About mental resilience
A guide for job seekers on how to stay centered in the time of a pandemic
Lockdown. Day 60.
I think you have already come to terms with the status quo. We are in self-isolation and we all realize that the current situation will continue indefinitely.
This state of uncertainty is eating you inside like a worm. You don’t know when you will be able to go back to work. You might feel small, or insecure, you might think that there is no light on the other side of the tunnel.
I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way.
No matter how frustrating it is there are things that you can do to fight your frustration.
You are not helpless. And you are enough.
Why listen to me?
Fair question. Well, I have some experiences that I can share:
- I have been fired
- I have been laid off
- I have been burned out
- I have had a suicidal depression
- I had a startup
- I have failed the startup
- I wrote a book
- I can fast
- I am an immigrant
- I am a workout junkie
Trust me, I know a thing or two about resilience.
I know that mental resilience is a byproduct of going through quake life experiences that are meant to break you but eventually they don’t.
COVID is one of those experiences.
It is rough. But you shall prevail.
In this essay, I want to share with you simple steps that you can take to make yourself more centered.
#1. Identify your pressure factors
Things stop controlling you when you bring them to the spotlight of your attention.
Identify the things that possess the highest “gravity”. What exactly pushes you to the ground?
Put a label on the things that create the biggest pressure in your life. Write all of them down and then dissect them one by one as detailed as possible.
I understand that not everyone has developed a habit of writing but if you allocate your time and actually sit down and write down all the things that cause anxiety and agitation, you will see how effective writing can be in instilling peace in your mind.
Writing creates space. Once the thoughts are embodied in a physical form, they lose their power to overwhelm you.
The thoughts of concern are like dirty clothes tumbling in the washing machine of your mind. The turmoil shall continue unless you press the “stop” button and physically eject all the elements that create the chaos.
You can’t work with abstractions. A thought must have a physical form for you to be able to scrupulously examine its validity.
Step 2. Divide all the things that you have written down into two categories:
- Things that I can control
- Things that I can’t control
Everything that you place in the second category must be not of your interest. Identify them, acknowledge their existence, and “put them on the back burner”.
The things that you label as “problems” will be stinging you like a swarm of wasps trying to “steal the spotlight”. Make a conscious effort to deprive them of the energy of your attention. Channel the energy of your attention to the things that you can control.
The best way to do that is to lose yourself in action.
Have you ever been in a state of Flow? Ever been so immersed in the task at hand that the whole world stopped existing for the time being? In the same manner, you will forget about the existence of what your mind perceives as “problems” once it is preoccupied with something else — something productive. Hence the next tip:
#3. Take immediate action
There is something everyone must understand about the nature of motivation.
Motivation can never be a product of inertness.
It is always a product of momentum.
If self-discipline is your old friend, you might be able to motivate yourself and then begin the task (but then again, when there is discipline, motivation is never a problem).
A more effective approach is always to start doing something and build up motivation as you go.
That is why jumping into action even if you don’t want to right from the moment of your morning awakening is so important.
Here are some simple things that you can do to get an immediate result.
- Make your bed.
- Go for a morning walk.
- Organize your home.
- Organize your phone.
- Organize your files.
- Organize your thoughts. (Writing/Journaling)
- Have a day off of digital fasting. (Shut down all your devices and let your mind rest).
- Read books that make sense.
Do something that will help you to gain that initial momentum. Use it to build up resolve to have a systematic approach to your life. Now it is time to create a plan.
#4. Find your anchors
Identify the things that are giving you a sense of stability and a sense of meaning.
You know yourself best. What are the things that make you tick?
- Is it making yourself healthier? Smarter? More mindful?
- Is it learning and acquiring new knowledge and skills?
- Is it connecting to people? Or reconnecting with nature?
Regardless, design your daily routine around those things.
Make a daily plan, that would include blocks of time dedicated to activities that make sense to you.
Make it visual. Print it out, draw it on a canvas, buy yourself a blackboard. Use the medium that is pleasant to interact with (see and touch).
Create a daily checklist of things that you want to do.
- One to make you money
- One to develop yourself
- One to be creative
Start from these 3 and build up from there.
In parallel, spend some time working on rewiring your brain.
Take methodical actions to reprogram your mind.
Accept the following:
Life is not what is happening to you.
Life is what you perceive.
Utilize the magic of reframing.
Create your own narrative of your life events and situations.
Design your beliefs one by one and see how your world changes.
It is not some esoteric wisdom. It is the way the world operates.
When you come to this world as a child you are blank. You are a clean slate.
Everything you know about yourself is a product of external conditioning.
Now is the time you make a conscious choice to become and remain the only one who conditions you.
Create your own system of definitions that you use to decode the world.
Pandemic is happening. This is an objective reality.
The extent to which it affects you is the derivative of your mental attitude.
Refuse to be victimized by your own negative thinking. Don’t be handicapped by your own inflexibility.
Consciously design and embrace the new narrative. Put all your productive activities, be they upskilling, learning, job search, or networking, in a paradigm of 9-to-5 work. Imagine that you are employed full-time, and do what you would normally do at a job.
- Show up on time.
- Follow the routine.
- Have lunch and breaks.
- Finish on time.
Once you are done with your working day, proceed with the last step.
Willpower and energy are finite resources.
That means, they deplete as you use them.
You can’t continuously tap into your resources if you do not replenish them.
Hence, the conclusion:
Do things that restore your energy.
Take a hot bath. Spend some time on nature. Sit on a bench on and do nothing and you will see that the world is not crumbling. On the contrary.
Life keeps flowing.
I’d like to share a concept of an “infinite mindset” coined by Simon Sinek. I think it is particularly pertinent to the topic of mental resilience.
Infinite mindset provides calm confidence. For example, if I were to tell you there is going to be a massive snowstorm or a massive hurricane, you are right it’s gonna be awful. It’s gonna shut down the work, it’s gonna hurt a lot of companies. But we know how to deal with hurricanes, there will be a short-term hit, and we know how to ride it out well.
Most of us live 70–80 years old. Now imagine if we lived for a thousand years, this would be like the 6th or 7th pandemic that we faced in our lives. We know it is gonna hurt, but we know it is gonna be over. We know there’s gonna be a pain but we know how to prepare for it.
So this is what infinite mindset provides — it helps you see what we are going through now not as the end but rather as a part of the journey.
Things will never be the same again.
We don’t know what the world will look like post-pandemic but things will change. Accept the fact that the world is transforming. And choose to be part of this transformation. Stay calm.
Sip life one day at a time.
People say: “We are in this together.”
Don’t let it become a buzz-phrase. Internalize it. Let it sink in. And you will see that we were always in it together, it is just now that we began to wake up to the true meaning of this new mentality.
We’ll be fine. You’ll be fine.
This is not the end.
It’s just a part of the journey.
- Identify your pressure factors
- Channel the energy of your attention only to the things you can control
- Take immediate action (begin first, motivation will follow)
- Find your anchors — things that give you a sense of meaning
- Build your routine around those things and follow it
- Create a positive narrative for everything that is happening in your life
- Recharge your batteries
- Adopt an infinite mindset. This too shall pass.
Thank you for reading this essay.
I am building a community. Subscribe to my newsletter: https://chengeer.substack.com/
If you would like to learn more about my work, here is my book “Meditations of the Millennial”.
If you want to support me on my mission, please, share this book with someone you love. Maybe they will find what they seek on its pages.