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How you can become mentally strong

POSTED: August 11, 2014 8:00 a.m.
Provided by Carmen Rasmusen Herbert/

Getting our strong on: Saturday Summer Hikes keeps the Herberts happy and healthy.

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I’ve been in a mental rut lately.

Without going into too much detail or throwing myself a pity party, I’ve been struggling to make some hard, possibly life-changing decisions. Because of this, everything else has seemed hard, too.

Writing, singing, speaking, taking care of three kids, a household, a husband … all those things are stressful — and wonderful — in and of themselves. But for some reason, this little rain cloud of mine just keeps sprinkling.

I feel a little like Eeyore.
So, in an attempt to bring the sunshine back into my life, I’ve been doing some serious soul-searching, and here are the two things I’ve found that I’m not doing:

1. Exercising regularly.
While I was training for my half marathon, which I finished and actually really enjoyed this past month, I was running up to three times a week. My husband and I also started a Saturday Summer Hike that we did with our boys every weekend. But after I completed the half, I injured both of my feet and couldn’t workout for over a week. And I’ve noticed. Big time. Not only did I feel more focused and happy (and healthy) the days I worked out, but I felt like I had actually accomplished something, just for me. And that felt good.

2. Serving others.
I am a “servant” all day, everyday to my children and husband, although that’s probably not the right the word for it. I am happy giving of my time and talents to create a home where our children and my spouse can learn, grow and feel love. But because I’ve been focusing so much on how I’ve been feeling and why, I haven’t really reached out beyond myself to help others. And every time I do, it’s amazing how much better I feel.

The hardest part of doing this self-assessment is actually recognizing some things that may be putting drops into my little rain cloud and then trying to change my bad habits.

How can I do that?
I came across an article from Forbes online that was just the answer I was looking for.
Titled, “Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid,” contributor Cheryl Conner shares a list compiled by Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker, that are her own ideas of how people can become more mentally fit. Here are some suggestions that stood out most to me:

• Don’t waste energy on things you can’t control.
“Mentally strong people don’t complain (much) about bad traffic, lost luggage or especially about other people, as they recognize that all of these factors are generally beyond their control. In a bad situation, they recognize that the one thing they can always control is their own response and attitude, and they use these attributes well.”

• Don’t fear taking calculated risks.
“A mentally strong person is willing to take calculated risks. This is a different thing entirely than jumping headlong into foolish risks. But with mental strength, an individual can weigh the risks and benefits thoroughly and will fully assess the potential downsides and even the worst-case scenarios before they take action.”

• Don’t give up after failure.
“Every failure is a chance to improve. Even the greatest entrepreneurs are willing to admit that their early efforts invariably brought many failures. Mentally strong people are willing to fail again and again, if necessary, as long as the learning experience from every 'failure' can bring them closer to their ultimate goals.”

• Don’t dwell on the past.
"There is strength in acknowledging the past and especially in acknowledging the things learned from past experiences — but a mentally strong person is able to avoid miring their mental energy in past disappointments or in fantasies of the 'glory days' gone by. They invest the majority of their energy in creating an optimal present and future.”

After reading the entire list, I realized I was guilty of several of these don’ts. I also realized that sometimes, it’s OK to not be OK. Sometimes life is hard. Things aren’t fair, and struggling is inevitable. For me, talking to trusted friends and family members helps tremendously. One of those family members — my father — is a psychiatrist. I have been blessed by his advice, counsel and support. Sometimes seeing a therapist or doctor may be beneficial for moving on and helping strengthen those mental muscles. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others and find ways to make your own heart, mind and soul strong and sound.

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family.

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