How Leaders Can Strengthen Their Mental Immunity
Founder of MKYU, an online college with 300-plus courses, Creator of MKTV, a YouTube channel with 1M-plus subscribers, and Author of Reboot.
When we think about an illness like Covid-19, we tend to focus on our physical immunity — our body’s ability to fight the virus. However, there’s a second type of immunity, or strength, that I believe is also important to our long-term well-being: mental immunity.
Mental immunity helps us cope with the challenges that take a cognitive and emotional toll on us — things like losing your job, struggling financially, worrying about loved ones and becoming socially isolated. The pandemic brought plenty of these challenges.
To get through the pandemic, it’s up to us to protect our minds. However, unlike physical immunity, which can be strengthened by a vaccine, there’s no shot for mental immunity; we must create it ourselves. As a result, I’ve found there are three steps you can take to strengthen your mental immunity: Fold your challenges in half, keep changing and moving forward, and practice kindness.
By taking these steps, you can better cope with hardships and emerge on the other side of a crisis stronger than you were before.
1. Fold your challenges in half.
When our challenges feel overwhelming, it can harm our mental well-being and cause stress, anxiety and frustration. This is when folding your challenges in half can help.
Think of something that you find daunting; perhaps, for example, you have concerns surrounding the shift to remote working. This is a challenge I faced firsthand when I took my motivational speaking career online. Suddenly, I had to learn several new technologies to perform my job, and at first, doing so seemed insurmountable. However, folding my challenge in half — breaking it down into smaller, more approachable and less daunting challenges — helped me see that it was possible.
Whether you need to learn new technology or perform an equally daunting task, you can “fold it” into smaller pieces that you find easier to approach. The goal is to control your mindset and decrease your fear. Shift your thoughts from negative to positive. Look at your challenge and say, “I can do this. I can deal with the stress. This is not a big deal.”
By folding your problem into a more approachable size, you can deal with it more easily and tackle your challenge one step at a time.
2. Keep changing and moving forward.
The next step to strengthening your mental immunity is to keep changing and moving forward. As I mentioned, I eventually learned new technologies and took my speaking career online, but when Covid-19 first brought my industry to a halt, I felt terrified. I worried I wouldn’t be able to make a living giving lectures because I couldn’t travel. I couldn’t go to schools or offices. Over and over, I said, “I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.”
Then I realized something: Saying “I can’t” drains my power. It takes away my control over my actions. Instead, I find it’s better to say “I won’t.” When you say “I won’t,” it gives you the choice and takes back your power. You can then say, “What will I do to move forward?”
By adopting this perspective, you can find ways to change your life for the better. For example, instead of letting “I can’t” discourage me, I took my lectures online. I encourage you to also find ways to accept the reality of your challenges and move past them. When you overcome your challenges, I believe you not only strengthen your mental health, but you also become better prepared to face the next problem that comes your way.
3. Practice kindness.
Lastly, you can boost your mental immunity by making a conscious effort to practice kindness. Look around you at your spouse, children, friends or neighbors — everyone is struggling with their own situation. Everyone has difficulties, but you can try to give them some comfort by being kind.
Practicing kindness is as easy as using warmhearted words when you talk to people. For example, when your friend tells you about a problem they’re facing, you might say, “That must be hard. I feel for you.”
By practicing kindness in this way, you strengthen both the other person’s mental immunity and your own. You become stronger together. Some people might desperately need your help, while other people might be in a position to help you. If everyone commits to practicing kindness, we can support one another instead of trying to get through the pandemic alone.
Take care of yourself mentally and physically.
The pandemic has been a difficult time for everyone. While it’s important to focus on addressing physical health risks, don’t forget to also pay attention to mental risks that can come when someone loses their job, needs to isolate themselves or is worried about their own and loved ones’ safety.
To get through this difficult time and emerge as a stronger, more capable version of yourself, it’s important to build up your mental immunity. Start by using the three steps above: Make your challenges manageable by folding them in half, commit to changing and moving forward, and practice kindness in all your interactions.
When you stop being afraid and start believing in yourself, you’ll be able to face any crisis and come out stronger on the other side.
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