More likely than not, there have been moments recently where you felt your resilience was being tested.
No manner of positive thinking can totally buffer us from the stressors of COVID — and to believe that unpleasant feelings must be avoided and happiness clung onto at all costs isn’t going to help our mental health anyway. That’s an understanding the most resilient people have learned. They know that the fears and anxieties brought on by COVID can’t be glossed over or eliminated entirely — but there are certain psychological tactics and behaviors that can help us better weather the storm mentally.
To help increase mental strength, psychotherapist and mental strength trainer Amy Morin teaches the “ABC Formula.”
Morin, author of the book “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do” and a lecturer at Northeastern University, says that “without adequate mental strength, life’s inevitable challenges will likely fill you with self-doubt and anxiety.”
“Staying strong in the midst of hardship requires you to manage your thoughts, feelings, and behavior,” Morin wrote in a piece for Inc. “Paying attention to all three areas will help you emerge from your struggles even stronger than before. To remember how to stay strong during life's toughest challenges, follow the ABC formula.”
The formula, per her words in Inc., goes like this.
1. Accepting reality.
“Acceptance doesn't mean agreement. Instead, it's about acknowledging what is happening from a realistic standpoint,” she wrote. “Digging in your heels and saying, ‘I shouldn't have to deal with this,’ only wastes your valuable time and energy… Accepting reality is about recognizing what's within your control. When you can't control the situation, focus on controlling yourself.”
2. Behaving productively.
As Amy indicated in Inc., unproductive behavior — like “complaining or throwing a pity party” — will “keep you stuck.”
“It's important to ask yourself, ‘What's one thing I can do right now to help myself?’” she said. “Whether productive behavior involves facing a fear, or doing something you really don't want to do, take action.”
3. Controlling upsetting thoughts.
As Morin put it, your mind can be “your best asset or your biggest enemy.” Controlling upsetting thoughts doesn’t mean all negative thoughts and anxieties will be banished from your brain waves completely. It’s about approaching those thoughts with detached objectivity, and not allowing them to spiral into self-limiting and deeply held beliefs.
“It's important to recognize when your inner monologue becomes overly pessimistic. Remember that just because you think something, doesn't make it true,” Morin wrote. “Talk to yourself like you'd talk to a trusted friend. When your thoughts become catastrophic or unhelpful, respond with a more realistic statement that confirms your ability to handle your struggles. You can even create a mantra that you repeat during tough times. Doing so can help you quiet the negative chatter that threatens to drag you down.”
All in all, Morin encourages people to work on building their mental strength before they’ve hit a total crisis point.
“There will be times when you're going to need all the mental strength you can muster,” she said. “It's important to make mental strength training a daily habit.”