Mental Health: Psychological resilience: Maintaining mental wellbeing in tough times

Maintaining mental wellbeing in tough times

Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a meaningful contribution to their community.

Mental health is a critical component of individual, family, community and national wellbeing and prosperity.

Stress from the challenges of life, from setbacks, disappointments and failures can put our mental health at risk.

It is often not possible to avoid all stress in life, therefore, it is critical to develop mental resilience to be able to cope, adapt and recover form challenges and preserve our mental wellbeing.

What is psychological resilience and how does it help preserve mental wellbeing?

The word ‘resilience’ comes from the Latin word ‘resilire’ which means ‘to leap back’.

Resilience has been described as the ability to adapt, cope with significant life challenges.

Mental resilience is an ability to sustain psychological stability when faced with stress.

Resilience is influenced by biological factors such as the state of our physical health; psychological factors such as our personality or temperament, the way we perceive life’s challenges and our emotional response to challenges; social factors such as presence of social support, socioeconomic resources and sociocultural norms that support resilience; spiritual factors such as a sense of purpose and meaning in life, as well as a sense of hope.

Studies have shown that resilience has been shown to lower severity of symptoms in depression and anxiety, and can mitigate against the effects of trauma. Resilience can also help us during periods of grief and loss.

How can I build my mental resilience?

  1. Emotional awareness: part of being resilient is being able to recognise one’s own emotions and managing them appropriately. Emotional awareness requires us to develop our emotional literacy and to be emotionally vulnerable enough to share our challenges with others. Emotions should not be bottled up and developing healthy ways to express these emotions can preserve our mental wellbeing.
  2. Managing self-talk: the person one talks to the most in life is oneself, it is critical to manage our thoughts and self-talk to be able to build mental resilience. Managing self- talk will help one learn to be at peace with oneself, this is a vital step to psychological resilience and mental wellbeing.
  3. Learning to self soothe: when under stress, or when we are upset or frustrated, we often tend to want others to make us feel better. Learning to regulate our own emotions and soothe ourselves can help in building mental resilience.
  4. Maintaining a positive perspective to life: how we choose to see life and its challenges is a critical part of developing mental wellbeing. The glass can be half empty or half full depending on how one chooses to see it.
  5. Developing a problem solving approach to life: the ability to solve problems and navigate challenges, re-strategise when hit by a crisis and to look for solutions in the face of a crisis is vital to building mental resilience. Life will break us if we are mentally inflexible and think that things must only turn out the way we planned them initially
  6. Building relationships and social support structures: Mental wellbeing is also about being at peace with ourselves and with others in as much as it depends on us.

Strained relationships can erode our psychological resilience. Building resilience is partly dependent on building relationships with people around us, with our family, our friends and colleagues. The strength of those relationships will sustain us in crisis situations.

  1. Physical self-care: Physical exercise and good nutrition are basis of good physical health which is a critical part of psychological resilience. Adequate sleep and rest are also key components in building mental resilience.
  2. Focus on what you can control: There are many things in life we cannot control but there are many things well within our control.

As we build mental resilience we need to focus our energy on changing what is within our control and accepting what we cannot.

Building community psychological resilience

As communities we can promote mental resilience though:

— Improved awareness about mental wellbeing in communities, schools and workplaces.

— Facilitate training on mental resilience, emotion regulation and problem solving to help promote mental wellbeing

— Address social factors that influence our ability to maintain mental resilience and mental wellbeing. Promote community bonding, social network strengthening and family strengthening as part of promoting mental health wellbeing.

— Ensure access to affordable, quality mental health services to those needing them through a decentralised, integrated mental health system to promote early identification of mental health problems and timely care.

If you think that you or someone you know may be struggling with a mental health problem, please contact your nearest health care provider and get help.

* Dr. Chido Rwafa-Madzvamutse is a consultant psychiatrist. Feedback:  Whatsapp: +263714987729

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