Working on and being aware of the 4 core factors of mental strength can stand you in good stead when dealing with the harshness of life. These four components comprehensively cover what we need to be mentally strong in a world that tests our sanity on a regular basis:
Emotion Regulation skills include learning to identify and label current emotions, identifying obstacles to changing emotions, reducing emotional reactivity, increasing positive emotions and changing emotions. Many of my clients find it difficult to label and identify their emotions. This is because many people try to operate on ‘autopilot’. They suppress emotions as a coping strategy to avoid feeling negative emotions. This strategy only works for a while as suppressing emotions will lead to them expressing themselves in other ways – through the body: IBS, headaches, aches and pains etc
Emotional regulation helps people understand their emotions. It teaches people to decrease the intensity of their feelings and helps them ride out strong emotions without acting on them. (Stop and think before reacting is a KEY skill). It provides education about the function of emotions and how to not be overwhelmed by them.
- Identify and label emotions.
- Identify obstacles to changing emotions.
- Reduce vulnerability to emotional state of mind.
- Increase positive emotional events.
- Increase mindfulness to current emotions.
- Take opposite action.
- Apply distress tolerance techniques.
- Ineffective health habits can make one more vulnerable to feeling emotionally unstable This skill is used to maintain a healthy body, so one is more likely to have healthy emotions. The mind-body connection is extremely powerful:
- PhysicaL illness (treat) – If you are sick or injured, get proper treatment for it.
- Eating (balanced) – Make sure you eat a proper healthy diet, and eat in moderation.
- Avoid mood-altering drugs – Do not take other non-prescribed medication or drugs. They may be very harmful to your body, and can make your mood unpredictable.
- Sleep (balanced) – Do not sleep too much or too little. Eight hours of sleep is recommended per night for the average adult.
- Exercise – Make sure you get an effective amount of exercise, as this will both improve body image and release endorphins making you happier.
- Try to do one thing a day to help build competence and control.
- This skill is used when you have an unjustified emotion, one that doesn’t belong in the situation at hand. You use it by doing the opposite of your urges in the moment. It is a tool to bring you out of an unwanted or unjustified emotion by replacing it with the emotion that is opposite.
- This is used to solve a problem when your emotion is justified. It is used in combination with other skills. Problem solving is a cinstructive way of dealing with life’s problems and is far more efficient than worrying without trying to think constructively about the issue.
Letting go of emotional suffering
- Observe and experience your emotion, accept it, then let it go. You don’t have to hold on to toxic emotions. Notice it and then allow it to pass.
Distress Tolerance helps us to develop acceptance of the current situation as well as crisis survival skills to decrease the likelihood of engaging in problematic or self destructive behavior.
Distress tolerance teaches people to soothe themselves in healthy ways when they are feeling upset rather than becoming overwhelmed by emotions or hiding from them. This allows individuals to make wise decisions about whether and how to take action, rather than falling into the intense, desperate and often-destructive emotional reactions. Crisis survival skills are also taught to avoid engaging in problematic behaviors and ultimately make the situation worse. Reality Acceptance Skills focus on helping people fully accept reality and provide a guideline for responding to painful aspects of life.
- Distract with ACCEPTS
- This is a skill used to distract oneself temporarily from unpleasant emotions.
- Activities – Use positive activities that you enjoy.
- Contribute – Help out others or your community.
- Comparisons – Compare yourself either to people that are less fortunate or to how you used to be when you were in a worse state.
- Emotions (other) – cause yourself to feel something different by provoking your sense of humor or happiness with corresponding activities.
- Push away – Put your situation on the back-burner for a while. Put something else temporarily first in your mind.
- Thoughts (other) – Force your mind to think about something else.
- Sensations (other) – Do something that has an intense feeling other than what you are feeling, like a cold shower or a spicy candy.
- This is a skill in which one behaves in a comforting, nurturing, kind, and gentle way to oneself. You use it by doing something that is soothing to you. It is used in moments of distress or agitation.
How to self soothe and learn to tolerate distress:
- Imagery – Imagine relaxing scenes, things going well, or other things that please you.
- Meaning – Find some purpose or meaning in what you are feeling.
- Prayer – Either pray to whomever you worship, or, if not religious, chant a personal mantra.
- Relaxation – Relax your muscles, breathe deeply; use with self-soothing.
- One thing in the moment – Focus your entire attention on what you are doing right now. Keep yourself in the present.
- Vacation (brief) – Take a break from it all for a short period of time.
- Encouragement – Cheerlead yourself. Tell yourself you can make it through this and cope as it will assist your resilience and reduce your vulnerability.
- Pros and cons
- Think about the positive and negative things about not tolerating distress.
- Radical acceptance
- Let go of fighting reality. Accept your situation for what it is.
- Turning the mind
- Turn your mind toward an acceptance stance. It should be used with radical acceptance. Resisting reality (the fact that uncertainty is a part of life and that we never have full control over anything other than our thoughts and reactions).
- Willingness vs. willfulness
- Be willing and open to do what is effective. Let go of a willful stance which goes against acceptance. Keep your eye on the goal in front of you.
Interpersonal Effectiveness skills teach helpful strategies for asking for what one needs, saying no, and coping with interpersonal conflict.
Interpersonal effectiveness skills involve helping people understand what their needs are in their relationships and helps develop effective ways of dealing with others in order to get one’s wants or needs met in a healthy way. This involves respecting the self and others, listening and communicating effectively, dealing with difficult people, repairing relationships and being able to say no.
How to achieve interpersonal effectiveness:
DEEAR MAN – conveying one’s needs to another person This acronym is used to help a person in getting what they want when asking.
- Describe situation using specific factual statements about a recent situation.
- Express the emotions experienced when the situation occurred, why this is an issue and how one feels about it.
- Empathy: acknowledge what the other person experienced and their emotions
- Assert one’s self by asking clearly and specifically for what behavior change the person seeks.
- Reinforce one’s position by offering a positive consequence if one were to get what one wants.
- Mindful of the situation by focusing on what one wants and disregard distractions through validation/empathy and redirecting back to the point.
- Appear confident and assertive, even if one doesn’t feel confident.
- Negotiate with a hesitant person and come to a comfortable compromise on one’s request.
- GIVE – giving something
- This skill helps maintain relationships, whether they are with friends, co-workers, family, romantic partners, etc. It can be used in conversations.
- Gentle: Use appropriate language, no verbal or physical attacks, no put downs, avoid sarcasm unless one is sure the person is alright with it, and be courteous and non-judgmental.
- Interested: When the person one is speaking to is talking about something, act interested in what is being said. Maintain eye contact, ask questions, etc. Avoid the use of a cell phone during an in-person conversation.
- Validate: Show understanding and sympathy of a person’s situation. Validation can be shown through words, body language and/or facial expressions.
- Easy Manner: Be calm and comfortable during conversation; use humor; smile.
- FAST – keeping self respect:
- This is a skill to help maintain self-respect. Use it in combination with the other interpersonal effectiveness skills.
- Fair: Be fair to both oneself and the other person.
- Apologies (few): Don’t apologize more than once for what one has done ineffectively or for something that was ineffective.
- Stick to One’s Values: Stay true to what one believes in and stand by it. Don’t allow others to encourage action against one’s own values.
- Truthful: Don’t lie. Lying can only pile up and damage relationships and one’s self-respect.
Core Mindfulness teaches a person how to focus their mind and attention. It also teaches how to learn the value of wise (rational) mind instead of succumbing to intense emotions and acting in a destructive way.
How to be mindful:
Observe non judgementally
Describe current experience using 5 senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell)
Participate -be fully focused in current/present moment
Use the above techniques to strenthen your mental resilience. It’s the same as exercising to strengthen muscles. The more you practise the above ‘exercises’, the stronger you will be mentally.