Psychologist Gemma Leigh Roberts offers some great ways to lift our mental stamina.
2020 was a whirlwind of a year, let’s face it, we wouldn’t want to do it again. However, 2021 is posing the same challenges, globally, financially and personally. At times it feels like the world has turned upside down, and we need to find the psychological resources to solve problems in double quick time, all whilst dealing with new challenges.
2020 may have been the year that shocked us all, but 2021 will be the year we really need to dig deep and use our psychological stamina to boost health, happiness and performance.
Here are five tips to help you navigate the challenges.
Tip 1: Build resilience
One of the most powerful psychological tools you have to deal with during change is your resilience. Research tells us psychological resilience helps us to overcome adversity, and not only ‘bounce back’ from challenges, but actually bounce forward and use experiences to learn and grow, making you stronger in the future.
Focusing on your resilience should be a long-term strategy – the challenges you face, the better you’ll be at navigating obstacles in the future. So challenges today help you to thrive in the future.
Practise gratitude, which is a technique that helps to move your focus from only noticing what isn’t going so well in life, towards directing your attention to some of the positive parts of your life.
Those with a growth mindset believe there is always more to learn to enhance knowledge, skills and performance – no matter how much of an expert you already are
Tip 2: Prioritise your wellbeing
Now more than ever wellbeing needs to be top of the agenda for all of us. We’ve all experienced change, challenges and uncertainty in 2020, which over a period of months and years can negatively affect our wellbeing.
When it comes to focusing on wellbeing, choose the area that is most important to you right now and make this area of wellbeing a priority every day – even if you only have 10 mins to spare.
For example, for psychological wellbeing you could practice meditation or mindfulness. If you want to focus on physical wellbeing, exercise and movement outdoors in nature could be a priority. If financial wellbeing is important to you, start using a budgeting app to help you manage finances.
If social wellbeing is top of your agenda this year, set aside specific time to keep connected with family and friends.
Tip 3: Foster mental agility
If 2021 has taught us anything, it’s how to be adaptable, flex our problem-solving muscles and become more open-minded to different ways of doing things. Although this may have been a painful process at times, you’ve probably found yourself being more agile in how you think and respond to events in the last ten months.
This is a skill that will help you to view problems as puzzles and find opportunities in obstacles as you move into 2021.
Nurture the problem-solving skills you’ve had to sharpen over the last ten months. When you face an obstacle, challenge yourself to see the problem from different perspectives. Ask yourself: What am I missing? What else could be true about this situation? What assumptions have I made? What are all the possible ways I could solve this problem? How would other people tackle this?
Although initially you may have an idea of how you’ll react to a problem, taking some time to think through alternative possible responses will help you to explore different problem-solving approaches.
Tip 4: Develop a growth mindset
2020 was a huge learning curve for many of us. Developing a growth mindset helps to frame all events as learning opportunities, and those with a growth mindset believe there is always more to learn to enhance knowledge, skills and performance – no matter how much of an expert you already are.
Take some time to reflect on 2020. Ask yourself: What do I want to leave behind in 2020? What would I like to take into 2021? Although some experiences may have been hard – such as job uncertainty, health concerns, managing home working and home schooling – there may have been some positives to emerge from the situation – such as more time with your family.
Think about how you can maintain some of the unexpected positive outcomes in 2020. Also reflect on situations that may have taught you a lot, but you’d like to experience less in 2021.
Tip 5: set value driven goals
In 2020 many of us became more conscious of what’s important to us. We experienced global events that changed the world, and for many that has promoted thoughts about what we want from life, what truly matters, and what we value most.
Moving into 2021, use what you have learned about yourself and how you want to live your life to set goals that align with your values. This approach will put a positive spin on some of the challenges you faced in 2020, framing them as learning experiences. Working towards value-based goals also boosts happiness, wellbeing and performance.
Take some time to write down what you’re aiming to achieve in 2021 in all areas of your life (such as career, parenting, relationships, social life etc). Next jot down why this goal is important to you and commit to making your goals fit with what your values. Finally map out the steps you’ll take to achieve your goals in 2021.
There is no doubt 2021 will bring twists and turns as well as hardship, but by applying these five strategies, along with optimism and effort, you can nurture a mindset that will help you to thrive.
About the author
Gemma Leigh Roberts is an organisational psychologist and founder of The Resilience Edge
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