The past two years have just been a lot haven’t they? Especially the last few months here in Australia. Lockdowns and restrictions. The rise of Omicron. Constant uncertainty. I don’t think many of us are having an easy time of it.
I don’t know about you, but if I never hear the word “unprecedented” again, it will be too soon.
As the challenges in the world have risen up in front of us, what we’ve seen is that the mental illness statistics are also rising. According to the world health organisation one in four people now have a clinically diagnosable mental illness such as anxiety or depression. In fact, depression is now considered a pandemic too, presenting as the leading cause of disability in the world.
As we get hit with tough times, it’s clear that many of us have not learnt (or been given) the tools to cope. I’ve had some undue stress of my own these past two years. And some of my most hardy mindfulness practices have been getting a workout!
I’d love to share some of these mindful tools for dealing with tough times with you. These are the evidence-based, tried and tested practices that I use to stay mentally strong through challenging times. I hope they help you too.
Life can throw us curve balls – and even boulders
Truth bomb? During the past couple of years, my life has been hard (like many of you I’m sure). I’ve been separated from the man I love, due to border restrictions. So, I’ve been missing him like crazy, and coping with the stress of everything while running two businesses, experiencing a very difficult health challenge, and trying to navigate a housing crisis in my town.
You might be going through similar stuff. If so, like me, your mental wellbeing has probably taken a bit of a beating.
There was a point where I found myself getting depleted and overwhelmed. I had to use everything I knew worked. To have faith in it, when I couldn’t quite see the light at the end of the tunnel yet.
Dealing with tough times effectively, means growing mental strength
Through all that struggle, and using different tools and practices, I was gifted with some new insights. And a new understanding of what mental strength really means. How we grow it, how we sustain it and how we use it to rise up to meet the hard moments of our lives with the best of who we are. I’ve also seen how growing mental strength can unlock the best in human nature. And how that can help us come together to solve the world’s most meaningful problems.
I have been making some big changes in my life. You might be ready for some too, and I’d love to take you along with me. I’m in the midst of developing some powerful new offerings to help you grow your mental strength. I can’t wait to share them with you soon.
In the meantime, here are a few practices I’ve been re-visiting. I highly recommend putting these in the toolbox for when you need them…
My top three mindfulness tools for dealing with tough stuff
1. Down-regulate the Nervous System to stay calm under pressure
When we are experiencing ongoing stress, the so-called ‘smart part’ of our brain (the frontal cortex) can get hijacked by our ‘fight or flight’ system so it goes offline. Unfortunately, that’s the part of the brain that’s great at thinking things through rationally, planning ahead and solving problems. That’s why you’ve probably noticed you become more reactive and are prone to make bad choices when under stress.
When we release stress, we bring that smart part of the brain back online. Then, we can think clearly and make wise choices again. By giving ourselves small regular breaks from the stress, we down-regulate the nervous system so that we also just feel better more times throughout the day.
We promote feelings of calm, happiness, and wellbeing. We also improve our ability to think clearly and problem-solve well. What’s more, we’re less likely to downward-spiral towards burn out or sickness, from chronic stress.
Here’s a simple but powerful way you can release stress throughout the day when you’re dealing with tough times.
Down-regulate with a moment of pause
Pause from what you are doing for one minute (you might like to put a timer on) and take some long slow deep breaths.
With the inhale you might like to say to yourself mentally “breathing in calm” and on the exhale “breathing out worries and stress.”
Even if you can’t remember what to say in the moment, just the breaths on their own are enough to soothe your nervous system.
2. The F.A.C.E. Challenges Method
When you’re experiencing a challenge or crisis in your life, and you feel that sense of overwhelm, struggle or stress kicking in, this method gives you an empowering, wise and grounded way to approach things. What’s even better about it, is that it has an easy acronym that can come to mind quickly when it all goes pear shaped.
F – Focus on what’s in your control
A – Accept what you cannot control
C- Come back to the present moment
E – Engage in action guided by your values.
3. Keep Your Mind Clear With ‘Office Hours’
When you’re facing stressful challenges, difficulties or have a big problem to overcome, it’s easy to tip into the unhelpful habits of rumination and worry. Allowing your mind to race with frantic thoughts ramps up feelings of distress. Using the ‘office hours’ practice can help you to learn to handle things with more calm and clarity. With office hours you can dedicate a specified time to constructive problem solving around your issue. Then, for the rest of the day you can de-stress and let it all go.
This week’s invitation
I know first-hand how hard it can be when you’re ‘in it’ to do this, but I hand on heart know that it works. If you can, I encourage you to take some time this week, and experiment with implementing these tools in your own life. It’s all about handling our challenges effectively. Tapping into inner strength and allowing ourselves to find some peace of mind in the middle of it all.
I hope you find this helpful, and I really can’t wait to share the new things that are brewing here at Mrs Mindfulness HQ!
Would you like a copy of these techniques in full? Download the PDF below, that way, you can pin them up and refer to them when you need them. ❤️Melli’s Mindful Tools for Tough Times