Character Chats

Emotions and Our Mental Strength

How do we use mental strength to help with our emotions?

Here at True Balance Karate, we have a social emotional learning program called True Character. I’m Master H, owner and chief instructor here at the studio, and I have two master’s degrees in education, so that means that we’ve developed this curriculum to best meet the needs of our youngest student who’s four, our oldest student who’s 85.

This month we are talking about mental strength.


We talk about mental strength in terms of using our tough minds to take on those challenges and at the same time take those positive actions. And today we’re talking about how that impacts our emotions. Earlier we defined it, and then last week we talked about how we don’t use our stinking thinking, how we think about positive things we’d say to ourselves, ask ourselves positive questions instead of always a negative idea. And today, when we’re talking about those feelings, those emotions that we have, it can play a huge role in how we look at the world.

Identifying Emotions

If you are frustrated and angry, you’re going to think that everybody around you has frustrations and anger or is grouchy with you or something like that. If you have a positive outlook on life, if you’ve got a happy kind of a day, then as you’re going through the grocery store, everybody around you seems to be happy or healthy. It’s kind of how we perceive things is kind of how we’re feeling at that moment in time.

And as we’re talking about our big emotions, as we’re talking about how we’re feeling when we’re dealing with our mental strength, we want to make sure that we’re able to name those feelings. What is it that we’re actually feeling? Are we feeling sad? Are we feeling anger? Are we feeling joy? Are we feeling nervousness or something like that?

We want to make sure that we actually are able to name it. Not every piece of what we’re feeling is “I am angry or I’m sad.” We want to actually get to the heart of what we’re feeling. We want to get to the full idea of how we’re feeling. And it starts when our kids are young, like, “Tell me about what you’re feeling. Tell me about how it is that you’re going through things.”

Understanding Emotional Reactions

I remember my son was throwing a fit because he didn’t want to put on his coat to go outside, but it was the middle of January. And so after we’d finally gotten his coat on and that kind of thing, and he was a little bit calmer then it was a, “How did you feel about that whole thing? What were you thinking? What were you feeling?” Trying to help him understand and teach him through those big feelings. And for me as a parent, I had to name it for him. He was confused as to why he needed a coat. He didn’t understand it. And he was frustrated because he’d already put his backpack on and he didn’t want to take it off. And so he was kind of stuck between those two things.

As he got older of course, like all kids do, our kids learn how to regulate their emotions, our kids learn how to handle those bigger feelings and they get a better sense of defining them for us as parents. But it takes us remaining calm and helping them through it and teaching them what to do, giving them some strategies like, put your hand on your stomach. Put your hand on your chest. Just breathe. Feel the air moving in and out. Make it move the lower hand first, then the upper hand so that you can really connect all of the pieces of your body.

Maybe taking a moment and sitting down, “I need to press pause. I need a timeout.” I have often told my own kids, “I’m putting myself in timeout right now” because that would be better for my mental strength so that I can continue to move forward in a positive way.

And so we tried to make sure that they understood that timeouts were not necessarily bad. They were opportunities to reconnect with your own brain and reconnect with your own body, and reconnect with your own feelings so that you could continue to move forward in a positive way.

Moving Forward as Adults

And so as we’re talking about this as adults, setting boundaries so that we’re able to not get overwhelmed with things. I have these things on my to-do list. I’m putting a boundary in. I’m not taking on any more afterschool activities, PTA committees or whatever it might be. Making sure that we’re actually naming our feelings rather than glossing over them so that we don’t hurt our loved ones around us, but doing so in a positive way. “This is how I’m feeling, not getting into accusations or things like that.”

So as we are growing our own mental strength, we’re still working on it as adults. We’re still making sure that as we are moving forward, we’re doing so with positive actions, positive thoughts, and taking care of ourselves and those around us.

And so as we continue on with mental strength, I will see you on the mat!


True Balance Karate was founded in 2012 by Master Sue and Paul Helsdon.

We offer kids karate lessons for pre-school children ages 3-6 and elementary age kids ages 7 and up. These lessons are designed to develop the critical building blocks kids need — specialized for their age group — for school excellence and later success in life.

Our adult martial arts training is a complete adult fitness and conditioning program for adults who want to lose weight, get (and stay) in shape, or learn self-defense in a supportive environment.

Instructors can answer questions or be contacted 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week at 630-663-2000. You can also contact us here