Mental Toughness


Confession time:  I have always been a nervous person – ever since I was a little kid I can remember the overwhelming feeling of worrying about anything and everything.  So much anxiety. I don’t know what caused it. I mean, I’m an anxious person naturally and there have definitely been events in my life that have exasperated the feeling, but I don’t know the root of where it originated.  And if you knew me in real life you’d know I’m also a total introvert.  Anything outside of my comfort bubble gives me “mass anxiety.”  I think I should trademark that phrase because I use it so often.  I am a nervous, anxiety ridden introvert.

Really though, if I am dragged to a party, I need the rest of the day to recuperate.  I love quiet conversations about feelings and ideas, but have a hard time with pleasantries.  If I don’t know you and have to engage in small talk – anxiety; jmr walks away and leaves me standing alone with said person I don’t know to continue awful small talk – mass anxiety!  I find myself needing a time limit on any outing I go to.  Even if I am out with friends and family, if my introvert time clock strikes twelve, I will run out the door faster than Cinderella leaving the ball.  I have accepted this is how I am and honestly it doesn’t bother me.  I know my boundaries and I know what I need to feel better.

Hi. My name is Jess and I’m an introvert.  Maybe that’s how I should lead every conversation I have.

So you may be wondering what all this has to do with personal finance or paying off debt. Well, being an introvert and learning how to channel anxiety or things that make me nervous has helped me gain mental toughness.  Mental toughness is a skill that I found to be really helpful through my debt freedom journey, or really, any event life that requires a lot of focus and work.

Life is hard.  Paying off debt is hard.  There are forces out of your control.  There are things we cannot predict and sometimes things don’t work out as planned – that’s when mental toughness comes into play.

Mental toughness has helped me see the world through more clear eyes.  Whether it’s a party I don’t know anyone at, paying off almost $40K worth of debt or even starting this blog where I share all my deep dark money secrets.  Mental toughness has helped me learn that with every action, there is a logical reaction; with every problem, there is a reasonable solution; and with every failure, there is something to be learned.  All these things will help you when you have a huge goal ahead of you.

I made a decision to pay off all my debt.  This was not an instant gratification goal and it required me to learn to have a sound mind.  More than money, paying off debt has to do with your mind frame. This goal of mine was a firm and permanent decision and I decided no matter what happens, however long that it takes, I will reach that goal.  Learning from past experiences, through things that made me uncomfortable or nervous, I learned to build my walls so I can overcome difficult hurdles in my life.  I learned not to let things drag me down.  I learned to bend and adjust when things came up that were not in my control.  I learned to be mentally tough through my introversion, which helped me to be mentally tough when I decide to spend 14 months paying off debt.  I choose every day to be mentally tough.  I do it for myself, I do it for jmr and I will do it for our future family.

Now, I know it is not easy to have this kind of thought process every day.  I find that there are little things I can do every single day that helps help stay mentally tough.

Things like:

Focus on what you’re doing right now.  People (myself included) get consumed on focusing on A to Z.  You need to channel your energy on what you can do today.  Focus on A to B.  Eventually you will get to Z.  Every little step counts.  I found that having small goals to work on helps me have a clear mind frame instead of obsessing on the end point.  When I’m at A ($40K in debt) and think about Z ($0 in debt) I get mass anxiety.  When I am at A ($40K in debt) and think about B (paying off one particular loan at a time) I feel strong and confident and it helps me have contentment in the process.

Do something every day that comforts you.  I love drinking peppermint tea in the afternoons at work or in the evening before bed.  It’s great for anxiety.  The menthol that is naturally present in the herb is a known muscle relaxant; this physical manifestation of relaxation can translate to stress and anxiety relief.  I find drinking tea or even just breathing in the steam while you’re waiting for it to cool down is super comforting.  Try drinking it while listening to your favorite song or if you’re like me your favorite playlist.  I have a playlist that’s called “Anxious AF” and includes some comforting tunes such as this one, this one, this one and this one. (I like calmer music when I need to unwind).  I drink my tea, light a candle if I’m home, listen to my music and breathe in deep.

Sleep.  This may seem like lame advice, but sleep is one of your best allies if you want a strong, clear mind.  I love going to bed early and nap often.  I’ve heard the phrase “sleep is for the weak,” no sleep is for those who want to have the energy and be productive. Mentally tough people know that their self-control, focus, and memory are all reduced when they don’t get enough, and make quality sleep a top priority.  Listen to your body.

Don’t dwell on mistakes.  I talked about the shoulda, woulda, coulda mind set in a prior blog.

Be relentlessly positive.  I truly believe everything works out in the end.  So far in 26 years this has been true. There are horrible things that can happen throughout life. We can’t just sink down and let the darkness overtake us though. That doesn’t help ourselves, or anyone around us. When you are mentally tough, you are a pillar of strength and inspiration to those around you.  Even if you can’t see it right now, everything will work out.

Exercise/stretch. Okay, so I’m the worst at exercising.  I honestly haven’t worked out since last April when I did a 30-minute Pilates video at home for a month (unless you count all the running I do because I’m always late).  BUT, I do love a good stretch, especially after a long day. (Add stretching in when you’re drinking your tea and listening to your Enya type music.)

Say no.   Mentally tough people know that saying no is healthy, and they have the self-esteem and foresight to make their “nos” clear.  (I am still working on this one.) The mentally tough also know how to exert self-control by saying no to themselves. They delay gratification and avoid impulsive action that causes harm.  I have gotten really good at saying “no” through my debt freedom journey.  No to spending money and no to doing things when they don’t feel right.

In the midst of things like wedding planning (which I am learning all too well right now), paying off debt, busy schedules, and just in 2017, one can tend to let life overwhelm you. Having a positive and tough mind frame can and will be beneficial for all parts of your life, even if you are a nervous introvert like me.


One thought on “Mental Toughness

  1. I’m an introvert too. It’s probably because I haven’t flossed since the Bush administration (I’ll let you guess which one).

    Mental toughness is a skill that should help after your loans are paid. Keep up the good work!


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