How to be Mentally Resilient During Hard Times
by Daisy Luther
At some point or another, hard times will hit nearly everyone. Whether it’s a natural disaster, divorce, interruption of income, illness, war, the loss of a loved one, or some other traumatic event, no one gets through this life unscathed. But being mentally resilient that will propel you through the hard times.
How will you get through such a crisis? Life is not for the faint of heart and it’s not easy to thrive when bad things happen.
Everyone handles these things differently and some if that is out of your control – it’s genetic. Will you become depressed, bitter, angry? These feelings can hit you so hard you are barely able to function. Or will you grit your teeth and push through to the other side? Either way, if you make it through, you’ve survived. You’ve won.
But to find moments of joy in the darkest of times, you need to tap into your mental resilience. This helps not only you but those around you. And to bounce back after these events and live your life again, mental resilience is, again, the key.
For some people, it comes naturally. Maybe they’ve been through things that are way worse in the past. Perhaps they are just wired that way. Some folks have something or someone that helps them be stronger, either for them or because of them. For others, it’s their faith.
Building mental resilience is something you should work on well before hard times strike. The way you deal with the ups and downs of life while it’s good can carry you through the darkness. Below are some ways to increase your mental resilience.
Think about the way you describe things. Are you a glass half full or glass half empty person? If you had a fender bender, how would you explain it to your friends?
- “I can’t have nice things. I just got into a wreck and now my car is trashed. Why does this stuff always happen to me?”
- “Wow, I was just in a fender bender and got out with only a couple of dents in my car. I am so lucky! It could have been so much worse! I’m so glad I have good insurance!”
This is the case with all sorts of things in your life. Do you hate your job, counting the seconds until it’s time to leave? Or can you find some happiness even in an unpleasant work situation, with goofy pens, a coworker with whom you really enjoy joking around, or interacting pleasantly with customers?
Being able to find the bright side is a skill that not everyone possesses. But it’s a skill you can learn and the way you word things really matters. Try to catch yourself when you word things negatively and reword them in a more positive way. It will become a habit that reduces stress and sets you up for a more resilient mental attitude.
Be kind to others.
Believe it or not, compassion for others can help you build mental resilience. Doing good makes you feel good. Of course, you shouldn’t do things for others if your heart isn’t in it just to get a buzz of endorphins – that won’t work. But actions from the heart can help you feel better about your own situation.
Being kind to other people is nearly always within your power. During what was the worst financial dark and humiliating point in my life, we had to go on social assistance for three months. I simply couldn’t get a job and feed my kids. There was absolutely nothing in my small town and it was so hard for me to swallow my pride and accept the hand up. I didn’t want to set a bad example for my children and show them that we were people who simply took from others.
So every week at the grocery store, even with our tiny budget, I had one girl pick a packet of pasta and the other girl chose a can of spaghetti sauce and we donated it to the food bank. I wanted them to know that no matter how bad things felt for us at that moment, it was still within our power to help others and give a hot meal to someone worse off than us. We were not at such a low point that we couldn’t be caring and generous. It cost only $2, but the self-respect, the lesson it taught, and the feeling of goodwill it bought were priceless.
Kindness doesn’t always mean you aided someone financially. Treating others with respect, giving a well-deserved compliment, and saying something compassionate to that embarrassed mom at the store whose kid is having a screeching snot-blowing hissy fit on the floor – none of those things cost a penny but they mean a lot to the recipients.
How does this help make you more mentally resilient? It is a way of saying to yourself, “This situation might be bad but I still have the ability to do something kind for others. I am not powerless. I am not broken.” It also helps you to stop feeling so sorry for yourself and dwelling on your own problems.
Take care of yourself.
Another step toward being mentally resilient is taking care of yourself. You cannot let others drain you of all your efforts and energy, and it seems to me that others are always willing to do just that.
Taking care of yourself could be as simple as saying no to additional commitments. Most of us are programmed to automatically say “yes” because we don’t want to be rude. But stop and think about whether the thing being asked of you adds to your life or takes away from it. We do have the right to say no, so being practicing this and become a guardian of your time. This is particularly true if you’re an introvert. We introverted souls need the time between “peopling” to recharge if we want to be our best selves. Spend this time nurturing yourself: read a book, write in a journal, go be in nature all by yourself.
Do you feed yourself well? Some of this is dependent on budget, but at the very least, avoid processed foods and cook simple meals for yourself. Skip the drive-through on a busy day and go home to a plate of veggies and hummus instead. Nourish yourself instead of shoving convenient calories in your mouth. And give yourself permission to sit down at the table and eat like a civilized human instead of eating in the car on the way to some commitment or while you multitask. You deserve 15 minutes to just enjoy your food, don’t you?
Your physical well-being is likewise important. You need to take time out of your day to move your body. This could be anything from walking the dogs instead of just letting them out in the yard to going to a yoga class to riding your bicycle somewhere instead of driving. You don’t need to feel guilty for taking an hour out of your day to improve your health.
Surround yourself with positive people.
Remember above when I said that words matter? I’m not just talking about your words.
I’m talking about the words of the people with whom you surround yourself. your life. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I’ve found this to be very true in both my professional life and my personal life.
We have all had that one friend who does nothing but complain about his life from the second you get on the phone, the one for whom no suggestion will possibly help, the one who is firm in her belief that her problem is so unique that it requires hours of analysis. You might also have a friend who consistently pees in your Cheerios. If you say, “I have this great idea” she says, “I guess so” like you’ve lost your mind. If you tell them about a person you met, he immediately begins to find fault with your new friend. If you tell her about something awesome that happened at work, she feels compelled to warn you that your euphoria is based on one false premise or another. If you’re like me, those phone calls end with you feeling utterly exhausted and your sails completely without their previous wind.
I’m not saying you have to cut out all the Eeyores in your life, but you should also have friends and loved ones who build you up and encourage you to meet your goals. Limit your time with the Eeyores of the world, while still being kind. Set some boundaries for yourself because while sometimes the negativity is just in their nature, at other times, these folks actually don’t want you to succeed and this is their way of undermining your progress.
Look for people who have similar goals. If you’re a prepper, make some prepper friends. Those friends don’t even have to be in-person friends. They can be online friends through forums or social media. To meet people locally who share these goals, don’t make your guidelines too rigid. This article has lots of ideas about meeting prepper friends.
And all your friends don’t have to share your interest in prepping and survival. Just look for good-hearted people with the same values and positive attitudes. Look for others who are happy and successful. These are the folks who will build you up, listen to your ideas with excitement, cheer you on as you strive to meet your goals, and be downright thrilled for you when things go right. These are people who make you feel good instead of making you doubt yourself and they are priceless treasures.
Faith can help you through the darkest of times. It can greatly contribute to your mental resilience because it helps you to make sense of the bad things you’re going through. What that faith is can vary for different people according to their belief systems.
If you are a religious person, having faith goes hand in hand with having a resilient mindset. If you are a true believer you know that these dark times are happening for a reason and that you are in the capable hands of your Creator. This can give you comfort and can help you to know that you are loved and there is Someone who looks after the tiniest sparrow and of course, you.
And if you are non-religious, there are still things in which you can have faith. Nature and the law of total probability tell you that, no, you are not being pinpointed to be the sole recipient of every possible bad thing that might happen. It’s just not how the universe works. The science of luck says that you, personally, are in charge of your destiny, which takes us back to the other suggestions in this article.
Whatever you believe in, turn to that during difficult times when you need some encouragement.
Find something to laugh about.
It sounds so trite, but laughter really is the best medicine. If you can find something to laugh about, you’re going to be okay no matter what has happened.
Tell funny stories. See the humor in your situation. There’s nearly always something funny out there, even in the worst of situations. Many people who have survived traumatic times have a very dark sense of humor and I believe that’s a healthy coping mechanism.
Just don’t let the bad times steal your joy and your humor. It’s easy to do. It’s much simpler to bemoan everything than it is to giggle when your cat falls off the side of the table and pretends like he meant to do it. The ability to laugh during difficult times does not come naturally for everyone, but if you work at it, you can find the humor.
After my father’s funeral, we were in stitches sitting around the table talking about his funny descriptions of food, like “white” ice cream and “brown” ice cream. It sounds silly, but I’m sure he would have rather heard us laughing affectionately than crying.
In good times, finding something to laugh about is as easy as looking up funny cat videos on YouTube. In dark times, it can be harder, but it’s there – laughter is always there and it is absolutely free.
The most important factor of a resilient mind is your ability to just push through.
Have you ever had a string of unfortunate events that made it hard to even get out of bed? In my bio on this website, I wrote about the horrible few years that led to me leaving the corporate world and throwing myself into writing this website. It was all horrible and a reader once (rather rudely) commented that “she failed at everything she’s ever done and she’s PROUD of it.” What that charming reader missed is that despite failures, loss, and a period of time that would have driven some folks to their knees, I pushed through it. I made it to the other side through grim determination.
The ability to push through the dark times and not just let them happen to you is the difference between staying in your boat in the rapids and paddling diligently to avoid crashing against the rocks or falling out of the boat and just getting dragged and pummeled by the rushing water and only surviving if the water spits you out.
You can be the person who gives up and hopes that things work out. Or you can be the person who grits her teeth, straightens her shoulders, and forces things to work out. You can be the cooperative kidnapping victim or the one who escapes out the window and runs barefoot through the forest.
Life is like one of those “choose your own story” books. You can be the person who picks the way your story goes, or you can be the person who lets the story happen to them.
If you choose inaction and victimhood, your survival is the result of nothing but luck. But if you fight, if you push through determined to get to the other side, you are a person who can determine his or her own life. Sure, things won’t always be perfect. Sometimes you need to take some time to wallow in sorrow or grief. But then you need to GET THE HECK UP AND PUSH THROUGH IT. Definitely, this path is difficult. But the crappy things in life will happen whether you push or get pushed. Why not increase the likelihood of things working out by setting your direction and forcing them to do so? Quitters never win and winners never quit.
Yesterday was my father’s birthday. He left us ten years ago and it was the worst thing that has ever happened to me. It was hard to come out of that on the side of resilience but I know he would have wanted me to do so. Things really went downhill for a while after he passed but I was determined to thrive and succeed again in his honor.
This was written with my precious daughters in mind. I hope that if they’ve learned just one thing from me, it’s that you can overcome anything life throws at you, even when it feels like everything is getting thrown at you at once. You may end up with scars, physical and mental. But scars shouldn’t stop you from seeking adventure and constantly moving forward.
You don’t stop until you’re dead. Every time you get knocked down, you get back up. You make the bad things mean something. You honor those who left this world too soon by moving forward and grabbing your life and living the daylights out of it. You think of those loved ones and you do the things they didn’t have time to do and you thrive because that’s what they’d have wanted for you.
You are strong.
You are resilient.
You can get through anything. The power is yours.
How do you build mental resilience?
Do you consider yourself to be a mentally resilient person? Why or why not? In what ways do you think you could build your mental resilience? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, gun-toting blogger who writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, voluntaryism, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper. She is widely republished across alternative media and she curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site, PreppersDailyNews.com. Daisy is the best-selling author of 4 books and runs a small digital publishing company. She lives in the mountains of Virginia with her family. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.
About the Author
Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, gun-toting blogger who writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, voluntaryism, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper. She is widely republished across alternative media and she curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site, PreppersDailyNews.com. Daisy is the best-selling author of 4 books and lives in the mountains of Virginia with her two daughters and an ever-growing menagerie. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.