Success may mean yet more challenges, and they may not feel all that up to the job just now.

What If You Have Depression or Other Mental Health Disorder?

This can be especially true for anyone dealing with the difficulties inherent in coping with a mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and others. Often, in addition to the uncertainty and self-doubt the disorder creates, the individual feels ill-equipped to make sound decisions. There’s also likely a fear that a previously-used coping mechanism or method may be faulty.

Even so, consider the fact that there’s probably a wealth of lessons just beneath the surface of the various daily challenges encountered, whether one is dealing with a mental illness or any other daily challenge. By failing to pay heed to these lessons or automatically rejecting them as unworkable, too difficult, indicative of failure or not worth the effort, that does a huge disservice to the individual. By way of illustration, think of the last time paying attention to a truth that’s become apparent during the course of tackling a difficult challenge made a tremendous difference in the task outcome. By tapping into that residual memory, it’s not only possible to benefit from resilience but also to jumpstart it this time. The circumstances may be different, yet our inherent knowledge source remains constant.

Finding Resilience in the Midst of Challenges

As to actually being able to find resilience in the midst of these challenges, this is a skill that can be developed and built over time and with practice. It’s possible to somehow stumble on a way to discern what’s hidden beneath or train ourselves to find the good in everything that we do, whether it is a daily task or taking on something that seems complex, demanding and out of normal expertise.

What we’ll find is that we’ve got more going for us than we realized. There are strengths that we each possess that will serve us well, but only if we give ourselves the opportunity to put them to work.

Look at challenges that arise and figure out ways that to possibly tackle them, where to start looking for the solution, how to implement it, when, and where to ask for help or marshal resources.

The stronger the foundation of resilience is, the more strength and resilience there’ll be to utilize when something unexpected threatens to derail progress in working through challenges. Indeed, every action taken makes us stronger we get stronger – as long as we constantly strive to learn something from our efforts, successful immediately or not.

How This Works in Real Life

How does this work in real life? What is an example that we can all identify with? Suppose we’ve attempted a task and find that we run into a roadblock of considerable proportion? We’ve tackled something that really goes beyond our area of experience or knowledge and believe we can’t go any further. There are, however, ways to look at this. Granted, it could be marked as a failure. On the other hand, it is also possible to acknowledge what was learned in the process. That may well be that we have the strength to take on difficult challenges and not shy away from them, or we’ve learned when we need to step aside, possibly turn over the task to someone with more experience and/or follow by their side so as to learn how to do it ourselves.

What we can take from the experience is the fact that all of this adds to our residual body of resilience, knowledge, experience, and self-confidence. While total success may not have been achieved this time out, this should not deter us from tackling challenges again. In fact, we’ll likely find that we’re more hopeful than ever, given the fact that we’ve learned how to make use of our innate resilience to identify and pursue innovative and workable solutions to everyday challenges.

Suppose others are critical of our efforts? Those are neither true friends nor supporters of our goals. Keep attuned to giving challenges complete effort and focus, doing the best possible in the moment. What comes out of this is something profound in return, and that is a belief in our ability to succeed in the end. Remember, as humans, we learn when we act. The more we learn, the more we grow. The more we grow, the stronger our resilience reservoir becomes.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Why It’s Important to Your Mental Health to Deal Constructively With Self-Doubt

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Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

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Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

 

How To Stop Fear From Holding You Back During Troubling Times

Photo by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

 

Living life in fear is no way to live, no matter what is going on in the world. Without a doubt, these are troubling times, filled with uncertainty, sadness, perhaps physical pain as well. Much of what has happened is out of anyone’s control. The new reality of social distancing, working from home, constant hand washing and finding innovative ways to stretch groceries, paper products and cleaning supplies is enough to produce anxiety in any sane individual. Yet, coming to grips with fear is essential. Instead of struggling with this powerful emotion and allowing it to grow, do something to stop it. Here’s how.

What Is Really Bothering You?

While this may be the last thing on a to-do list, it’s important to sit down and identify what is really bothering you now. Just answering “COVID-19” is too broad, yet putting this on paper is a good starting point.

Before diving in, however, make sure family or business duties or tasks are taken care of. They must take priority. Then, feel free to devote sufficient time to centering on what’s most fear-inducing.

It may help to do this exercise with eyes closed. Think about what went on today that may have produced fear. Did something someone said (in the home, on TV, during Internet browsing, reading the newspaper) allow that knot of fear to metastasize? Did it mean reticence about doing something or shying away from any personal contact (even at a distance)? Write down specifics, anything that comes to mind.

The list will vary from one person to the next, although there are some common threads people mention about what makes them afraid. These include:

  • I’m so fearful to be around other people, even with social distancing. What if I’m next to someone who’s got the coronavirus?
  • I’m afraid that I’ll never enjoy success again and, with so many millions of people sick and tens of thousands dying from this novel virus, I feel guilty even thinking of personal goal achievement.
  • Others probably think I’m a selfish person, so I’m reluctant to tell them what I’m thinking so they won’t judge me.
  • I’m afraid for our children. What kind of world will they live in? What happens if we get sick and can’t take care of them.
  • All I can feel is fear – about everything.

This May Seem Obvious, But When Did the Fear Begin?

To overcome fear, it’s important to pinpoint when it took over and began to handicap everyday living.

Some fears are universal, such as fear of abandonment, fear of being alone, fear about disease, dying and death. Indeed, some of what’s now identified as fear may trace back to a dysfunctional home, childhood trauma, economic disadvantage, school bullying, the presence of a physical or mental disability.

Recognize that uncovering when and where the fear started and then focusing on the fear itself is likely to be painful. Dwelling on fear is unpleasant at best, yet getting past fear requires going through this process.

Be Willing to Ask for Help

Identifying fear, when it began, and specifics about the fear will likely produce feelings of discomfort and frustration. That’s because there aren’t any solutions as to how to get past fear yet.

Outside help can prove beneficial here. Psychological counseling or therapy may be appropriate, or taking part in online discussion groups and self-help forums. Literature available online on the topic of overcoming fear is another good source for help.

Two other options for overcoming fear are meditation and prayer, both part of a spirituality practice.

Most people are reluctant to ask for help, yet resources are available and no one should feel any stigma about asking for assistance during these troubling times. Indeed, climbing out of the pit of fear may begin with taking these first steps toward a proactive solution.

What Are You Afraid Fear Will Prevent You From Doing?

When thinking about the future, assuming there will be restrictions on personal movement lifted, are you afraid to return to work? Does the idea of interacting with co-workers and supervisors create a rush of fear?

What if you’ve had the virus, or been in quarantine with family members who’ve had it, are you afraid you’ll get it again?

Are you afraid of ever getting physically close with another individual due to uncertainty over how long COVID-19 will be present, or if it will become seasonal and a pandemic that will recur?

The point about looking at what fear may prevent you from doing isn’t how daunting the list is. It is, however, instructive to see in black and white how self-limiting fear is to daily living. Everyone wants to get life back to normal, even if that normal looks quite different than what it once was. Fear, in this respect, can be a powerful motivator to unleash innovation, creativity, and finding new solutions to everyday problems and daily life.

Future Planning: Create Goals

This crisis will eventually subside and things will get back to some semblance of order. Heartening research from the University of Sydney found that if 80 percent of people practiced strong social distancing, COVID-19 could be curbed in 13 weeks. Be ready with goals to tackle once that happens. These may include personal goals that have taken a backseat to others, yet now they take on greater significance.

Whatever these goals may be, put them down on paper. This exercise provides ample material to work from in taking the next step to get past fear.

Construct Action Plans

Action plans are necessary to get moving on goals. Be sure to include a range of goals, some that are more quickly achievable, some that take a bit longer, and others that are long-term.

In the interim, prioritize self-care, since you’ll need to be healthy to resume normal living once the pandemic subsides. Even during self-distancing, it’s possible to ensure you’re taking good care of yourself, according to suggestions from Johns Hopkins mental health experts. The list includes exercise, which helps reduce stress, anxiety and depression while also benefitting physical health.

Each type requires its own set of action plans. Without a plan to follow, there’s no roadmap to pursue the goal. Another crucial part of action plans and goals is that they’ll likely need to undergo revision. Change is part of life, and goals deemed important now may be less of a priority going forward. Live life in the present, always doing your best while remaining true to yourself and your core beliefs.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Are You Lonely Tonight? How to Combat Loneliness

5 Tips to Banish Loneliness

How to Help Your Child Banish Loneliness

My Best Ways to Deal with Frustration

How to Keep Frustration from Blocking Your Goals

How to Manage Your Anger

How to Start Making Plans When You’re Recovering From Depression

10 Health Benefits of Daily Exercise

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

Loneliness Erodes Your Mental Health – But You Can Get Past This Toxic Emotion

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“Loneliness is proof that your innate search for connection is intact.” – Martha Beck

Loneliness is one of the most miserable feelings to experience. Being alone, however, doesn’t necessarily mean a person is lonely. They may be, although they may be quite deliberate in wanting to be alone for a time, and have no negative effects from such solitude. It’s the protractedness and sense of isolation and desperation that can set in that seems to push loneliness to extremes, even potentially resulting in worsening mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. Yet, for those who are suffering with loneliness and want to take proactive steps to get past this toxic emotion, there are some things they can do that can help.

WISDOM AND OTHER LONELINESS COPING STRATEGIES

A sobering statistic from the National Center for Health Studies reveals that, by 2029, more than 20 percent of the adult U.S. population will be age 65 and older. Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine sought to identify common loneliness characteristics of seniors in retirement or senior living facilities, as well as effective coping strategies to combat loneliness. With the increasing number of senior citizens moving into such facilities, it’s important to recognize that loneliness is considered as bad as smoking and obesity in curtailing longevity.

According to the researcher’s findings, the biggest risk factors for loneliness are losses associated with age, and poor social skills. Losing a sense of life purpose was mentioned by participants as another risk factor. Of course, loneliness is subjective, researchers said, and people feel the emotion differently.

Preventing loneliness or combating its presence, on the other hand, involves exploring interventions of wisdom and compassion. Researchers cited various studies on some of the effective loneliness coping mechanisms:

  • Engaging in activities with others. Finlay & Kobayashi (2018) identified poor health as sometimes providing social engagement opportunities with family, friends and caregivers considered valuable.
  • Keeping busy by yourself. Dragestet et al., 2015 found that occupying oneself was a help in combating loneliness.
  • Time for self-reflection and spiritual activities. Stanley et al., 2010, noted that there are benefits to being alone, chiefly that solitude affords time for self-reflection and conducting personally important spiritual activities.
  • Shared public spaces and communal activities help decrease loneliness. Li et al., 2018, said that acceptance and optimism, informal social support, and promoting independence and autonomy can help older Chinese immigrants enhance personal resilience.

GET  MOVING WITH ALMOST ANY KIND OF EXERCISE

A somewhat concerning finding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), garnered from data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System for the period 2015-2018, is that more than 15 percent of U.S. adults are physically inactive. Of course, inactivity levels vary by state, with Puerto Rico coming in highest at 47.7 percent, and Colorado lowest at 17.3 percent. Why is this important? The CDC says that inactive lifestyles are a factor in one in 10 premature deaths in this country. Guidelines for recommended amounts of physical activity call for about 150 minutes of brisk exercise weekly, which can be broken down into shorter periods of time, such as 25 minutes or a 30-minute walk five times in a week. Physical activity offers mental health benefits of improving mood, feeling and sleeping better, reducing certain cancer risk, and lowering risks for obesity and heart disease.

What kind of exercise should you take up to get started? Almost any exercise will do just fine, so perhaps begin with going out for a walk with the dog, riding a bike, or engaging in a brisk walk alone or with others. You mood, mind, and body will reap the benefits.

AEROBIC EXERCISE OFFERS COGNITIVE BENEFITS

While getting up and getting going often involves the ritual of drinking coffee, with the caffeine providing an energy jolt but also jumpstarting the mind, researchers from the University of Western Ontario found that a brief burst of aerobic exercise boosts working memory just as much as caffeine. Furthermore, the beneficial cognitive effects of the aerobic exercise were experienced during and following exercise, and after a short delay. The ability of caffeine to positively affect cognition and mood sometimes come with unwanted side effects during withdrawal: jitteriness, anxiety, headache, fatigue, decreased alertness and reduced contentedness. Aerobic exercise, on the other hand, has none of those side effects or withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, especially for those who may be anxious or otherwise unable to consume caffeine, engaging in aerobic exercise can help with safe and effective mood elevation and improvements in working memory. For someone who suffers from loneliness and yet doesn’t venture out much, aerobic exercise may be valuable as an intervention to get them in contact with people again.

TAKE UP JOURNALING

There’s something about the process of journaling, writing your thoughts down on paper, that serves as a catalyst to overcome loneliness. Besides resulting in a tangible document that’s accessible to review later, committing to journaling reinforces a sense of discipline, of sticking to a schedule and doing something proactive for your mental health. It’s for good reason that creative writing instructors encourage their students to take up journaling, since writing down felt emotions and capturing events as they happen often serve as starting points for future action. Whether that action turns out to be making small or significant lifestyle or behavior changes or spurs creativity in another endeavor, activity, hobby or pursuit, journaling is an important foundation for improving mental health.

How to get started is easy. Find something to write on or in, set aside time each day to jot down your thoughts, write without judgement and keep writing without stopping for the minutes you’ve allocated for this purpose. Remember that this is your journal, and doesn’t need to be shared with anyone else. So you needn’t worry about guarding your feelings. If you do have concerns that others may delve into your journal, lock it away. This isn’t about secrecy, however, but more about opening yourself up and voicing your daily thoughts, even venting, if that’s what it takes. Also be sure to detail the good things that occurred each day, how you felt when something pleasant or unexpected happened, the small successes you enjoyed, what you’re looking forward to tomorrow and so on.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Are You Lonely Tonight? How to Combat Loneliness

5 Tips to Banish Loneliness

How to Help Your Child Banish Loneliness

My Best Ways to Deal with Frustration

How to Keep Frustration from Blocking Your Goals

How to Manage Your Anger

How to Start Making Plans When You’re Recovering From Depression

10 Health Benefits of Daily Exercise

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

 

Why It’s Important to Deal Constructively With Self-Doubt

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“I have self-doubt. I have insecurity. I have fear of failure… We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it.”—Kobe Bryant

 

Everyone, no matter who they are, inevitably experiences self-doubt. Reading through the biographies and autobiographies of some of the most accomplished, celebrated, famous, talented and intelligent people reveals that each one of them has had their moments of personal doubt. Not only did they wonder if they had what it takes, they worried whether they could persevere despite opposition and setbacks, without support and encouragement, even if they were physically capable of continuing.

Self-doubt isn’t an automatic determinant or precursor to declining mental health. Nor is it the killer of goals or success. Giving up is, however, on both accounts. The key point to remember here isn’t that you doubt yourself, because you will, but what you’ll do about it will make all the difference between being proactive with your mental health and allowing it to deteriorate through inattention.

The first step to dealing constructively with self-doubt involves recognition. If you recognize that what you’re feeling is doubt, you can begin to take proactive steps to overcome it. While each person will need to find what works best, here are some general tips to help get past the crippling paralysis that self-doubt can bring about.

AVOID SELF-DENIAL

It makes no sense to deny what you feel. As with any emotion, when you try to shove the present emotion or feeling aside, it only goes deeper. Instead, acknowledge that you have doubts about yourself and your abilities or capabilities. That’s the first step in getting past it.

ACCEPT SELF-DOUBT AS NORMAL

It probably seems like you’re alone in this experience, especially when you’re right in the thick of it. However, when you accept that self-doubt is normal, that it isn’t unique to you, and everyone has it, this can make the experience less discomforting.

NEVER WALLOW IN THE EMOTION

Never give in to self-doubt. If you do, you’ll never accomplish anything worthwhile. Your goals will slip away, you’ll become bitter and disillusioned, perhaps become depressed, and life will seem less hopeful and productive.

STIFLE THAT HYPERCRITICAL INNER VOICE

When you’re worried you won’t measure up, that you’ll fail at the prospective task or endeavor or not be able to meet the challenge you’ve set for yourself, you’re engaging in the futile act of listening to your harsh inner voice and endlessly worrying about self-criticism. You know, the one that’s always warning you to be cautious, reminds you that your ideas aren’t the best, and laughs at your attempts to succeed. Stop and think, though. Did that hypercritical inner voice ever do you any favors when you listened to it? Can’t think of one, can you? So, tell yourself that you know better than that annoying, and utterly wrong, inner critic. That’s another positive step to deal constructively with self-doubt.

REMIND YOURSELF OF PAST SUCCESS

Now is a good time to recall that you’ve had doubts before and were able to rise above them. You found solutions and techniques that worked then and you will do so again. Reminding yourself of past success in similar situations is a great motivator when you encounter something that makes you question whether you have what it takes this time.

LEARN TO IDENTIFY SELF-DOUBT TRIGGERS

When self-doubt cropped up in the past, what were the triggers that you recall occurring? Raising self-awareness about self-doubt helps you understand what’s at the heart of the emotion, so you can reassure yourself that most of it is fear-based and not grounded in reality.

ENVISION A POSITIVE OUTCOME

While it might be tough to do right now, concentrate on a positive outcome. In fact, be hopeful of one. The dynamic of what happens here is that by capitalizing on your strengths and working to overcome your weaknesses, you’ll position yourself for success. This will occur despite the presence of self-doubt.

SEE THIS AS A GROWTH OPPORTUNITY

Granted, it doesn’t seem like it at first glance. Could it be that something you’re worried about is holding you back? Yet, look past your fears and regard self-doubt as an opportunity to grow. This current situation where you feel such anxiety and doubt didn’t happen without some warning. Were you as prepared as you could be? Does this show you that planning, practice and lining up resources is perhaps a better way to push past self-doubt?

FORGET WHAT OTHERS THINK

It’s understandable that everyone has opinions, yet not all of them are in sync with yours. However, the culture of sameness, where only certain ideas and sometimes only the opinions of certain people are entertained is not helpful to productivity, let alone trying to overcome self-doubt. You don’t want this for yourself or your future, so forget what others think. At the very least, don’t put too much credence into their criticism. You need to own your future. That means thinking for yourself and having the self-confidence to know that you’ll make good decisions.

EMBRACE SELF-DOUBT TO ENRICH LIFE 

Perhaps the simplest and most effective advice regarding self-doubt and your mental health is to embrace the emotion. By learning to embrace self-doubt and allowing yourself the experience of overcoming it, you will enrich your life in ways that may today seem unimaginable.

For example, once you’ve realized that you can overcome self-doubt, you’re no longer troubled by fears of failure. You recognize that you may stumble, yet you’ll learn valuable lessons in the process, emerging stronger than before, able to see past obstacles, ignore unwarranted criticism and the enmity of others. A pattern of success makes for greater self-esteem and self-confidence, both of which are integral in good mental health. While you cannot predict when things may go awry, you know that you’re fully capable of weathering the challenges that life presents. That’s another sign that you’ve dealt constructively with self-doubt.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

My Best Ways to Deal with Frustration

How You Can Be More Confident

Success May Be Elusive, But It’s Possible

How to Keep Frustration from Blocking Your Goals

10 Health Benefits of Daily Exercise

10 Ways to Express Gratitude

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.