A few years back, I faced a health scare that forced me to take a different look at how to get through challenges and setbacks.
I was on a treadmill for my annual physical and the attending physician suddenly shouted for me to stop—immediately. He said the test was showing I had ischemia, a condition wherein the heart does not get enough oxygen and stops beating, resulting in instant death.
The FBI sent me to a heart specialist and prohibited me from participating in firearms or any activity that involved physical exertion. The ischemia scare was a life-changing event for me; it’s the primary reason healthy athletes drop dead.
I suffered a long period of high-magnitude stress. In the months that followed, it was determined that my heart gulps for oxygen, corrects itself, and recovers quickly. While my physical condition was eventually diagnosed as excellent, I had suffered my first health crisis.
A challenge is amplified when we don’t see it coming, when we don’t have any control over it, and when it’s something we’ve never had to deal with before.
I had to change the way I looked at how to get through challenges, so I turned to research conducted by the U.S. Army on Post Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD). We all deal with stress, trauma, and crises in different ways.
When faced with a traumatic event, most people react with symptoms of depression and anxiety, but within a month or so are physically and psychologically back to where they were before the trauma. They accept responsibility for their actions, forget about blaming others, and move. That is resilience.
The study found that some have a tougher time and may need counseling and medication to get through. There are a few individuals, however, who actually have post-traumatic growth. They, too, first experience depression and anxiety, but within a year they are actually better off than they were before the trauma, crisis, or challenge.
These were the people I needed to learn from, and so do you if you’re in leadership, a business owner, or an entrepreneur because you’ve also faced your share of challenges. If you have mental toughness, you will learn from your experiences so you are stronger than when you started.
Mental toughness is managing our emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that set us up for success.
Here are 3 tips on how you can use mental toughness to help get through challenges:
1. THINK ABOUT YOUR CHALLENGE DIFFERENTLY
Soldiers who experienced a crisis or trauma were able to reframe the trauma in such a way that they could extract meaning from it.
Although they are able to reinterpret their situation, it is not blind optimism or disingenuous positive thinking that creates the change. The suffering is real; the difference is that they use positivity as a mental framework for turning their suffering into achievement and self-improvement.
ACTION: Post-traumatic growth does not mean you will be free of the memories or grief. If you try to put your life back together and pretend that nothing has happened, you’ll remain fractured and vulnerable. But if you accept the breakage, you can cultivate growth within yourself, become more resilient, and open to new ways of living.
2. USE DIFFERENT LANGUAGE WHEN TALKING ABOUT YOUR CHALLENGE
Mental toughness in the face of crisis and trauma is not simply about coping; it is intentionally choosing to change the way your see yourself and the challenge you are experiencing. It is not choosing to be a victim.
It is estimated that we say between 300 to 1000 words to ourselves per minute. If we speak positively to ourselves, we can over ride fear, worry, and anxiety when faced with adversity or trauma. Emotions are processed by the limbic brain system.
Brain imaging has shown that negative emotions interfere with the brain’s ability to solve problems and other cognitive functions.
ACTION: Since the brain responds so powerfully to negative emotions, you must intentionally choose positive thoughts to interrupt the brain’s tendency toward negativity.
3. DEVELOPING DEEPER RELATIONSHIPS HELPS TO GET THROUGH CHALLENGES
People who experience post traumatic growth are able to do so only when they deepen their relationships with others. Their depth and appreciation for those relationships is extraordinary.
Soldier Fitness programs have identified these key areas as essential for resilience and post traumatic growth:
- Re-connecting with families, relatives, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Positive growth from trauma is nurtured by supportive relationships.
- Volunteering, in whatever capacity, to ease the pain and suffering of the general population. The benefit we receive when helping others is as great as the feelings of wellbeing from those we help.
- Asking help from other people when everything seems insurmountable. This is the time to let go of individualistic attitude in favor of collective efforts.
- Turning to one’s faith as a source of solace and comfort. Numerous studies have discovered that religious and spiritual activities can moderate depression and stress.
ACTION: You are stronger than you think you are. Remember to focus on how to change your emotions, thoughts, and behavior to get through challenges and setbacks.
Consider the words of Warren Buffett in a recent Wall Street Journal article: “The truth is, everything that has happened in my life… that I thought was a crushing event at the time, has turned out for the better.“
How do get through challenges in your life?
© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.
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