Written by Amy Beecham
Advice on how to boost your mental resilience during the challenging festive period, according to the author of Life Is Tough, But So Are You.
Despite it being the “season to be jolly”, it’s not uncommon for our moods to take a bit of a turn during winter and over Christmas.
Not only does the weather play a surprising role in how we feel day-to-day, a lack of vitamin D, reduced serotonin and even the change in pace can all contribute to us feeling out of sorts, stuck in a rut and unmotivated. Add on top of that the anxiety caused by the pandemic, and we have a recipe for a less than ideal festive season slump.
So what can we do about it?
In Life Is Tough, But So Are You, author Debbi Marco puts forward some ideas. Described as “the perfect book for anyone looking to find strength, survive setbacks, and foster a brilliant, more resilient mindset,” the book provides helpful tips and thoughtful advice for developing mental strength and resilience.
“Ifyou’veeverheardthephrase“whenlifegivesyoulemons,makelemonade”thenyou’realreadyhalfwaytounderstandingresilience,” explains Marco. “It’s the ability to keep going whenlifegetstough.”
“Buttrynottomakethemistakeofthinkingyou’renotbeingresilientifyouarestrugglingwithanxiety,stress or doubts. Resilience means you know how to keep going even when you’re finding ithard. But resilience isn’t built in a day,” she continues. “It’s something youcanpractiseandworkontohelpyoufeelhappierandmentallystrongerasyoujourney through life.”
Resilience is a muscle
“Life isn’t meant to be easy and it would be prettyboringifeverythingwenttoplan. Butthat’snottosayitisn’texhausting, demotivatinganddownrightdepressing when things don’t work out first time,” writes Marco.
She likens building resilience to when we exercise a muscle – we make micro-tears in the muscle, which grows back stronger. According to her philosophy, we should “think of life like a gym and your resilience as a muscle: the heavier your weights and struggles, the stronger you will become.”
“It takes time and effort, as we’ve established, but even then you have to keep applying the techniques on a daily basis. You could see it as an almost scientific approach, but resilience is very much an art – and repeated training in this art will make you a master.”
5 ways to be more resilient, according to Life Is Tough, But So Are You
1. Pay attention to your emotions
“When we’re being emotional – either very crossorveryangry–itiseasytodismiss our feelings as an overreaction, but it really pays to sit with your emotions for a while,” says Marco.
She suggests taking yourself somewhereprivate and quiet and trytomakeyourselfcalmer. If you find yourself spiralling under stress or lethargic about socialising, she recommends asking yourself somequestions.“Whydidyoureactlike that? Is there anything else upsetting you? Trytofigureouttheanswersandseeif youcanlearnfromwhathashappened.”
“Your emotions are there to warn you or to remindyouofsomethingsignificant,so payattentiontothem.Perhapsthereis something else playing on your mind and causingyou anxiety.Ifyoucan work out what is really going on and learn tointerpretyouremotionalreactionsto things, you will be able to move forward so you can have a better reaction next time or deal with the underlying issues that are really bothering you.”
2. Ask yourself“what’s next?”
Marco explains that embracing change is one of the key elements to resilience as well as accepting that nothing stays the same.
“It’s not easy toenjoychangeifyouareapersonwho isnaturallynervousaboutthingsbeing different,butthereareafewthingsyou cando.” Instead of dwelling on the past and things you can’t change, she suggests seeing if you can ask yourself “what’s next?”
“Ifyou’reactivelylooking forwardandgettingreadyto face new challenges, you’ll be more prepared when they finally arrive.”
3. Make a change
“It can be tempting to think that resilience means you must keep going in the direction that you have set yourself, regardlessoftheobstaclesthatgetin yourway.Butactually,agility,theability toreflectandthewillingnesstochange areallbigfactorsinresilience.”
Marco believes thatknowing whentochooseadifferentpathortake adifferentapproachtoaproblemare techniques that can be found in the resilient person’s toolbox.
“Remember that changing your mindoryourdirectiondoesn’tmeanyou have failed,” she continues, “ Instead, it shows that you are astrongandintelligentpersonwhocan reactwithagilitytothechangingworld. Itmightmeanchangingthepathyou’re on,rethinkingarelationship,planninga careerchangeorreturningtoeducation. Activelychoosingtodo something, rather than letting things simplyhappentoyou,willhelpyoufeel more in control and convince you that you aremovingforwardtowardsahappier, more fulfilling life.”
4. Turn up your inner cheerleader
Most of us have an inner critic that whispersawaytouswhenlifeisn’tgoing well.Butthere’snoneedtoletitbring youdown, says Marco. “Rememberthatprettymuch everyone has self-doubts and you are often harder on yourself than anyone else would be. When that nagging voice pipes up, instead of letting it bring you down, try some techniques to reduce its power.”
“One is to mentally turn down the volume on all the negativecriticism soyoucanbarely hearit,andthenturnupthevolume on your inner cheerleader – the voice thattellsyouallthegoodthingsabout yourself. Soonyou’llgetusedto hearing yourpositivethoughtsratherthanthe negativeones.”
5. Tell the truth
“Next time you have a negative thought, or someone says somethingunkind,examinetheevidence. Can this so-called “fact” be true?” advises Marco.
Instead of feeling utterly defeated after making a mistake, clashing with a friend or struggling through your day, sit down and consider whether that action is representative of who you are as a whole. “Listallthe times you’ve done well at work or someone has complimentedyouprofessionally.Of course,youmayhavemademistakes, butthatdoesn’tmeanyou’reaterrible personorbadatyourjob.”
Marco explains that this techniquecanbeappliedinanycontext, including friendships, relationships and just life in general. “With the right attitude, you’llsoonfindthatmostsituationscan beturnedintopositiveones.Itcanbe hardtodothisonyourown,sodon’tbe afraid to ask a friend or loved one for help.”
Life is Tough, But So Are You: Tips and Thoughtful Advice for Developing Mental Strength and Resilience by Debbi Marco will be released in January 2022 and can be pre-ordered here.
Find out more about seasonal affective disorder and get support via the NHS.
Images: Getty/Summersdale Publishers
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