A Personal Reflection. 3 Tips To Start Your Mental Strength Toolbox.
Updated: Apr 11
I’m all over the shop this week readers. More than once I have thought about stepping away from this week’s blog. I thought about the image of Start to Thrive, I thought about marketing, I thought about “being present”, being consistent, and showing up. I thought about how helpful I could be to any one of you this week, and my little voices told me perhaps you would all do better without me this week.
Well, here I am, and whether this piece of writing will help anyone is none of my business (tip: such a freeing perspective to play with).
The argument that won the day in my head was centred in values. I have values around honesty, fairness and nurturing, amongst others (more about values and why they matter here). And I deduced that me not wanting to show up was about a desire to hide. A desire to outwardly show that I am peachy and perpetually strong and sorted, in order that you will have continued faith in me. And that desire is in opposition to my values. It’s not honest, it is unfair on me and you, and it does not enable me to nurture; because I can only do that when I share what is true and real.
Clear is kind. Brené Brown.
I reminded myself that one of the most helpful and powerful things I have learned in my journey is that none of us are alone and to have that message believed, we must share some of ourselves.
Things are hard at the moment for me and the family – mom isn’t well, she is really struggling with side effects from her cancer drugs, and she is only a few days into her treatment programme. It’s so very hard to witness her and my dad living through this, and the rest of us feel pretty useless. Yet, we have hope that the treatment will help her, and that she and dad will regain some independence and be able to get back out to those garden centres for coffees and cake for a while longer.
How do we fit our pain into our daily lives? We can’t just stop our life, our responsibilities. We all have pain. And there is no competition in pain or grief. Nobody gets to say my experience is worse than yours, or vice versa. No-one’s pain is more painful that anyone else’s. If there is only one takeaway from this, let it be that.
There is no competition in pain or grief.
I am aware that I have been hard on myself recently for my lack of motivation, lack of effort, lack of doing. I have heard myself argue that young businesses need constant feeding, that coasting will end in failure. What is needed is more. Harder. Faster. It is taking real effort to apply self-compassion, real kindness. I have been summoning my inner leader and she has been a core of strength to be able to show up and function. And in the interest of being real with you – it is not easy. The inner judgement is bubbling close to the surface much of the time. We can say words of comfort and encouragement in our heads and still feel that cynical part that whispers “I don’t really believe that” simultaneously.
How can we deal with that?
I think persistence. There is the knowing part in us all – we can practice tuning into this. We may call it intuition, gut feeling, experience … it’s deep and it overrides our mind, even if our mind seems to be offering logic and rationale. Our knowing part knows. Listening to this part of me is a continuing practice- we don’t just one day master it – it is a practice.
My knowing part is currently being very logical too (thank goodness!). Advising me to do what I can. To prioritise based on her information, not my head’s. To know that the day to day will always be there to dial back up when there is space. That right now, being in the car on the motorway, cooking pie after pie after pie, cuddling my parents’ cats who are bemused, hugging my parents and running the vacuum round, is not a day off, it is work of a different kind. And I am extremely privileged to be able to do it. And it is allowed to also feel crap.
Do you remember I have spoken about our toolboxes? I have been rummaging in mine a lot! It’s that collection of strategies that we can dip into when things get tough. Building that kit when the waters are smooth is much easier than trying to do it when the stormy seas are upon us. But even if you are in choppy waters – you can still start it.
3 tips to start your mental strength toolbox:
Find your physical. Identify one physical activity that you can manage, preferably one you enjoy rather than endure. Walking, yoga, running, dancing, gardening… it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you are moving. Build it into a non-negotiable part of your week. I haven’t found anything better for the mind.
Compassion. Different from self-care – although not knocking the bubble bath I promise! This is about how we speak to and treat ourselves. This is going to be so personal to you. How I do it is by tuning into how I am experiencing the difficult emotion – often that part of me feels childlike, so it is normally the case that she needs comfort and reassurance. I picture me holding her hand – a grown up (me!) holding a child’s hand (mine!). That’s taken a lot of practice – but is very powerful. Reflect on what imagery could work for you, or if images don’t come naturally try writing a few words that are meaningful for you and repeat them to yourself out loud or silently every day.
Connection. Often one of the first things to go in times of trouble. Friends and colleagues make offers of support and help and what do we do? We say we are fine and withdraw. Use your last ounce of energy to push back on this urge. Reach out. Talk. Humans are community beings; we cannot survive alone. This is the one I really have to work at the most. I know that I withdraw. I saw it happening this week – and I fought it hard – I have a call later with Jenn, friend, colleague, collaborator. I know that just connecting with her will be a huge boost.
I will end on a fourth tip actually – what I have been doing right here, right now. Writing it down. Now publishing your thoughts may not be your jam, and even if it were, I would caution you on broadcasting your innermost workings to all and sundry. But, when we write purely for ourselves, call it journalling or doodling or something in between, we are able to be completely free and honest because it is for our eyes only. The process of removing something from your head – writing, speaking out loud is a relief – a release.
Tune into that knowing part, as I am, the part that has certainty of our strength and resilience.
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