Just like physical strength, mental fitness is something you have to build.
This is what allows you to stay standing when things come to knock you down.
Mental fortitude means you know yourself, you have a quiet confidence, and you know you’re equipped with the skills to overcome obstacles and get through tough times.
After a pandemic marked by grief, trauma, and disappointment, this is something that’s more important to work on than ever.
So, how can you do that? And what challenges might you face on the path to better mental wellbeing?
Check in with yourself
How are you really doing? Has the past year had impacts on your mind that you perhaps haven’t fully addressed?
Psychotherapist Noel McDermott advises looking out for some signs that your mental fitness has been affected by Covid:
- You’re drinking more than usual or you’ve noticed your relationship with alcohol isn’t healthy
- You notice you’re feeling more anxious than before
- Your mood is low
- You feel more sensitive to things
- You feel uncomfortable in social settings
- You’ve developed disordered eating habits
Understand why mental fitness is important
‘Mental fitness describes a set of attitudes and lifestyle choices that increase our resilience in the face of life events that produce psychological distress, lexapro prozac vs ’ explains Noel. ‘As the term suggests, it takes its lead from the idea that physical fitness comes through choices such as healthy food and an active lifestyle, that we do these things as a matter of habit and are regular.
‘We all understand that if we wish to be fit, we must be active, or go to the gym regularly and eat well. Similarly, we can improve our psychological fitness through regular healthy psychological habits and choices.
‘Mental fitness is just as important as physical fitness and in a post-pandemic world we must take the time to work on our mental health and undo some of the psychological distress caused by Covid-19.’
How to rebuild mental fitness following the pandemic
Noel breaks down four key steps to working on your mental strength.
Knowledge is power – get to understand emotions, notice early warning signs of distress, and identify your personal bad patterns.
It can help to keep a journal to really dig deep into your own mental state.
‘Some of the early warning signs are disturbed sleeping patterns, mood swings, changes in appetite and eating, increased anger, using alcohol or drugs or food to manage, hyper-vigilance to threats, sudden weight gain or loss, feelings of impending doom, losing interest in things you usually like, feeling hopeless, thoughts of harming yourself,’ explains Noel.
Look after your physical health
It’s hard to be in the best place mentally when you’re not caring for your body.
Get some movement into your day, – ideally outdoors – prioritise sleep, eating nourishing meals, and drink plenty of water.
Manage unhelpful thinking
‘Recognise thoughts that are unhelpful (I am a failure) and replace with more balanced thinking (I feel like a failure, but I managed to achieve X today, or I have a loving family etc),’ suggests Noel.
‘Ruminating on these unhelpful thinking styles will reduce motivation for taking action to change and create a vicious cycle.
‘Try to ditch unhelpful thinking styles that are more common, such as “all or nothing”, sometimes referred to as black and white, thinking, which leads to a sense of disastrous failure or manic achievement.
‘Thoughts affect feelings which affect actions which confirm or challenge the original thought.’
It’s time to peel yourself off the sofa and get back out there.
Noel says: ‘As we tend to avoid feeling uncomfortable, we can get into a situation where we avoid things that might be helpful for us.
‘Particularly now many people may be worried about going into groups, work, shows etc, but these things are very closely linked to our wellbeing as social animals.
‘So, we must challenge the fear which may make us want to avoid and expose ourselves to the thing we see as a threat.
‘Avoidance and procrastination are classic signs of anxiety and should be looked at with a view to exposure work.’
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