5 of the best pieces of advice on building mental resilience to help combat your autumn mood slump
Mental Health

Mental health: 5 of the best pieces of advice to help combat your autumn mood slump

How to boost your mental resilience when experiencing a seasonal slump, according to the author of Life Is Tough, But So Are You.

As the leaves turn brown and the mornings become darker, it’s not uncommon for our moods to take a bit of a turn.

Not only does the weather play a surprising role in how we feel day-to-day, a lack of vitamin D, reduced serotonin and even the change in pace from summer into autumn can all contribute to us feeling out of sorts, stuck in a rut and unmotivated

So what can we do about it?

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In Life Is Tough, But So Are You, author Debbi Marco puts forward some ideas. Described as “the perfect book for anyone looking to find strength, survive setbacks, and foster a brilliant, more resilient mindset,” the book provides helpful tips and thoughtful advice for developing mental strength and resilience.

“If you’ve ever heard the phrase “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” then you’re already halfway to understanding resilience,” explains Marco. “It’s the ability to keep going when life gets tough.” 

“But try not to make the mistake of thinking you’re not being resilient if you are struggling with anxiety, stress or doubts. Resilience means you know how to keep going even when you’re finding it hard. But resilience isn’t built in a day,” she continues. “It’s something you can practise and work on to help you feel happier and mentally stronger as you journey through life.”

The arrival of autumn can bring with it a seasonal mood slump
The arrival of autumn can bring with it a seasonal mood slump

Resilience is a muscle

“Life isn’t meant to be easy and it would be pretty boring if everything went to plan. But that’s not to say it isn’t exhausting, demotivating and downright depressing when things don’t work out first time,” writes Marco.

She likens building resilience to when we exercise a muscle – we make micro-tears in the muscle, which grows back stronger. According to her philosophy, we should “think of life like a gym and your resilience as a muscle: the heavier your weights and struggles, the stronger you will become.”

“It takes time and effort, as we’ve established, but even then you have to keep applying the techniques on a daily basis. You could see it as an almost scientific approach, but resilience is very much an art – and repeated training in this art will make you a master.”

5 ways to be more resilient, according to Life Is Tough, But So Are You

1. Pay attention to your emotions

“When we’re being emotional – either very cross or very angry – it is easy to dismiss our feelings as an overreaction, but it really pays to sit with your emotions for a while,” says Marco.

She suggests taking yourself somewhere private and quiet and try to make yourself calmer. If you find yourself spiralling under stress or lethargic about socialising, she recommends asking yourself some questions. “Why did you react like that? Is there anything else upsetting you? Try to figure out the answers and see if you can learn from what has happened.”

“Your emotions are there to warn you or to remind you of something significant, so pay attention to them. Perhaps there is something else playing on your mind and causing you anxiety. If you can work out what is really going on and learn to interpret your emotional reactions to things, you will be able to move forward so you can have a better reaction next time or deal with the underlying issues that are really bothering you.”

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2. Ask yourself “what’s next?”

Marco explains that embracing change is one of the key elements to resilience as well as accepting that nothing stays the same.

“It’s not easy to enjoy change if you are a person who is naturally nervous about things being different, but there are a few things you can do.” Instead of dwelling on the past and things you can’t change, she suggests seeing if you can ask yourself “what’s next?”

“If you’re actively looking forward and getting ready to face new challenges, you’ll be more prepared when they finally arrive.”

3. Make a change

“It can be tempting to think that resilience means you must keep going in the direction that you have set yourself, regardless of the obstacles that get in your way. But actually, agility, the ability to reflect and the willingness to change are all big factors in resilience.”

Marco believes that knowing when to choose a different path or take a different approach to a problem are techniques that can be found in the resilient person’s toolbox.

“Remember that changing your mind or your direction doesn’t mean you have failed,” she continues, “ Instead, it shows that you are a strong and intelligent person who can react with agility to the changing world. It might mean changing the path you’re on, rethinking a relationship, planning a career change or returning to education. Actively choosing to do something, rather than letting things simply happen to you, will help you feel more in control and convince you that you are moving forward towards a happier, more fulfilling life.”

Reaching out to those around you can help you build mental resilience and strength
Reaching out to those around you can help you build mental resilience and strength

4. Turn up your inner cheerleader

Most of us have an inner critic that whispers away to us when life isn’t going well. But there’s no need to let it bring you down, says Marco. “Remember that pretty much everyone has self-doubts and you are often harder on yourself than anyone else would be. When that nagging voice pipes up, instead of letting it bring you down, try some techniques to reduce its power.”

“One is to mentally turn down the volume on all the negative criticism so you can barely hear it, and then turn up the volume on your inner cheerleader – the voice that tells you all the good things about yourself.  Soon you’ll get used to hearing your positive thoughts rather than the negative ones.”

5. Tell the truth

“Next time you have a negative thought, or someone says something unkind, examine the evidence. Can this so-called “fact” be true?” advises Marco.

Instead of feeling utterly defeated after making a mistake, clashing with a friend or struggling through your day, sit down and consider whether that action is representative of who you are as a whole. “List all the times you’ve done well at work or someone has complimented you professionally. Of course, you may have made mistakes, but that doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person or bad at your job.”

Marco explains that this technique can be applied in any context, including friendships, relationships and just life in general. “With the right attitude, you’ll soon find that most situations can be turned into positive ones. It can be hard to do this on your own, so don’t be afraid to ask a friend or loved one for help.”

Life is Tough, But So Are You: Tips and Thoughtful Advice for Developing Mental Strength and Resilience by Debbi Marco will be released in January 2022 and can be pre-ordered here.

Find out more about seasonal affective disorder and get support via the NHS.

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Images: Getty/Summersdale Publishers