The coronavirus pandemic has caused an increase in mental health problems around the world. This has been caused by weeks of social isolation, distancing, and fear of contracting the virus. In Italy, doctors had to ensure new patients that they will be well-treated to ensure recovery. Most patients were engulfed in fear of death and anxiety. Before the pandemic, we were all interested in building muscular strength in the gym. We were also keen on building stamina and a good diet to maintain a good body and physical health. Nobody was really interested in developing mental strength in the midst of situational stress or crisis. We were often told to “get over things” by friends and even family. But how do we get over things without learning how to develop mental strength and resilience?
We are unaware of our beliefs
To develop mental strength and resilience, we have to question our beliefs. We all have deep-seated beliefs, which do not show up at the conscious level of our minds. If it is easily known by our conscious mind, we would have saved ourselves from much misery, anxiety, and embarrassment. For example, we all know consciously that things change. No matter how bad situations and relationships can get, it would eventually get better. If not, at least it would move from negative to neutral. But it is not in our collective belief (in our subconscious) that change is natural. We can see how often we blame ourselves, others, or spiral into depression when a change in life occurs, which we dislike.
Losses cause fear
It could take months to meditate and experience a calm mind. Then it could take years to believe we have conquered reactive emotions, only to crumble under when some event takes place. We are most emotional in the face of loss – losing a loved one to death, losing a job or a friend. Or learning we have contracted a serious illness. These events bring on fear and an uncontrolled fight or flight or freeze response in our bodies.
Resistance to change obstructs mental development
Developing mental strength and resilience is to let go of beliefs – such as life has to be fair and we should be rewarded for good works. Our world is what we make of it. When we change the world, we are essentially changing ourselves – our perspectives, rather than others’. Changing our perspectives is to accept we are uncomfortable with emotions. Only when we accept our negative emotions, are we able to work with them. There is no such thing as overcoming emotions we dislike. Overcoming means to deny it or to run away from it. The biggest obstacle to face uncomfortable emotions is our habit to distract ourselves and resist change.
Stay in the present
The way to develop mental strength is to stay present with whatever emotions we are faced with. It would be helpful to stay with uncomfortable emotions when it first arises. Most of the time, we are too deep into these emotions that it becomes hard to make a change. But it is still not lost. Staying present with our emotions is to remember to stay presently aware of our bodies. When you become aware of uncomfortable emotions, it would be best to pause interacting with anyone or to make a decision. Rather, wait a day or two, and to bring your attention to your breath. The meaning of mindfulness is not to be pulled into the past and future by your thoughts and emotions, but to stay in the present and to be aware of your body, thoughts, and emotions.