Whether dealing with health issues, workplace stress, or a financial crisis, life’s inevitable challenges can make it tough to function. Some people struggle to take action for fear of making things worse. Others grow impulsive and start taking any action they can without thinking about the best solutions.
Mentally strong people, however, stay strong when their world is crumbling. They manage their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in a way that helps them get through tough times.
In fact, they often emerge from hardship better than before. They may even feel happier, healthier, and more hopeful after going through tough times.
In my experiences as a therapist and through the research for my book, “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do,” I discovered that mentally strong people use the following strategies to stay strong even when it feels as though their world is crumbling:
1. They acknowledge their inner strength
Thinking, “I can’t deal with this,” or, “I’ll never get through this,” diminishes your ability to cope. Fortunately, mentally strong people don’t believe everything they think. When their thoughts become unrealistically negative, they remind themselves that they’re stronger than their brains give them credit for. Giving themselves pep talks that remind them of past tough times they’ve endured helps them gain the confidence they need to handle whatever life throws in their way.
2. They take care of themselves
Mentally strong people make self-care a priority, even during the toughest times, because they know the struggle to cope with distress will be more difficult if they’re not taking care of their mind and body. They eat healthily, exercise, and get plenty of rest so they can be at their best when tackling challenges.
3. They focus on what they can control
Mentally strong people don’t waste time rehashing conversations, worrying about catastrophic outcomes, or wishing things were different. They know such things will drain them of the mental strength they need to solve problems. So they put their resources into things they can control — even if that only thing is their attitude.
4. They shuffle their priorities
Rather than beat themselves up for not spending as much time with their kids, or for declining invitations with friends, mentally strong people know that priorities need to shift during tough times. They shift their attention to problems that need to be addressed (like paying off debt, driving a family member to medical appointments, or sending out resumes to land a new job).
5. They take action
You won’t catch a mentally strong person avoiding problems or hosting a pity party. They take productive action by tackling challenges head-on. If a problem can’t be solved (as in the case of a loved one’s illness), they take action to cope with distress in healthy ways.
6. They remain psychologically agile
Rigid thinking — like telling yourself that a situation has to turn out a certain way, or that you shouldn’t feel a specific emotion — can make things worse. Mentally strong people know they need to stay flexible. They’re open to changing their cognitive, emotional, and behavioral patterns to adapt to new challenges they face.
7. They look for new opportunities
Whether it’s a job loss or health scare, mentally strong people know that difficult times may require them to pivot. They acknowledge that changing course can be scary, as well as exciting. They’re open to new opportunities as they strive to turn struggles into something positive.
8. They practice gratitude
Mentally strong people practice gratitude, even during the toughest times. That’s not to say that they ignore pain or minimize hardship — they certainly acknowledge their emotional wounds. But they also remind themselves of all the good things in life and the resources they have to manage the tough times.
9. They reflect on what they’ve learned
While it’s not helpful to replay painful memories over and over again, thinking about what your pain taught you can help you heal and grow. Mentally strong people know that they can learn a lot about themselves in their darkest hours. So they spend time reflecting on what is gained from challenges they endure.
10. They seek support
Mentally strong people know that asking for help — whether asking a family member to watch their children in order to work on an issue, or reaching out to a therapist for emotional support — is a sign of strength, not weakness. They know they don’t have to do everything on their own. Instead, they’re willing to reach out to people who can assist them in getting through tough times more easily.
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