Mental Resilience Tips and FAQ
Life Time MindCoaches answer your most pressing questions during this challenging time and give answers to help you build strength and resilience for the future.
Maintaining My Health
How can I continue to get good sleep in times of stress?
Sleeping during stressful times can be challenging and requires a little extra effort to calm yourself down and prepare for bed. Try these three ideas:
Establish a bedtime routine that signals to your body that it's time to rest. It can be helpful to start this at the same time each night.
1. Put on your favorite, calming song
2. Take a warm, brief shower
3. Do three full body stretches
4. Drink a cup of decaffeinated, sleep-supporting tea (like SleepyTime from Celestial Seasons or Bedtime by Yogi Tea)
5. Recite affirmations while you brush your teeth (I am safe, my immune system is robust, we are in this together)
6. Do a nighttime meditation using an app like MUSE, Calm or HeadSpace, or simply set your phone timer for 3 minutes and focus on deep breathing.
Calm down your brain by limiting stimulation. One hour before bed, stop using technology or watching TV. Use this time to read something that is relaxing and doesn't burden your thought process. Also, try not to have conversations that get you worked up. You can set do not disturb limits on your phone to disconnect if needed.
Write down your worries. Keep paper and pen next to your bed. If a thought or concern seems important or is bothering you, write it down and tell yourself you can deal with it tomorrow.
Everyone is talking about self-care. What exactly does that look like on a day-to-day basis?
Self-care is taking actions that keep you mentally and physically healthy. Sometimes we can mistake these activities for selfishness, but these are important to sustain our ability to work and care for others.
Good self-care requires paying attention to your body, mind, and spirit. Here are examples of each:
Physical care: Eat regular, nutritious meals. Make time for daily exercise and stretching. Prioritize a good night's sleep. Relax your body through massage, a hot bath or shower.
Emotional care: Notice and change negative self-talk. Become aware of your feelings and allow them to inform you, not to consume you. Use positive affirmations about your life and others. Play with children and animals. Learn something new. Keep a gratitude journal.
Spiritual care: Be open and attentive to inspiration. Practice daily meditation or prayer. Be present in your life through mindfulness. Spend time in nature. Engage in creative activities. Connect with people you enjoy.
I am feeling really on edge. What can I do when my body is consumed by stress?
Times like this put your stress response in overdrive. Just as you wash your physical body, it's essential to cleanse your emotional self to relieve the tension. The best way to accomplish this is through deep breathing and movement. Here are some simple exercises to calm your mind and body:
1. Practice 4, 7, 8 Breathing: Inhale through your nose as your count to four. Hold your breath for the count of seven. Exhale completely through your mouth to the count of eight. Repeat this cycle three times in a row and feel yourself relax.
2. Try Circle Breathing: Close your eyes and breathe easily, in and out. Then, as you inhale deeply through your belly, imagine the air entering your body through your belly button and feel it rise up your chest. As it rises, allow it to exhale out of your mouth, imagining it falling down the front of your body like a waterfall and reconnecting with your belly button. Again, feel it rising up your chest and then waterfalling down your front. Keep this going until you feel the circle of breath moving smoothing through you.
3. Moving break: As you switch from one task to the other during the day, break up the moments with movement. This can be as simple as standing up from your desk chair and resettling yourself to leaving the room and getting a snack or glass of water.
4. Take a short walk: While you're moving, put your hand on your heart and breathe deeply in and out. Now, take time to look around you. Name five things you see that make you feel grateful and five things that you are curious about in your surroundings.
Repeat these exercises as many times as necessary to relax your body and mind throughout the day.
Managing My Worries
I am worried all the time. How can I calm myself down?
It is easy to be overcome by anxiety right now as you face concerns about your health, your job, your finances, your family and friends, and your future. It is also essential for your mental and physical wellness that you focus on calming your body and mind to reduce the stress. Here are a few helpful ways to do that:
Focus on what is in your control. Find things in your world that you can manage, such as what thoughts you allow your brain to focus on, what you eat and when, how you communicate with others and share your feelings, who you connect with and how frequently, moving your body, and building a structure and rhythm to your day.
Practice radical acceptance of what is. Acknowledging that our current circumstances are out of your control can be powerful. Allow yourself to accept what you can't change and see it as the new landscape we are all living in. When we resist what is happening, it can cause more distress and anxiety. By accepting what is, we can relax our nervous system.
Plan out your scenarios. You may find yourself thinking throughout the day about "what ifs". Take some time to sit down and write out three scenarios:
1. The Best Case: How you would like things to work out.
2. Plan B: What you'll do if things become more challenging.
3. The Worst Case: How you are equipped to manage if things got really bad.
Once you plan your scenarios, you can shelf your worries. Then next time you start thinking about "what if" remind yourself that you already have a plan.
Start a gratitude practice. Research shows that when you write down what you're thankful for, you feel better. Focus as much energy as you can on what you are currently grateful for in your world, such as your current health; your home; your grocery store; water to drink; people that love and support you; resources you can access to take care of your needs — or more simply, the sunshine, a warm breeze, or a hot cup of coffee.
How do I deal with catastrophic thoughts, like the world is ending?
First, remind yourself that allowing catastrophic thinking is not helpful for your wellbeing and those around you. Stop your unhelpful thoughts and replace them with more grounded ones, like "This is a temporary crisis and it will be over. I have made it through other difficult times; I will make it through this one. There are a lot of people that want things to be better and are working daily to make it happen. Shifting your mental state will calm you down and stabilize your thoughts.
Next, get some perspective and look at humanity through its entire life span. We have survived world wars, past pandemics, and great depressions. These experiences have caused us to grow and become more well-adapted as a species and a country.
Finally, focus on the innovations that will come from this, like a more prepared and informed medical system or a common global goal of working together for the greater good. For example, the Renaissance art period came after a great pandemic. Beauty and life always find a way.
Everything seems so serious right now, what can I do to lighten things up?
Focusing on the crisis in front of you day after day can get very heavy. It is vital for your physical and mental wellness that you take steps to lift the burden so that you can feel better. Here are a few ways you can lighten the mood:
Connect with your sense of humor. Find those key moments to step away and laugh. A sense of humor is known to boost resiliency and get you through tough days. Scrolling through cat memes, watching sitcoms or funny movies, and playing games like HeadsUp or Pictionary can help get the healing belly laughter rolling.
Practice self-compassion. Things might not be going the way you want them to, and the reality is this is part of the human condition. Acknowledge your difficulties and stresses just as you would for a dear friend, with kindness and compassion. Be kind to yourself by taking more breaks than usual, rewarding yourself at the end of the day, or making a "vacation" day where you spend time relaxing like you would if you were out of town.
Escape into your creativity. Do some DIY projects around the home or build a fort, (even if you don't have a child in the home;) Draw, paint, create with whatever medium is available to you. Sing and dance like no one's watching or have a karaoke break with your family. Tapping into your playful side can ease and release the tension.
I honestly just feel helpless. What do you suggest I do to feel more in control?
When we feel little is in our control, we can feel a sense of helplessness and heightened stress. That's a natural response from our nervous system. To lessen the impact of stress, we can choose what we focus on.
Focus on what you CAN control with mindfulness. Immerse yourself in your day-to-day activities. When you eat, pay full attention to the tastes and smells. When you talk to others, really listen with thoughtfulness. When you get into bed, feel the warmth of the blanket and your weight against the mattress.
Do what makes you to feel safe. Cocoon in a blanket for movie night, meditate before getting out of bed, take a hot bath, cuddle with your pet, hold your family members close, cook meals ahead of time, make sure you have your basic necessities on hand.
Reach out to others with genuine care. The heart is a muscle we can flex. Connect through video and phone calls. Set up a dinner party with your friends over Zoom or share your child's drawing (or yours!) in the window with your neighborhood. Greet your neighbors when you're on a walk, contribute to a charity that matters to you, give blood. Connecting and giving actions make us feel like we matter.
Keeping My Mindset Positive
Everything I hear right now is negative. How can I keep my mindset positive and healthy through this crisis?
It is helpful to remember that you are in charge of the negative content you consume right now. Limiting your exposure to only "need to know" information can decrease your worries and protect your hope. Remind yourself daily that this time will come to an end and do your best to focus on the good things in your life.
My mind is stuck in a negative spiral. How do I get out?
When you find yourself stuck in a negative spiral, it's time to shift your thinking consciously. The more you stop the worry and refocus your thoughts, the easier it will be to avoid getting stuck. Here is a simple four-step exercise:
1. When you find yourself ruminating on things that concern you, tell yourself out loud — STOP! This interrupts your brain so you can input new thoughts.
2. Next, assess the worry. Is it in your control? Can you take action and it will get better? (For example, if you're worried about paying a bill, can you call the service provider and make a different arrangement for now?) Take action on any worry that is in your control.
3. If your worry is out of your control, it's time to shift your thoughts. You need to move from thinking about your concern to the potential silver lining of the situation. Force your brain to be realistic and optimistic. (For example, if you're worried about when the crisis is going to be over, think about what the slowdown is allowing you to do that is positive. Maybe it’s allowing you to increase your self-care or spend more time with your partner or family.) Move all out-of-control worries to find the silver lining.
4. Finally, write down all your silver linings. When your worries pop up again, revisit your list and read it out loud to remind yourself of the positive in your life.
My job has changed, and I am taking it personally, how else can I be thinking about it?
Whether you have lost your job, been put on leave or had your role rearranged, it can be hard not to take it personally. It can be helpful to step back and take a big picture view, acknowledging the following:
1. Everyone is affected by what is happening right now — not just you.
2. Your company is making decisions for the good of the business so that it can survive this crisis, which will help you in the end.
3. The reason for employment changes under these circumstances isn't about individual performance. It's about financial stress on the business.
If you can look more objectively about the circumstance, it can rescue you from the mental trap of over-personalizing a global issue.
I hear repeating positive affirmations can be helpful. Can you give me some examples?
Our feelings follow where we focus our thoughts. If you want to feel better, choosing to repeat positive affirmations throughout the day can be very helpful. A positive affirmation is an uplifting statement that empowers you and grounds you in reality. Here are some examples you can start using right now:
Good things are still to come
I am strong and have survived many things
I choose to be happy right now
I am letting go of fear
I am safe; I am well
I have enough; I am enough
In the present moment, I have everything I need
Taking Care of My Relationships
How do I lessen the impact of stress on my relationships?
Everyone has two sides to their personality: a good side and a shadow side. Most days, we operate on our good side, typically pleasant and cooperative. Our shadow side tends to emerge when we are under high stress, pressure or even sometimes when we are bored. You can see why we may not be getting the best of people these days, which can really take a toll on our relationships. Here are a couple of tips to manage this experience:
1. Understand your shadow side. Do some thinking about how you show up when you're stressed out. Do you get big and loud or become quiet and isolate yourself? Do you miss details and not follow through, or do you have the urge to organize everything around you? The more you understand about yourself, the more insight you can give those closest to you about what they can expect from you right now
2. Talking with others is essential. It can be helpful to have a discussion with your family and/or co-workers about how each of you feels and behaves under stress. This clarity will increase empathy and reduce hurt feelings. Having an informed perspective allows us to offer each other space and grace to work through feelings when we aren't quite ourselves.
Do you have any advice for parenting during this crisis, especially as we shelter in place?
Keeping as much of a "normal" schedule as possible is essential and helps everyone feel more in control of their environment. Set up a family structure and stick to it. For example: Get up and go to bed at similar times, clean up and get dressed daily, post a schedule for the day that includes work and play, establish together times and alone times, and create spaces in the house specific to work, school, and play.
Simultaneously working and caring for children is a big challenge. Your job and your child's wellbeing are high, competing priorities. You may be feeling pressure to work even harder to prove your value in this tenuous climate. You also may feel concerned about your child staying engage in their school work. Now is the time to reset your expectations and be flexible. Under this type of stress, both you and your child may not be able to give 100% to the tasks at hand, and that's okay.
Emotions are running high and togetherness can get overwhelming. It can be hard to manage your own feelings right now. But remember, you are the adult, and you need to regulate your emotions. It is not your child's responsibility to soothe your feelings or behave so they don't inconvenience you. As a matter of circumstance, your child may be more difficult than usual. Look at more frequent meltdowns as indicators that the overall stress is taking a toll on them. Pay attention to their feelings and make extra space and grace for them to share. They are still learning how to feel and relate and need your guidance now more than ever.
Have a family meeting and talk about what is happening and why life has changed so much. Ask your children, "What do you know?" and "What questions do you have?". These questions prevent you from giving them too much unnecessary information and engages them in the conversation so you can understand what's going on in their little minds.
Social media can be exhausting these days. How can I use it for my health and benefit?
Social media can be a helpful way to stay connected while we are social distancing but too much, especially if it is negative, can start to affect your perspective on your life and the world around you. Take control of your usage to feel better by trying the following ideas:
Notice what accounts leave you feeling exhausted, upset, unworthy or not enough. Unfollow these accounts and choose instead to follow accounts that uplift you. Follow positive accounts like Upworthy or TankGood News.
Post uplifting photos or quotes. Post your favorite people, places and pets and tag others to do the same. Create your own hashtag, such as #quarantinefurbabies, or find hashtags that are positive and join in.
Detox from your phone with a digital fast. Permit yourself to focus on your mental wellbeing by taking a break from social media for a while — a day, a week or even longer, if it feels good. It'll be there waiting for you when you're ready to reengage.
Use other forms of online connection. Apps like Zoom, House Party, Skype and FaceTime allow you to filter who you connect with and how you spend your time communicating with others.
LOVING KINDNESS MEDITATION: Raising the Wellness of the World
Loving-Kindness Meditation focuses on developing feelings of love, wellness and compassion toward yourself first, and then to extend those feelings onto others. Studies show that this type of meditation can:
Increase positive emotions such as joy and hope
Increase social connection
The best part of Loving-Kindness Meditation is that it is simple and effective in small doses. Here is a brief practice we encourage you to experiment with today:
1. Sit quietly with your hand on your heart. Feel your chest move as you breathe deeply in and out.
2. Picture a warm light around you.
3. Speak these words out loud or to yourself: “May I be well. May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be at ease.”
4. Think of someone you know who needs support. Hold them in your mind and cast the warm light upon them as you speak these words out loud or to yourself: “May they be well. May they be safe. May they be happy. May they be at ease.”
5. Think of humanity as whole. Our entire globe of people in need of healing. Hold the collective group in your mind and cast the warm light upon them as you speak these words out loud or to yourself: “May we all be well. May we all be safe. May we all be happy. May we all be at ease.”
We are all deserving of wellness and peace. Do your part by taking care of yourself as well as contributing to raising the wellness of our world.
Building Habits that Stick: Start Small
“In times of uncertainty, your habits can ground you. When you feel overwhelmed, practice one minute of mindfulness. When you feel restless, do a 1 minute workout. When the world seems uncontrollable, focus on what you can control.”- James Clear
Baby steps add up and eventually become entire leaps forward. The more you believe you can do something, the more likely you are to do it. And that belief in yourself can be built through the action and consistency of small steps — and a positive mindset.
Let’s say you want to write a book. Now just might be the time. It is easier, more exciting, and much more sustainable to write a paragraph a day than it may be to write several pages. Over time that one paragraph becomes many, which then becomes the whole book. Writing slowly becomes part of your identity: “I am a person who writes,” rather than something you force yourself to do: “I have to write a book.” By focusing on the system (writing) rather than the outcome (a book), you can reach the outcome regardless.
This can apply to any goal. Want to run a marathon? Become a person who runs a mile at a time. Want to organize the home? Become a person who tackles a small unorganized area daily. Want to have a successful career? Become a person who is present one meeting and project at a time. Want to meditate? Become a person who sits in silence for a single breath at a time.
If you get 1% better every day, you will become 37 times better over the course of just one year. So, go ahead — act small to think big.
Where to Start:
Focus on SMART goals: These goals are Specific, Measurable, Action-based, Realistic, and Time-lined.
Consider the smallest version of your goal and begin there. For example, putting on your running shoes and stepping out the front door is the very first step to running a 5K or marathon.
When overwhelmed with what to do next, use the S.T.O.P tool: Step back, Think, and Organize your thoughts before Proceeding.
1. Bandura, A. (1977) Self Efficacy: Toward unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review.
2. Clear, J. (2018) Atomic Habits.
3. George T. Doran. (1981) There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives.
4. Gallwey, W.T. (2000) The inner game of work.
Gratitude and its Impact on Daily Happiness
“Enjoy the little things. For one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault
Look around. What are you grateful for in this moment? What is one compliment you can give yourself? Welcome to the experience of gratitude. This positive emotion is handy whether you’re working from home, collaborating in the office, connecting with your family or out for a solo jog.
There’s power behind something as simple as gratitude. A daily practice is shown to have a physical positive impact: it can lower blood pressure, alleviate stress, and improve immune functioning. It also has a pleasant effect on our moods, contributes to stronger relationships with partners and coworkers, and yes, it increases our happiness.
Consider your brain. When you express gratitude, your brain releases dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are responsible for feelings associated with happiness. When released repeatedly (say through a daily gratitude practice), their neural pathways are strengthened — and much more readily available for our use. So, practicing gratitude when its easy (like when you’re calmly watching the sunset) can help you to access it when it’s more challenging (like when you are on a new team or project).
Those with a grateful mindset naturally are more positive. By paying attention to life’s simple joys, individuals can be more present. Imagine the trajectory of happiness that can take place over the course of days — and years — of employing gratitude. We can choose to practice this powerful capability and directly impact our level of wellbeing.
Here are three ways to practice gratitude in your day-to-day life:
1. Self-appreciation: Don’t be afraid to compliment yourself. Too often, we downplay our achievements or nitpick imperfections. Instead, take time to write down your talents, successes, and attributes. Better yet, say them aloud in front of the mirror as you prepare for the day. Need a little nudge? Ask a trusted friend to help you get started. It can be as simple as, “What makes me a good friend?”
2. Journal: This is the most well-known of gratitude practices. In taking time to write down a list each day, you purposefully choose a positive mindset. This list can include compliments, how you are overcoming challenges, the people in your life, or what brought you (or will bring you) joy in the day.
3. Tell Someone “thank you”: This is an opportunity to connect with the people who make all the difference in your life. You can say thank you in a multitude of ways: writing a thoughtful note, making a dinner or another gesture of love, calling them and telling them out loud or sharing a treasured memory. Simply let that person feel important.
This webpage is not providing medical or mental health advice. If you are concerned about your physical or mental health, you need to contact a medical care or mental health provider.