Mental Resilience: Three Ways to Strengthen Your Mind

A resilient mindset is an integral part of healthy living, and building that resilience is accepting that change happens and learning to manage it positively. Because life throws us curveballs and how we respond and persevere makes up the fabric of our mental resilience. 

So what are some ways to build mental resiliency? Below are three approaches that address the physical and psychological needs of the human brain to build mental strength. 

Find the good in stress

Woman working out by building mental resilience

We can find the good in stress through inoculation by exposing ourselves to mild stressors in a controlled setting so we can help the body deal with stress hormones more positively. 

One of the more common methods is physical exercise, which can trigger the sympathetic nervous system to release low levels of the stress hormone cortisol and boost mood with the release of feel-good endorphins.

Another tactic for building mental resiliency is engaging in public speaking. Recent statistics show that more than 73% of us profess a fear of speaking in front of others, a condition known as glossophobia. It’s more prevalent than the other top fears: death, heights, and spiders. 

Researchers associate this inordinate fear of public speaking to a fear of societal rejection, which would be a death knell for the survival of primitive man. 

When speaking in front of others, the anxiety we experience initiates the body’s fight-or-flight response: sweaty palms, increased heart rate, dry mouth, and a loss of the advanced brain function we need to remember talking points. 

Practicing the retention of higher brain function while in a stressed state helps us overcome the physical fear response, inoculating the body and brain and providing a sense of accomplishment when we succeed and learn this new skill.

Visualize your success 

Man public speaking by building mental resilience

Even in the face of what feels like paralyzing anxiety, people who engage in public speaking and other skills that require higher brain function report almost universally that visualization is the key to mental resiliency. 

While we fear the unknown, if we visualize ourselves overcoming fear and anxiety and meeting a goal, we take away the element of unknown outcomes. We know we can prevail because we’ve seen the proof in our own visualizations.

Using visualization can help build resiliency by essentially “flipping the switch” to turn off anxiety and fear of the unknown. So, if you envision your own success during a stressful situation such as public speaking, social situations, or meeting a deadline, you can shut down the uncontrolled response and set yourself up for success.

Nourish your mind and body 

Eating well and hydration help support the brain’s physical structure and reduce stress through hormone regulation. 

A candy bar might not be the best fuel option when you’re “hangry,” but a handful of walnuts, lean protein, or other mood-boosting food could do the trick to pull you out of an afternoon slump.

Water is also essential for optimal brain function. The human body requires 0.5-1 ounce of water per pound of body weight daily to avoid dehydration. Even mild dehydration can affect our ability to understand and problem-solve and can lead to irritability.

Woman sitting peacefully because of strong mental health

Learning how to mentally bounce back from things that we can’t control and succeed in situations that cause anxiety is the process of building mental resilience. Stress isn’t always negative. In fact, we can harness the body’s physical flight-or-fight response to improve our own mental acuity and physical performance if we don’t allow fear to freeze us into inaction. 

Responding to stressful situations with the intention to build our own mental resiliency is the best way to ensure that everyday stressors and life’s hurdles won’t get the best of us. The task ahead might not be easy, but whatever it is, we’ll face it knowing that we can overcome and emerge more resilient than ever.

Anschutz Health and Wellness Center