Strength makes us feel more capable of taking on challenges, whether they’re illnesses, personal or financial hardships, challenging business meetings, or an intense fitness regimen. As an MD with a focus on stress management, I have spent more than 25 years observing, learning, integrating and informing patients and clients on how to become strong, inside and out.
The sense of capability and victory I’m talking about is more than the belief that you came out on top. It’s a conviction that you’ve learned, grown, and become much stronger because of the trials and tribulations you've been through — that you’re powerful in mind, body, and spirit.
Anyone can harness this power. Here’s how.
1. Uncover your values, virtues, and victories.
Most people get stuck in the stress and negativity of difficult situations. We forget to reflect on the fact that we got through it. So, think about a situation that was difficult, stressful, or even traumatic. Write about it. Uncover what values you gained from it, what virtues you upheld through it, and in what way you are stronger as a result of it.
2. Find your center.
Quiet down your stress response by developing a meditation practice. Try these breathing exercises to get started.
Breathe in and count 1-2-3.
Breathe out and count 1-2-3-4-5.
Do this repeatedly while emptying the thoughts in your mind and the stress in your body.
3. Shift your mindset.
Negative thoughts and emotions trigger the stress response and cause you to lose your center. Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. When you find yourself moving into the negative, stop. Empty your mind using the breathing exercises above, then redirect your focus to a positive memory — one where you felt happy, loved, connected, powerful. Hold the image until you find your mind and body feeling happier, clearer, more positive.
Think about how you feel when you’re fully rested versus when you’re sleep-deprived. When you are sleep deprived, even simple challenges seem difficult. Sleep replenishes your mental and physical resources, so you can handle whatever comes at you. If you can’t sleep at least 7-8 hours at night, accumulate these hours with naps. Meditation also helps. If you always awaken unrested, check with your doctor as you made need a sleep study to rule out sleep apnea.
Food is not for reward or punishment, but fuel. Don’t focus on the scale. Focus on your level of energy. Eating well helps you handle challenges better. Refined sugar, processed foods, white flour products, and even cow dairy will raise inflammation and zap you of energy. Stick to grass-fed meat, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, vegetables and some fruits, and your body will begin to thrive rather than dive.
6. Make some muscles.
Your muscles were meant to lift heavy objects over long distances. Most of us sit all day at desks or in the car. If your body feels weak, your mind will be weak, which can make you feel powerless. Get into the habit of walking or taking the stairs any chance you can get. Do weight training two to three times a week and slowly increase your aerobic activity, getting your heart rate up at least three times a week.
7. Open your heart.
Feeling alone, unsupported and unloved makes challenges feel impossible. When you find yourself feeling stressed and overwhelmed, do your power breaths and focus on your heart. Imagine that as you breathe in, you are breathing in light and love. Repeat these words silently or out loud to yourself: “I am enough. I have enough. I have all that I need. Come what may, I have all that I need.”
8. Pay it forward.
A surefire way to move into a positive mindset and open your heart is by helping someone else. Perform a random act of kindness, take some time out of your day to teach someone something, or volunteer at a charitable organization.