Ups. Downs. Highs & Lows. These seem like feelings we are more accustomed to now, but we would experience these at different levels, even before the global pandemic. And just like before the pandemic, it is always important to know how to build resilience and maintain our mental tolerance.
Building up your tolerance to help you manage the pressures of stress is known as building resilience. All of us experience a certain amount of pressure in our day-to-day lives, and often the causes of this are out of our control. On some days, coping with these pressures may seem easy. But on others, they may begin to build up and leave you feeling stressed out.
There are many ways to build your resilience, and some may be easier than you think. These can include:
Exercise for you and your mental health.
With exercise, we tend to focus on the fitness benefits. Whether there's a new PB we are trying to smash, or increasing our strength and power, the focus of exercise is to improve our cardiovascular fitness or muscular strength. And although these are great targets to set for ourselves, there are so many more facets to exercise which help to improve our general health. Exercise releases endorphins which are our "feel good" hormones. They help to relieve feelings of pain and stress, and bring about feelings of euphoria. Great for if we've had a stressful or challenging day. Also, if you take part in team sports, it increases your capability for working better in a team and problem solving, enabling you to approach a situation from many different angles, helping you to keep stress levels down when confronted with a challenging scenario.
Food for Thought
The importance of a balanced diet can't be overstated, and although it's something we all know we should do, in our busy lifestyles, it's something we often neglect in favour for more convenient options. However, we all have experienced (at least we hope!) that prolonged period in where we've been completely on top of our diets, and felt great for it. Although it may sound obvious, this is because the healthier options tend to have more things in them to keep our bodies in tip top shape, whether it's more fibre for healthier digestion, more antioxidants have a ton of benefits for our physical and mental health (which you read more about on our antioxidant blog post), or just generally giving us more energy so that we can tackle the day. You also may not be getting enough iron, vitamin D or other essential vitamins in your diet, causing constant fatigue. Increasing your intake of these can help us feel miles better, and the better we feel, the more resilient we are to the external stressors in our lives.
Don't Get Up on the Wrong Side of the Bed
We've all experienced it... a poor nights sleep. From there the day just seems to drag and everything bothers us, even the little things. We tend to need 6-8 hours a night to feel fully refreshed and ready to take on the day, and if we don't get this our mental health suffers, and what we would normally be able to handle becomes a nightmare. Sleep allows our bodies to recover from many things, especially our minds. We go into much more depth on how to get a good nights sleep on our sleep blog post.
Stimulants Help in the Short Term, But Are a Problem Long Term
Caffeine, Alcohol, Sugar. All of these may make us feel like we're are ready to tackle anything. The boost in energy can make us ponder how we ever survived without them. However, in large quantities, these can all have detrimental effects on our ability to build and remain resilient. Caffeine and sugar give us a very quick boost of energy when we eat/drink them, but what comes after is the inevitable crash, where our bodies feel lethargic. What's more, we crave that boost again, so we tend to get into a cycle in which we constantly have them to keep our energy levels up. High levels tend to affect our sleep and in the long term, hinder our performance and make us a lot less resilient. Alcohol in large quantities has been found to increase feelings of anxiety and depression, which again have detrimental effects on our mental health. So instead of stimulants, try natural foods, high in vitamins and minerals, or even our nutrition shakes. In the long term, these will help us to feel much better without the negative effects which come from excessive stimulant consumption.
Practice Assertiveness and Learning to Say "No"
Assertiveness is often viewed as being "difficult" or "rude", but it is an essential skill in maintaining resilience and protecting your mental health. When we take on too much, whether it's at work or personally, we often feel overwhelmed. This can often lead to something being done incorrectly, and in an effort to please everyone, you end up disappointing them and your mental health suffers in the process. Saying "no", being clear about what you can and what you can't do, is not only important for your mental health, but it allows you to set an expectation for those around you, taking the pressure off of yourself. Don't get us wrong, it's good to want to excel in any task that you do, but sometimes, saying "no" is just as important.
It's OK to ask for help
For some reason, we sometimes equate asking for help with weakness. That somehow, this means that we aren't good enough and it is admitting defeat. But it is this very thinking that often hurts us in the long run. Similarly to the above, it means that we often take on more than we should and it has detrimental effects on our mental health. In order to stay resilient, and protect your mental health, asking for help is a very useful way to ease some of that pressure. Whether it's from a manager, friends, family, a therapist, or even an online forum, create a support system that you can rely on and lean on when you need it most.
These can be implemented into our daily routines without too much disruption. But some of us may feel that we already practice these techniques, so how do we build more resilience? Mindfulness is another step in the right direction to help manage those feelings. Mindfulness is about being aware of the present moment, yourself and your surroundings. Practising it regularly can give your wellbeing a big boost. But if we’ve not practised it before, then mindfulness can be quite intimidating for fear of not doing it right. However, it can be easier than you think. Try to follow Bupa's mindfulness calendar, which includes trying things like acts of kindness, watching a relaxing film, or using guided meditation.
Guided meditation is very useful for beginners who have no experience in meditation to get themselves into a good routine with it. Podcasts are a great tool for being able to practise mindfulness in your own time at home.
At BOXD, we are made up of a team of Sports Scientists, Registered Nutritionists. We want to make sure that we’re not just putting up the pseudo-science you’d see on other sites. If any of our staff put anything on our blog that relates to your health, you can bet that it is backed by evidence-based science! It always will be. That’s our commitment to you.