I recently got the news that my leukemia has come back. And pretty bad. It would appear that my mutated cells have driven out my donor’s stem cells, and now we have to start all over. The prednisone pills, the chemotherapy, the weeks of hospitalization, the killing of the bone marrow, finding a new donor, and the recovery. News like this is very hard to take. And it requires a mental strength to be able to face up to yet another battle. But as I keep saying, at this point I am undefeated. I’m 2-0 up on leukemia, let’s make it 3-0. I can only think this way because I have been working on my mental strength the last few years.
I hope to take you into my headspace and show that working on your mental resilience can be a great benefit for difficult times.
Why is mental strength important?
When life tends to go well, people tend to not consider their mental strength. And as with almost every life, a storm will hit, the trials and hardships happen, and people find themselves in a tailspin. Some even lose a grip on reality, most get confused, and almost everyone lacks understanding. We doubt ourselves, our loved ones, and God. When our trials are physical of nature, we find ourselves deteriorating faster. This happens because we do not have the mental strength to face our trials, and we lose motivation to fight for our physical health.
But if we build a good mental strength, we can face hardships better. We are motivated to fight for what we want or need. We know where our values and strengths are. We can use those resources correctly and can guard the areas we know we are weaker. We are better able to stand and fight.
But building mental strength is something that requires work during the good times. That is when we build, so that we can stand in trials. We need the mental strength to get through the hard times. So, let’s take a look at how we can build and use mental strength in our lives.
Building mental strength while things are well
The first thing we need to do is to work on our mental strength in the good times. Here are my top tips for this:
- Build a relationship with Jesus
The most important tip I can give anyone when it comes to building mental strength is having a relationship with Jesus. This will benefit your life in many ways. Forgiveness of sins, having a relationship with the Creator. This adds an immeasurable value to your life. It will also change your perspective on many issues.
Working on your prayer life and Bible study, while being open to the leading of the Holy Spirit during good times will help you train yourself to do these things in hard times. It establishes a pattern for your life that you can then hold on to when you need it most. And make sure your prayer is not just giving God a grocery list in the morning. Make it a dynamic part of your day. As if you had a constant friend with whom you can share all things at all times.
- Learn about yourself
One of the best ways to grow mentally strong is to learn about yourself. The better you know you, the better you know how and why you react certain ways. You can then also develop means to deal with situations that come your way.
As I’ve grown in life, I have found that my fight-flight-freeze reaction is fight. This is good to know because I know that when the trials in life come, I will naturally fight. It gives me the confidence to stand my ground no matter what the oppression.
- Build a playlist that builds you mentally
I have developed a fond love of the music band Skillet. It is their music and the words. They play songs that get you ready to face battles. This list helps me to prepare for any fight. If I feel down, I play it, and I can then face up to any battles that come my way. My wife has the same, but her playlist is more motivational quotes and speeches.
- Build meaningful relationships with others
As people, we are relational beings. Even as an introvert, I have people who are close to me. My wife, family, friends. And it is very important to build on these relationships when you are doing well. Be there for them when they are going through hardships, and your life seems calm.
It is also important to see the relationships in your life that influence you negatively. Sometimes you will need to prune some people out of your life, but do this with God, as He knows if the issue may be the person or just the reaction to their hard times.
- Work on your meaningful goals
Create content, be creative, find your passion, work hard. If you achieve something celebrate it. In times of trial, you can look back on what you have worked on and be proud of yourself.
- Build your armor
It’s like making a bulletproof vest, building mental strength is a layered process. Building your armor takes discipline and a good daily routine. Taking care of your physical health will also build a good layer for your mental health. So, take time to work out, read good books, self-care, go for regular check-ups etc.
Guard your mental strength in tough times
When the going gets tough, you need to guard yourself against losing your built-up mental strength. Here are some tips for this:
- Trust God
If you build your life around God, you will be able to trust Him even when things look bad. You will have His promises in your life, and He can provide a lifeline when you seem to lose a grip on reality. If you have developed a good dynamic prayer life in good times, you will be able to hold on to this in the difficult times.
- Know yourself
If you know yourself, you will understand why you react the way you do in hard times. A good example is knowing that I am an introvert, who is auditory inclined. This means I need time alone, and in quiet, to build my energy to fight the issues in life. When I was admitted into the hospital, I placed in a ward with 3 other patients. Because I know myself, I could warn the nurses beforehand that I would at some point need a private room. After 1 and half weeks I started to notice that I was starting to struggle mentally, and that I was mentally fatigued. I couldn’t find any rest in the ward. I spoke to the nurses and we moved me to a private room to get some rest and mental clarity.
- Listen to the playlist you have created for yourself
When life gets hard, you will have difficult moments. Times when the storms feel so heavy, that you are going to wash away. That’s why you have a motivational playlist. I have spent many times just listening to music that gets me going, and then I can fight again.
- Reach out to your relationships
Communicate and talk about how you are doing. Be honest. This will help you in the long run because it will help you process what is going on right now. As I mentioned earlier almost everyone gets confused during hardships. And your closest friends and family will be able to help you make sense of what’s happening. And God may even speak to you through them.
- Remember the achievements
There are times in life when we will not be able to work on our goals. Then it is important to remember what we have done. If you have celebrated something, remember it, and it will help you to get through the tough times.
- Reinforce your armor
If you have built up an armor of mental strength, and you find yourself under attack because of trials and hardships, remember everything you did to build that armor. Try to continue to apply those lessons learnt and reinforce your armor.
I hope these tips can help you with building and maintaining a mental strength that can give you the confidence to face all of life’s challenges.