10 Things I Do When I Don’t Feel Mentally Strong

Person on top of a mountain looking ahead

Verywell / Catherine Song

Even though I literally wrote the book on mental strength (well, four books actually), I don’t always feel mentally strong.  

There are plenty of days (and times throughout any given day) when I doubt myself, give in to temptation or let my emotions cloud my judgment.

Fortunately, I know every time I don’t feel mentally strong is an opportunity to sharpen my skills.

Here are 10 things I like to do when I don’t feel mentally strong.

Remember Hard Times I’ve Been Through Before

When I doubt whether I can get through something, I pause and remind myself of the tough things I’ve done before. In the past, I’ve been able to draw upon inner strength that I never even knew existed.

The toughest thing I’ve ever done was deliver the eulogy at my husband’s funeral. We were both 26 when he died. Standing up in front of a room full of people and talking about my husband in the past tense made his absence feel real. It was awful. 

I remind myself that if I can do that, I can get through whatever obstacle I am facing right now. Putting things in perspective helps, and it reminds me that I’m stronger than I think.

Act As If I Feel Strong

When I’m tempted to hide in the back of the room or decline an opportunity because I’m afraid, I commit to acting strong. It’s OK to feel scared and keep going anyway.

I often ask myself, “What would I do right now if I did feel mentally strong?” Then, I do whatever that is. Acting strong helps me feel strong. 

Dress Like a Superhero

When I know I’m going to do something hard, I put on a Wonder Woman shirt. It started mostly as a joke. But, I realized, putting on a superhero shirt gives me a little extra boost in confidence when I need it most.

And on the days when it isn’t appropriate to wear a superhero shirt (like when I’m speaking at a conference), I wear superhero socks or give myself another little reminder that I can channel some superhero powers if I need them. 

I suspect the reason it seems to help is that a superhero shirt makes me smile. And when I feel better, I do better.

Press Play Below for More Mental Strength Tips

On this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast, editor-in-chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, expands on this article with a quick science-backed strategy that can help you unleash your inner superhero. 

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Do Something My Brain Doesn’t Think I Can Do

My brain invests a lot of energy into trying to convince me that I can’t do certain things. Sometimes it tells me I don’t belong, and at other times, it tells me I have no business even trying something new.

One of the best ways to combat my negative thoughts is to prove myself wrong. While it doesn’t always work out, I appreciate the chance to prove that I might be more competent than I give myself credit for. 

Practice the 10-Minute Rule

When there’s something I know I should do, but I just don’t want to do it, I practice the 10-minute rule.

I tell myself just to do that task for 10 minutes. And if I really don’t want to do it anymore, I can quit after 10 minutes.

Starting is usually the hardest part. So if I can get myself going, it’s not too hard to keep going.

The 10-minute rule helps me get going. Whether I am trying to skip the gym or don’t want to tackle my email, knowing I have permission to quit helps me get the job done.

Exercise

I go running almost every day. And while I like to run because it makes my body feel better, it also makes my mind feel healthier.

Running gives me lots of opportunities to practice my skills. My brain always tells me to quit. It tries to convince me my legs are too tired to keep going, or it looks for a million excuses to stop. 

Running and lifting weights let me challenge those thoughts. It also boosts my mood and reminds me that no matter what else is going on around me, I can always choose to take care of myself.

Name My Feelings

As a therapist, I know labeling an emotion can be a powerful exercise. And while it sounds simple on the surface, it’s not always easy to identify feelings—especially when they feel like a jumbled mixture.

But, just taking a minute to name the chaotic mess as “anxiety with a touch of sadness” or “guilt with a little fear” helps my brain make sense of things. And I automatically feel a little more empowered to take action.

Give Myself a Pep Talk

I’m tempted to listen to my anxiety when it tells me not to do something. When I catch myself putting something off or wanting to back out of something out of fear, I give myself a good pep talk.

Sometimes I pretend I’m the coach telling the team they can pull off a miraculous win at the buzzer. At other times, I think about what some of my favorite people would say to me in those difficult moments. A quick conversation with myself can give me the courage and motivation I need to move forward. 

Focus on My Breathing

Pep talks don’t work all the time, however. Like most people, I’ve experienced trauma. And some things send my nervous system into complete overdrive because my anxiety skyrockets.

In those moments, a rational pep talk isn’t going to help. I need to calm my brain and my body first if I’m going to listen to reason. 

Paying attention to my breathing calms me down. And once I feel a little calmer, I can begin to problem-solve in a healthy way.

Think About My Future Self Telling the Story

When fear tries to keep me from doing something, I remind myself that whatever I’m about to do will at least make a good story to tell down the road.

And what story do I want to tell? Do I want to talk about the time “I almost did something” or the time “I tried something terrifying”? Even if it doesn’t go well, the adventure should at least make a good story later on.

This strategy helps me realize that the uncomfortable feeling I’m experiencing right now won’t last forever. And that often helps me push through the discomfort. 

Building Mental Strength

Not feeling strong isn’t a sign of weakness. Instead, those moments are opportunities to do something that could help build more mental strength. I’m certainly not perfect, and I have days where I make choices that aren’t so healthy. But, there’s always another opportunity to try again just minutes later. 

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