Mental toughness: The new superpower

 Mental toughness: The new superpower

From writing to podcasting to YouTube videos, journalist-turned-author NONA WALIA is happy exploring the world of new social media as she finds the canvas fascinating. A diehard Dilliwalli who likes rediscovering old monuments and Urdu poetry, Walia is a wellness warrior too who loves gardening and organic cooking in this age of experimentation. The Economics post-grad with diplomas in journalism, advertising and PR, who worked as senior assistant editor with The Times of India for 24 years and is a writer for Thrive Global, has come up with her debut book, Art of Mental Toughness: Survival Lessons from the Pandemic on as she puts it, “how to thrive not just survive tough times”.

With interviews and takeaways from India’s best mental health experts and celebrities – fitness expert Nawaz Modi Singhania, psychiatrist Nisha Khanna, psychiatrist Alok Kulkarni, sports psychologist Madhuli Kulkarni, life coach Dr Saloni Singh, fitness expert Deanne Pandey, psychiatrist Sagar Mundada, life coach Farzana Suri, actor Bijay Anand, Kundalini yoga healer, sports psychologist Mugdha Bavare among many more – on how they became stronger during the pandemic, Walia hopes to heal the world hit by Covid-19. “Life is a daring adventure. Use adversity as your compass to grow. Get empowered with toughness of the mind,” she avers.

In an interview with SAURABH TANKHA, Walia talks about on how to not just survive but thrive during tough times, staying strong mentally and her biggest takeaway from this literary effort

Tell us about Art of Mental Toughness: Survival Lessons from the Pandemic.
Mental toughness is the new superpower. It’s a movement, it’s a healing. The book focusses on how the Covid-19 pandemic put us all on the edge of emotional turmoil. It made us aware of the fact that we have neglected to strengthen your mind to deal with massive uncertainties. One can nurture and cultivate grit and tenacity in the face of adversity in challenging times. Norwich University is among the first educational institutions to teach the skills associated with mental toughness. The book helps you discover how you can survive the lows by remaining relentlessly focused on the positives of life. The big lesson here is: You are stronger than you think. Discover your personal MTQ (Mental Toughness Quotient) and get tougher. The book helps you to bounce back, grow your grit and stay unbroken.

When did the idea of penning Art of Mental Toughness: Survival Lessons from the Pandemic strike and what made you choose mental health as the subject for your debut book?
The year 2020 shook almost everyone to their core. The pandemic made everyone feel out of balance. It forced us to look within, and reflect. It was a time when we realised that we needed to develop skills to cope with new and uncertain challenges of life, hitherto unseen. I had conversations with friends about how difficult it was getting to cope with loss, death and other challenges. Dealing with isolation also was a big issue. The book began as a journal where I would be penning thoughts that came to me to motivate myself during the pandemic in lockdown, last May. The idea to turn into a book came in November, when I wanted to focus on  the idea of how to ‘Thrive in Tough Times’. Mental toughness is believing in yourself and convincing that you will prevail despite your circumstances. In life, you need to upgrade your skills that you can use as warfare and be resilient to setbacks.



mental toughness

Being mentally tough will make life easier and more joyful. You make yourself tough by the things you choose to do daily. Your everyday life sets the tone for the muscles to build up, day after day



Share an interesting case study where someone became stronger mentally during the pandemic?
I loved the way Navina Jafa experienced a rocky time and came out feeling stronger. For Jafa, cultural entrepreneur and corona survivor, the pandemic was a battle of nerves as she lost her father and had a rough time fighting Covid-19. She believed, ‘The challenges were to bring out the sheer tenacity to survive in the situations one faced. Life is uncertain and short. But, we humans remain ever greedy. Celebrate life even when you face the worst challenges. The answer is within, not without.’ I think that is the secret, you have to do inner work on being mentally stronger. It’s daily inner work, rituals and routines that make you tough.

How can one stay tough mentally?
It’s a skill everyone can use whether eight or 80. Being mentally tough will make life easier and more joyful. You make yourself tough by the things you choose to do daily. Your everyday life sets the tone for the muscles to build up, day after day. Small, tiny individual choices build our ‘Mental Toughness muscle’. The key ingredients of mental toughness are:
Positive thinking
Progressive thoughts
Ignoring negativity
Avoiding overthinking
Indulging yourself in constructive ways to improve EQ.
Routines and rituals are important in creating an ambience for mental resilience. Focus on small gestures, not life-changing transformations. Make comfortable with discomfort. You must continually get out of your comfort zone. Relentlessly pursue your dream and the small milestones you set yourself. Take micro steps towards greatness. Stay motivated. Visualise your power moments.  The trick is to reframe negative events as positive, look for some rainbow in the darkest of moments. To turn adversity into opportunity.

How challenging can it be to not just survive but thrive during tough times?
I feel the big secret of mastering mental toughness is to thrive or just survive when the tide is against you. This means, no matter what happens, you would strive relentlessly to grow, not simply be a cork floating on a stream. Whether you aim to become an elite athlete or the best stay-at-home parent, mental strength is the key to long-term success. After all, you need tremendous determination and tenacity to reach your optimal potential. Tenacity is important to thrive, to blossom in life. There will always be obstacles and challenges that threaten to hold you back. Constant self-growth and self-improvement will give you the confidence to get tougher. You will also thrive if you enhance your well-being potential to the highest. You just don’t need to cope, you want to thrive when the going gets tough. Your MTQ allows you to move towards your goals, irrespective of circumstances.


mental toughness

When going through ups and downs of life, check-in with yourself, keep testing your Mental Toughness Quotient. If you feel vulnerable, have some strategies to lift yourself up


What has been the biggest takeaway from this literary effort?
You can bounce back, not break. Mental toughness can be nurtured and learnt. Grow your own grit as a muscle. You can Thrive not just survive. Toughness is tender. You can nurture it. You can stay unbroken.

What is that one thing which is the most important part of a book?
When going through ups and downs of life, check-in with yourself, keep testing your MTQ. If you feel vulnerable, have some strategies to lift yourself up. Create your own super formula for toughness. Everyone’s toughness check-ins differ. It’s worth finding out what works for you. Only you can help yourself. The pills, psychiatrists won’t work, if you give up. You can learn so much from things going wrong and not working.

The word “creative” to you means…
Having freedom to explore, express and engage.

Is writing energising or exhausting?
If you are inspired, it is most energising. Make your writing compassionate and empathetic it will never bore you. For that you require a deep understanding of people around you.

Do you believe in a writer’s block?
If you get stuck, create your own personal rituals to uplift and energise. I cherish solitude when I’m writing.

Do book covers matter as much as the content?
Absolutely. But don’t judge a book by its cover.

What’s up next from Nona Walia?
Something in the world of podcasting and wellness. The future is there.


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