Mental Strength (Part 2)

Written By: Heather
Heather Kempton Coquitlam Couples Counsellor

Purposeful determination comes from applying our energy toward a positive, meaningful direction. When life events lead to destructive behaviour, desperation and self-pity consume our energy and we become drained, causing our bodies to begin to shut down. It is in choosing to see a positive perspective that we can transform our self-defeating energy into persistence and effectiveness. It becomes by establishing trust and confidence within that we can apply our new found energy toward a positive purpose. To maintain a healthy determination, we simply must be aware of what is driving us and why we are moving towards that goal. For as powerful as our determination can be, it is nothing more than a concept in our mind and a feeling in our body. Therefore, it is essential in bringing awareness to our energy and the direction in which we are going in order to avoid burnout and make valuable improvements to our lifestyle.

Purposeful Determination without Burnout

Some things come naturally and we experience success with little discomfort. When discomfort and fear sets in, it is at this time we need to decide if we are happy where we are at or do we want to accomplish more. What places exceptional athletes and people who are happy in life apart from those who are not are their insatiable desire and internalized motivation to succeed, as well as their ability and willingness to give their 100%. The key component here is not to compare our self to others or to place a measure on our self worth, but to find within our self what our 100% effort is before risking burnout. It is far too often that I see people comparing themselves to others ultimately impacting their feelings of self-love and acceptance. It is natural to seek external reinforcement through praise, however, by keeping our self in comfortable environments in order to avoid pursuing our dream is creating barriers to our happiness. It is at this point that we need to build our mental strength through developing internal reinforcements through our own self-talk and beliefs (see suggested exercise). For example, a new athlete coming into a busy gym with a number of competitive athletes can feel intimidating increasing thoughts of “I don’t belong here”, and “I will never be able to do that”. Self-defeating thoughts like these ultimately impact our level of motivation and determination to push our self in uncomfortable environments as well as, in uncomfortable life situations.

Therefore, with increased self-awareness and mental strength comes a vast knowledge of knowing how far to push our bodies in competition and in life in general. With great results comes hard work, dedication and sacrifice, however, on the flip side, it is also essential to be aware of our red zone. This is to be thought of in how our drive to succeed impacts our mind, body, and relationships with others. Do you ever feel like there are too many things to accomplish in a day and you do not know where to begin? Do you attach your ability to get things done to your sense of self worth? Do you feel your relationships are beginning to suffer? Burnout is a state of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion caused by prolonged and excessive stress. Symptoms of burnout may be but are not limited to: feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, emotional damage, disengagement, blunted emotions, loss of motivation, as well as feeling as if life is no longer worth living. There are three main factors that contribute to burnout. First, work-related causes such as having unclear job expectations, chaotic or high-pressure work environment, lack of recognition, feeling like we have little or no control over our work. Second, lifestyles causes such as excessive work habits, lack of sleep, minimal supportive relationships, and taking on too many responsibilities. Third, personality traits such as high achieving, need to be in control, pessimistic view of self and the world, as well as perfectionistic tendencies and feeling nothing is ever good enough. Burnout is not limited to the work setting alone, as the symptoms of burnout can begin to affect every domain in a person’s life. Whether we are a stay at home parent, full time student, full time career person or someone who is attempting to balance it all, burnout may be experienced by almost everyone at some time in his or her life. Burnout can lead to depression, substance abuse, suicide, divorce and the breakdown of one’s effectiveness in their profession. It becomes essential in recognizing these symptoms so that one can establish healthy ways of coping with stress and creating a more balanced lifestyle. Through taking care of and understanding our mental, physical and emotional self and creating a support network, we can build our resilience to stress and prevent burnout.

Suggested Exercise: Self Approval

I want you to think of one thing that you currently do not approve of in yourself. Now I would like you to imagine that you are completely accepting and approve of it. I want you to pay attention to how you are feeling at that moment. Most people will describe a release of tension combined with a sigh of relief. I would also like you to write a list of expectations you have placed on yourself. With each expectation I would like you to write down the level of importance (low/medium/high) you place on this and how much time you place in working towards meeting this expectation.

In part three of this four part series I will speak about how improving your mental strength will allow you to effectively perform under pressure. Please feel free to contact me directly through email, text, or phone if you would like to discuss how I could help you to take your overall performance in life to the next level.