"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger"?

….. A bit dramatic, but I bet there’s times when all of us can relate to it! This blog is about how we can face up to the inevitable challenges and stresses of motherhood. What we need is an injection of “Mental Toughness”.

In Positive Psychology, Mental Toughness is not about being hard-edged, unflappable or perpetually strong. Rather, it’s about turning stress into something less threatening, to see it as more of a challenge and even an opportunity to grow. When we are Mentally Tough, we can emerge from tough times without losing confidence. We can reduce our anxiety, continue our activities and even enhance our wellbeing.

The good news is that Mental Toughness, though partially hereditary, can be developed.

A useful model looks at the Mental Toughness qualities we need in times of stress:

  • Challenge.  Our drive when we are faced with challenges. Do we embrace them or avoid them?
  • Control. Our “can do” attitude and our conviction that we can shape our lives and manage our emotions
  • Commitment. Our “stickibility”; that we still keep our promises to others or ourselves when things get tough
  • Confidence. Our self-belief remains intact despite setbacks
Strong mum

How mentally tough do we need to be?

We don’t need to shoot the lights out with our Mental Toughness! We only need to have enough to cope, and help us be the best that we can be in stressful situations.

So here are some ideas for increasing your Mental Toughness:

Your drive: think “If they can do it, so can I” (this one is particularly helpful for childbirth!). Try stretching yourself in another area of your life – learn a new skill, do a MOOC.  Accept that stress is inevitable.

Your “can do” attitude: spend your time and energy on things you can control. Think about what you want to happen, then make baby steps towards it. Have emergency strategies for when you lose the plot – deep breathing, venting to your mum.

Your stickibility: visualise the best possible outcome from a tough situation. Stop doing things that aren’t important. Think of the big picture – will this matter in 5 years? Find the meaning in your life – not least of which that you are leaving the legacy of another human being on this planet!

Your self-belief: be OK about learning from mistakes, seek support from friends and family.  Do things that you are good at and enjoy (use your strengths). Ask yourself “what went well?” at the end of the day.

Stress is normal in life and in motherhood. So, if we can face up to and even embrace challenges, stick to our promises, believe in ourselves and our ability to control ourselves and our situation, then we are well on the way to be Mentally Tough enough. Then it won’t kill us, and it will make us stronger!

best wishes from Flourishing Mothers

Adapted and inspired by the work of Peter Clough and AQR.