In the last blog post, I talked about pressure tests. They are the tests that come along in life to challenge us mentally, physically, spiritually, financially, and in our relationships and usually, they involve crises or loss in our lives.
Some people rise to the challenge and others may become overwhelmed by them. My crisis and loss was and is, rebuilding our home from the devastation of Hurricane Ian. I can confirm that I went through some of the five stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) of grief.
The grief model initially applied to dying patients and later included other major life changes. There are other models that have expanded or modified the original five stages. Some people go through all the stages, others go through a few of the stages, and some go back and forth between the stages.
Remaining calm and steady during crisis is hard and necessary because others want to see that steadiness.
In this post I’d like to focus on building your mental strength muscle during a crises or loss.
What You Can Do to Be Mentally Strong After a Loss
Take Time to Grieve. When the crisis or loss is fresh, processing the full impact of the news covers the spectrum of grief stages. This is a time when it is necessary to be kind to you and allow yourself to feel sad about the loss you just faced.
Try Not to Ruminate. The thing about loss, trauma, and grief, is that they can cause you to ruminate. Ruminating can send you down a deep hole that is hard to crawl out of. It’s hard not to ruminate, you keep thinking about the dying spouse, family member, or friend, you think about potential financial ruin, what will you do if x happens, what if….
I started down the ruminating pathway and have been working hard to refocus my thoughts. I told myself to stop thinking about how much damage there was, how much it is costing, what the insurance will pay, what if the insurance company doesn’t pay, and on and on and on. Interrupting my thinking reminds me that I can change my thoughts. It has been a moment-by-moment activity, and is exhausting, but I know that my thoughts can be managed because I have done it before. I stopped the bad messaging and replaced it with better messaging to manage my thoughts.
Remember, the more you think about something the more easily you build neural pathways to that thing. Spend enough time thinking about something and it becomes a habit. So be careful not to develop bad thinking that can turn into unhealthy habits.
Focus and Take Action. Focus on things you can do to improve the situation. Positive action will give you a sense of purpose, boost your confidence and build your mental strength.
Lean on Family and Friends for Support and Help. Sometimes we need a shoulder to lean on. For me, during this time, my family and friends have come to my rescue. They let me talk out my feelings. They acknowledged my loss, asked how to help and support me. They also provided us with information about rebuilding our home (like removing all the flood-soaked material from our home, preventing mold, checking electrical safety). This information saved us time and money because we were able to act quickly and find reliable and skilled trades to start the rebuilding. In turn, we were able to help our neighbors by providing them with the people and resources we used to start rebuilding their lives again.
If you need more than friends and family to help you get through your crisis, get professional help. Ask your family doctor or health professional for referrals to appropriate resources.
Take Care of Yourself. Catastrophic events, loss, grief, depression, make it hard to do some of the basic things in life. It may be hard to sleep or wake up. You may overeat because you are stressed or lose weight because you are too stressed to eat. You may not want to exercise or even do the simplest activities of daily living like brushing your teeth, so, you may have to talk yourself into doing the things you need to do, to take care of yourself. Take micro steps. Practice good habits and build on them.
If you are unable to take care of yourself, get professional help. Call a mental health crisis line, your doctor, or health professional-don’t delay.
If you know of someone who is having difficulty coping, check in with them regularly (daily or weekly), to see if they can still manage. Support them with action if you can, for example, take them to the doctor or hospital or health professional if they want to but can’t do it.
Find a Way to Release the Stress and Anxiety. Find healthy ways to release the anxiety and stress, it could be music, dancing, exercise, breathing, meditation, writing, painting, walking, spending time with friends and family. Having fun while you are going through a tough time is allowed, you are not required to be miserable because you face a crisis or loss. It may help you boost your mood and give you a better perspective.
Remember the Good. It’s easy when you are facing a major loss to forget the good. Not everything is dark and bad in your life. Take a moment and find something that is good. Keep up this practice. It can be hard to see the good when things look bleak, but if you do, you get your hope back. During this time, I have consciously resisted saying, “Why is this happening to me” because it isn’t happening just to me, others have experienced the impact of Ian as well and it serves no purpose. Others have experienced loss and grief in the past and have moved on.
Leadership isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when a crisis hits, but it is the thing that gets us through the crisis. We look for leaders to help find a way through the crisis as calmly and rationally as possible, because it makes us feel calm, and confident that the crisis is under control. These types of leaders manage their thinking, their emotions and their mindset.
Everyone approaches major losses or crises differently. Some move on quickly and others may never move on. Once we move past the event, we can look back and see what life was trying to teach us.
I would love to hear how you build mental strength.