How To Be Mentally Strong When Life Gets Difficult

One thing that should not be a surprise to us is that we will have events happen in our lives or go through experiences we didn’t predict, want or expected.

Our ability to cope with life is tested when we go through difficult times. It is during difficult times that we experience the most pain, but they can also spur us on to better things in life.

We can always get a sense of a person’s character when they are going through difficult times. Those who cannot cope well often tend to:

  • Blame others or external events for their situations.
  • Look for shortcuts or quick fixes instead of getting to the heart of their problems.
  • Get into a mental state that results in stress, overwhelm or even, depression.

Those who do cope well tend to:

  • Rise up and meet their challenges head-on.
  • Become mentally stronger as a result of their experiences.
  • Go to another level of performance and achievement by having major breakthroughs.

How we cope when life gets difficult is directly related to how mentally strong we are.

I remember when I graduated from university, it took me over six months to find a job related to what I had studied, which was engineering. As I was still in my early twenties, I didn’t cope very well because I hadn’t developed any mental strength. It was a challenging period for me. I found myself not taking care of myself physically, mentally or emotionally. The longer I went without a job, the more frustrated I became, and the more I blamed external circumstances.

Reflecting back on that now, had I been mentally strong at that time, I could have used that time to do more productive and beneficial things, like doing volunteer work or developing new skills. Once I started working, my attitude and mindset slowly started changing, which in turn, helped me take better care of myself physically, mentally and emotionally.

Becoming mentally strong is like developing a new skill — it will take time and constant focus. The more things we go through and with life experience, we will become stronger mentally if we give attention to certain things. Here are five ways we can become mentally stronger so that we can use our difficult experiences in life to go to another level of awareness and achievement.

  1. Ask for help. This can be a difficult thing for a lot of people as they tend to try and solve their problems themselves. Oftentimes, getting another perspective is extremely valuable. There may be situations where it will be better for us to seek professional help such as speaking to a counsellor or therapist. For most of us, having a trusted advisor, mentor or a coach to reach out to is a good starting point during difficult times.
  2. Stop, pause and do some introspection. Self-awareness is developed through reflection and introspection. Whenever we go through challenging times, a valuable practice is to give ourselves time to reflect on what has happened, but then shift our focus to what we want. When we reflect on what has happened, our objective should always be to learn something from every experience so that we can be better prepared to deal with anything similar in the future.
  3. Focus on what matters most. It is very easy to get caught up with things that do not matter in the long run, which can result in unnecessary mental anguish. What is more valuable is to have clear priorities and goals in life, which should help us refocus quickly when we go through unexpected events. What we focus on is what creates our reality in our lives.
  4. Re-evaluate and simplify your life. Sometimes our challenges are an invitation to look at what we are doing and what we can improve in our lives. Getting rid of things or commitments that are no longer important are ways we can simplify our lives. Other things can include doing things differently or better, and recommitting to our highest priorities.
  5. Find something beyond your problems. It is often said that a breakthrough often happens just after a breakdown. When life gets difficult, we can take that as a sign that there is something bigger and better we need to give our attention to. This may include finding a new circle of like-minded people or focusing on providing service to those less fortunate than us.

Our problems have come into our lives for various reasons. It is our responsibility to find out what they are and then learn from those experiences so that we can improve the quality of our lives. If we make this a regular practice, we will develop greater mental strength and be able to cope a lot better when we go through difficult times.

Action Step: Reflect on the last major challenging period you went through in life. Take some time and journal on what you learnt from that experience and how you will deal with similar experiences in the future.

Question: What is something else we can do to be mentally strong during difficult times in life?

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