Developing Mental Resilience

I was 26 years old, sitting in our weekly executive team meeting, when a decision was being made that I didn’t agree with and became angry about. When it came time for me to speak, and the faces of five men stared back at me waiting for me to talk, tears welled up in my eyes and my voice began to quiver. I was so mad at myself for becoming emotional, I nearly ran out of the room.

Now 10 years later, I still sit in a weekly executive team meeting, on the other side of the country and haven’t cried once. Mental resilience is something that develops over time, but must be intentionally chosen to pursue. Resilience doesn’t just happen; it is a commitment.

We can’t allow our emotions to lead us, we must lead our emotions.

We all experience resistance. Resistance to our plans, our ideas, our thoughts, our goals, and more.

Resistance must always be met with resilience.

As a Lead Pastor, Church Planter, Professor of Psychology, and Fitness Instructor, I come face-to-face with the need for mental resilience on a daily basis. I see the need for it in me and the need for it in others. It is easiest to quit, to cave into how I feel, or to take the path of least resistance. I am never proud of these choices I consider, but when work, life, family, or ____ (you fill in the blank) gets too tough, taking the easy way out is so appealing. However, we can’t afford to give up.

If not me, then who? If not now, then when? Sometimes it is as simple as telling myself, “If I don’t quit, I win.”

The reality is that all of my feelings are real, but not all of my feelings are true. I may feel indecisive, insecure, or weak in the moment, but this is not the truth. Recognizing the lies we have accepted about ourselves as truths is the beginning to possessing mental resilience. We have to abolish the lies and contend for the truth.

These are some of the practices we can put into place to develop mental resilience:

1. Thought Blocking
2. Thought Replacement
3. Thought Nourishment

Thought blocking is a gift we give to ourselves. It is recognizing a thought pattern or way of thinking that tears down, rather than builds up. How we talk to ourselves matters most! We spend far too much time thinking about how we could fail, make a mistake, fumble over our words, or let everyone down. We must to first recognize these lies to be able to block them. Take some time to ask yourself what lies you have been told or that you have told yourself. These are lies you must block, and knowing what they are allows us to combat them.

Thought replacement takes that lie that you have identified and replaces it with a resilient truth. So if the lie is, “I will mess this presentation up,” then the replacement thought is, “I have prepared for this. I am going to blow everyone away with this presentation.” Thought replacement gifts our mental capacity with a truth that when said often enough to ourselves, we believe. We need to spend more time talking to ourselves than listening to ourselves. Our thoughts inform our beliefs and our beliefs inform our actions. Change a thought, and you can change how you act.

Thought nourishment chooses what thoughts to feed. Whatever we feed grows. Whatever we starve dies. If I feed insecure thoughts, I grow my level of insecurity. If I feed fear, I grow fearfulness. If I feed negativity, I grow negativity. However, if I starve any of these thoughts, they will die.

Remembering back to my experience at 26 and crying out of frustration, I recall that I took a deep breath and explained to the room that my tears were just water and that my body was responding to my frustration and passion over the decision at hand. While they were still uncomfortable, they were noticeably relieved that I was aware of my emotions in that moment. I then blocked the thought that I was powerless and out of control. Replaced that lie with the truth that I was a clear and able communicator who could create a compelling argument. I was then able to do just that and argue for a different course of action.

Following this meeting, there have been countless other meetings where thought blocking and thought replacement have served me well. Between all of these meetings, I spend time nourishing the thoughts I want to grow and starving the thoughts I want to die. I look forward to how your commitment to mental resilience grows you as a leader, thinker, communicator, and person.

Christina Gard

Christina Gard and her husband Andrew planted Grace City Church in 2015, a Hillsong Family Church, in Lakeland, FL. They are the Lead Pastors and have committed their lives to introducing people to Jesus and seeing lives transformed. Christina also teaches full-time as a Professor teaching Psychology and Human Services courses. As a Fitness Instructor, she loves helping people set and achieve their goals. Born and raised in Alaska, she enjoys hiking, fishing, and camping. You can follow Christina on Instagram and Twitter @ChristinaGard.   


Join the discussion