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When was the last time you stopped to evaluate your mental strength? It’s an important part of your overall wellness—one we often neglect, especially as young Black men. It’s time to take a closer look at what it means to be mentally strong and what you can do to get there. When you begin taking steps to improve your mental fortitude, you’ll see for yourself just how valuable it is.
First things first: mental strength is an enormous component of mental health, but it isn’t the only part of being mentally healthy. You can have a mental illness diagnosis, like depression or anxiety, while also being mentally strong (especially when your condition is well controlled). Your mental toughness is all about self-awareness and self-confidence, resilience, and the ability to handle whatever challenges life throws your way. It’s also about practicing self-acceptance and being kind to yourself even when things don’t go as planned.
Does all this sound like you—or is this unfamiliar territory? Unfortunately, even in 2021, talking about our mental and emotional health is stigmatized. As a society, we’re overdue for an attitude adjustment about mental wellness and self-care. It’s high time we learned to speak more openly about our thoughts, feelings, and moods and how we can improve our mental strength. Knowledge is power, and in this case, it can help us to improve our self-esteem, work toward building resilience, and enjoy positive emotions more frequently.
I feel like I need to be honest, and speak candidly here—or else it wouldn’t be authentically me. As young Black men, we’re especially reticent to discuss our mental states. This is due in large part to us believing that others will perceive us as weak if we talk openly about our emotions. If we can be brave enough to speak up and make vulnerability commonplace, we can make it safer and easier for others to do the same. As a united community, we can end the shame surrounding mental and emotional health issues by making these conversations the nucleus of true change. We’re all in this together, and no one should ever feel alone. Vulnerability, in this instance, is the ultimate strength.
It’s easier to navigate life when you find someone who is in the same place you are—but finding that person can be a challenge. That’s why I want to encourage anyone reading this to be brave in revealing what’s going on inside of your mind. When you have the guts to speak up, you’ll be amazed at how quickly other people will empathize with your experiences and share their own.
Changing your outlook requires more than merely thinking positive thoughts. Let’s explore the habits of mentally strong people and how those behaviors can improve our own mental and emotional wellness.
1. Practice mindfulness
If you’ve never experienced mindfulness meditation before, now is a great time to give it a try. Mindfulness exercises are simple behaviors that quiet your brain and bring you back to the present moment. If you struggle with persistent negative thoughts, meditating can help you to learn to direct your attention to calmer and happier places. Its benefits include reduced stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as better sleep and lower blood pressure. Do you want to get started? Check out these helpful mindfulness tips, which you can incorporate into your life as soon as today.
2. Stay physically healthy
Your physical and mental health go hand-in-hand. That’s why it’s so important to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and get a good night’s sleep. Aim for at least five days of exercise per week, with a minimum of thirty minutes per day. If you’re pressed for time or aren’t a gym person, try going for a brisk walk on your lunch hour or after work. When you’re exercising for mental health, it’s important that you find an activity you really enjoy. You might also ask your doctor if using a mood-boosting supplement, like Onnit New Mood, is a good choice for you.
3. Write in a journal
Here’s another way to boost your mental strength: try writing in a self-affirmation journal. A self-affirmation journal is a safe place to reflect on who you are, what you’re all about, and where you want to go. It’s a great way to practice speaking kindly about yourself and to remember all the good you bring to the world around you. You can purchase a journal with helpful self-esteem prompts or use a plain notebook and these free prompts. Keep in mind that there’s no right or wrong way to do this—whatever helps you to practice self-acceptance and celebrate your achievements is perfect for you.
4. Ask for help when you need it
I know it’s not easy to reach out and ask for help, but sometimes it’s necessary. If you haven’t been feeling your best, it’s smart to seek support from the caring people in your life. It could be as simple as venting your fears and frustrations to a friend or asking your boss for an extension on a work deadline. Or, if you’ve been feeling unwell for some time, you might need to check in with your general practitioner or a mental health specialist. In any case, you aren’t weak for asking for help when you need it. As a matter of fact, admitting that you could use some emotional support and empathy means you’re strong and self-aware.
5. Find your people
Speaking of friends, life is so much better with good people by your side. Remember that we’re all on this journey together and that leaning on one another is how we survive and thrive. When you find friends who really understand you, support you and champion you, you want to hold onto them for dear life. And while it isn’t always easy to make new friends as an adult, it’s still possible. Wherever you find your people—at work, at school, at the gym, or on a digital app—you should make them a priority. Your friendships can improve your self-esteem and help you to meet life’s challenges head-on.
6. Train your subconscious
Once I figured out how to reprogram my subconscious mind, it did wonders for my mental strength and overall mental health. I’m huge on fitting autosuggestion, visualization, and daily-affirmations into your routine. Using myself as an example, in order to train and reframe my subconscious, I repeat this phrase to myself 20 times in the morning when I wake up, and 20 times at night before I go to sleep: “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” Along with gratitude journaling, I visualize my goals and imagine that I can see, touch, and feel the end result of me achieving them. My favorite books on the subconscious and these daily philosophies are Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior by Leonard Mldinow.
As you may have guessed, mental strength isn’t developed overnight, but we can all take steps to improve. Just like our biceps, triceps, hamstrings and quads, our brain is a muscle—and the most important one that we have. Without aligning ourselves mentally, we won’t get the most out of ourselves physically. As you spend more time and energy on building your self-esteem and sense of resilience, be patient with yourself. Every small choice or change you make is an excellent step in the right direction. Because at the end of the day, small steps equal great distances. Now let’s take those first few steps.
Since 1992, April has been recognized as Stress Awareness Month. It was established to help shed light on the issues behind stress, teach us how to fight it, and create methods to overcome it. While this initiative has existed just shy of three decades, this year it seems particularly important.
With a year under our belts in pandemic mode—a lot of us had to get creative when it came to keeping our cool. On top of that, everyday stresses didn’t just magically disappear during this time either. Just think about it—have you ever been in a situation that was overwhelming? Maybe you’ve had a looming deadline or a to-do list that seems, well...totally un-doable? If you’ve ever felt you were in over your head, please know you’re not alone—you never are. At one time or another, we’ve all been affected by stress—although each person may manifest it differently. Me? I'm definitely a frequent rider on the "hot mess stress express."
There are many ways to help combat stress—some of us seek out support from friends and family, while others find solace in taking up meditation or unwinding with a relaxing yoga class. Whatever helps you find peace, just keep doing you. But also know we have some resources to help you overcome stress whenever the need arises.
Here are some blog posts that are always available to you when you feel a little stressed out:
When in doubt, breathwork expert and sound healer, Shanila Sattar, always has tips to help ground yourself—especially in times of need. In this blog post, she gives you the recipe for incorporating self-love into your daily routine by encouraging us to ask ourselves these questions: How do we treat ourselves? How do we talk to ourselves? What foods are we putting into our bodies? How are we thinking about our overall well-being when practicing self-love? As we all know, self-love defines and redefines itself for everyone over the years, here are a few foundational tips to think about when easing into your self-love journey.
Yoga Nidra, or “yogic sleep,” is a practice that has been around for thousands of years and it aims to restore the mind, body, and soul through deep, guided meditation. The way it works is like the way a power nap helps one feel refreshed during a particularly exhausting day, except you aren’t technically sleeping. I describe it as a long-form of savasana—anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour. (Real talk: savasana is one of the best parts of practicing yoga, am I right?)
TLDR: I learned that I could conquer stress in a matter of minutes with Yoga Nidra.
Are we safe in saying this last year brought up a ton of emotions the likes of which we did not plan for? The good, the bad, the “unprecedented”—our hearts and minds have been taken on a wild rollercoaster ride, and for many of us, our mental health is suffering. With our minds running in thousands of directions, it’s hard to notice our own needs. Yes, our attention to the goings-on of last year is vital but caring for ourselves is as important as ever. Here are some tips from our favorite yoga instructor, Dani Schenone.
Have you been feeling it? The big emotion floating around the last year is the Big Anxiety. Coupled with the stress of what the COVID-19 pandemic has bought for millions of people, disturbed wellness routines, and worry, we have a recipe to create massive damage to ourselves. Adjusting to the new normal, with social distancing practices in place and adapting to precautions and routines, may be the root of even more anxiousness for many as we’re navigating uncharted territories.
If you've got those familiar feelings of stress and anxiety coursing through your body right now, you're definitely not alone. We get it. Times are uncertain, our mental health is taxed, we're doing what we can to reduce stress and anxiety in general, and relaxation has taken a back seat. It’s no secret that stress is proven to weaken our immunity, so now more than ever, it's important to relax, deal with what's happening, and find the coping mechanisms to help you reclaim your mental health and reduce your involvement in stressed moments. Let's deal with stress and anxiety together and see what we can do to reduce them.
Meditation will change your life if you let it. The pace of our modern life is at least ten times what it was just 10 years ago. Technology improved our lives but also created a more frenetic and stressful pace. If we decided to stop, breathe, and become more mindful, we would reduce stress and experience much more enjoyment in each moment of our everyday lives.
There’s always something to worry about. Whether it’s our career, relationships, dating, or trauma, we go through moments that bombard us with negative thoughts that can make us feel anxious and stressed. Our worries may often define our choices, our view of the world, or ourselves. This doesn’t mean they are faults, flaws, or downfalls—we just need to practice managing them in a healthy way, placing deserved value on self-care. Yoga is only one connection. Check out these seven yoga poses that can help your mind and body when you’re experiencing anxiety, depression, or overall stress.
We’re all guilty of our routines and habits running our lives at one point or another. We’re all guilty of being attached to our schedules and our to-do list. We’re all guilty of running on a loop every now and then. As the energies of 2021 continue to shift, we get to ask ourselves the intentions of why and how we are participating in the places we are participating in, the thoughts we are thinking, the habits we are cultivating, and the communities that we are a part of. This intention and mindfulness process can not only shift our own experiences but of those around us as well.
If you have found meditation to be useful in trying times, right now is an incredible time to also try virtual sound baths to receive the deep sound healing benefits. As many of us are processing a variety of emotions as a collective—stress, worry, fear, anxiety, uncertainty—we can start to cause long-term damage to our bodies, especially to our immune and nervous systems. Giving ourselves self-care in a way that is easy, non-intrusive, and simple, can be the perfect way to help your body restore.
These resources aren’t the only thing we have to help you deal with stress—they’re just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, there are tons of classes available to you on the Mindbody app and through Mindbody Flex to help you reignite your calm whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed. And always remember, at the end of the day, your best is always good enough.