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Carreer Junction by Michele Majul-IbarraMake mental toughness a goal for 2021

by Michele Majul-Ibarra

If you follow my column, you may say this title looks familiar to you. Well, you are correct because I purposely kept it the same as last year’s New Year’s article. I just changed the year to 2021 to be current.

The reason I did this is two-fold. First, 2020 caught the world by surprise and gave us a taste of what it’s like to live in a pandemic. Second, 2021 is just beginning and while the vaccine is slowly making its rounds, we are already hearing evidence of COVID-19 variants in other parts of the world. There has been a considerable amount of stress noticed in families, in the workplace, caregivers, hospitals, political leaders, and public health officials, to name a few. One thing we all probably took away from 2020 was that no matter where you are or who you are; there could not have been a more unsettling event than the current pandemic.

About a month ago, I attended a webinar with the Conference Board of Canada called Coping with disruption: Safeguarding our Mental Health in the age of COVID-19. It was during this session where I learned that “burnout” is a syndrome. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) included “burnout” in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an occupational phenomenon. They defined “burnout” as a “syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.

If chronic workplace stress has been classified as a syndrome in 2019, what is this information telling us? How are we mentally going to survive this pandemic? While nothing much has changed at the start of 2021, it is up to us to adapt and rise above the new challenges that await us this year. The combination of people being isolated from their loved ones, concerns over our own health and the safety of our family members, and the potential further impact on the economy, for example, all mean that mental health awareness is more important than ever. This is why I have decided to make mental toughness a goal again for 2021. I would like to share a few of the things that may help with keeping mental toughness in check.

Focus on the basics

Health is wealth as they say but it does not need to be complicated. Keeping focused on the foundation of health means maintaining hydration, eating nutritious food, staying active and getting enough rest.

Limit news intake

News is 24/7 in some homes. While it is good to stay current and aware of the global situation or staying updated with local stories, a lot of news may do more harm than good, especially when in isolation. The news that is broadcast these days is already overwhelming. Too much of anything is not good for anyone, anyway. Excessive news may amplify anxiety depending on the amount of time dedicate to it. When thoughts of “what ifs” come across the mind, it may lead to more worrying. A way to manage this is to limit exposure and ensure sources are credible.

Goal-oriented activities

Whether you choose to tackle an unfinished project at home or take on a new hobby, new experiences are a great way to connect with our own self. Accomplishments even if they are small can help give us a sense of fulfillment.

Considering the level of attention given to the pandemic at this time, the ability to adapt to stressful events through self-care and resilience remain critical to help us manage another year of uncertainties.


This article is intended for information purposes only and not to be considered as professional advice.

Michele Majul-Ibarra, IPMA-ACP holds an Advanced Certified HR Professional Designation with the International Personnel Management Association.

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