Over a lifetime most of us will suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. However, we ignore the emotional messages that our bodies send us either by toughing it out, bottling up our problems or just assuming that is just how we are.
Stability is a state in which a person is in control of his thoughts, feelings and actions. A person who is mentally and emotionally stable has a general sense of well-being; can cope with everyday stress, function adequately at work or in school, interact with others and enjoy life to the fullest.
Here are 7 basic steps to develop mental stability:
🔹1. Know your emotions, label and acknowledge them.
Having emotions is part of being human. They are like the indicator in our cars that make us know if we’re running out of fuel, need some oil or an overall servicing. Our emotions tell us what we are experiencing and how to respond. So no emotion is good or bad. It is OK to feel sad, angry, disgusted or worried. Avoiding negative feelings or pretending we don’t feel the way we do, will only make it more difficult to overcome them. Emotions are closely linked to your values and can tell you that one of your key values has been challenged. To increase your emotional awareness, try to identify the sensations they cause in your body (e.g. head ache, sweating palms, stomach upset etc.), identify the accompanying thoughts (e.g. “I want this feeling to go away”, “I can’t believe she spoke to me that way” etc.) and reflect on what the emotions might be telling you (e.g. in connection with values, or memory).
🔸2. Understand why you feel the way you do.
I am an advocate for journaling. If you do not have a journal, go and get one. It is a great tool in improving your self awareness in every area from emotions to physical health to career goals etc. Identify your triggers (actions or thoughts that provoked a certain emotion) and write them down. (e.g. whenever you are running on a deadline, you become more defensive, short-tempered etc.)
🔹3. Let your emotions out.
We have been experiencing emotions since we were babies and responded by facial expressions or with actions like laughing, cuddling, or crying. Then we couldn’t name it. Now that we can, we are able to respond even better but we would rather bottle it up or deny them. It’s Ok to cry or vent. You can also let your emotions out by writing in your journal, speaking to yourself in your closet, talking to a trusted friend or a professional.
🔸4. Know your control limits.
One other thing about being a human is that you have limits. There is only little you can do about certain things. Separate the things within your control from those outside your control. Focus your energy on the things you can control. Remember the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace…”
🔹5. Embrace a mentally healthy lifestyle.
It can be empowering to embrace positive lifestyle changes that can improve both our physical and mental well-being. Some of them include Practicing self-care (e.g prioritizing sleep and rest, spending time outdoors, socializing with friends etc); having a Positive mindset (treat yourself with kindness, patience and respect, and avoid self-sabotage!) Expressing gratitude, setting healthy boundaries, forgiving yourself and others; and eat healthy
🔸6. Build Mental Resilience.
Mental resilience is your ability to bounce back from adverse life events (e.g. the death of a loved one, loss of a job, abuse, hardships etc.). It is important to note that resilience isn’t necessarily a personality trait, it can be learnt! Resilience is a product of strength and flexibility. To develop it, focus on these 3 components: Connections, wellness and healthy thinking. Be intentional about building healthy relationships, they play a great role in restoring hope and our ability to bounce back; take good care of your body, focus instead on giving your body resources to manage stress, rather than seeking to eliminate the feeling of stress altogether; and have that mindset that things won’t always go as planned and be willing to accept change.
🔹7. Invest in a support system.
Prioritize your relationships and be there for others by joining community-based groups in church/mosque or where you live or volunteering. Choose your friends wisely by focusing on finding empathetic, trustworthy and compassionate individuals who validate your feelings and make you feel supported in the midst of difficulties. Also join support groups that will encourage you to stay mentally fit. (e.g. the TMH tribe)
Being mentally stable doesn’t mean that you never go through bad times or experience emotional problems, it all means you are better able to bounce back from adversity, trauma and stress.