Character Chats

What is Mental Strength?

What is mental strength?

Here at True Balance Karate in Downers Grove, Illinois, we have a social emotional learning program called True Character. I’m Master H, owner and chief instructor here at the studio. I have two master’s degrees in education, which means that we’ve brought this curriculum to our students as young as four and as old as 85.

Defining Mental Strength

And this month we are talking about mental strength.

When you’re talking about mental strength, you’re talking about being able to do the tough things, the hard things, managing your emotions, changing your thoughts, persevering when things get difficult, taking those positive actions. That’s demonstrating your mental strength.

And for our youngest kids, it’s a little bit difficult. They’re learning and growing at such rapid rates that they have difficulty managing those big emotions. They have a friend who took a toy, and yeah, that would upset us adults if somebody took something of ours, but they get angry because they don’t know how to regulate those emotions along the way. And that’s when you start to put in your mental strength, being able to do those tough things, take those positive actions and making sure that everything is moving forward in a healthy, positive way.

Emotional Skills

People with mental strength are brave. They persevere, they remain calm, they ask questions. They take deep breaths, they pause for a moment. Mental strength does not necessarily mean that you have a whole lot of courage, but mental strength means that you might be brave and you’re trying something new. So there’s two differences there along the way.

And so as we’re talking with our younger students about mental strength, we might teach them some strategies like press pause, take a deep breath, let’s think it through. How can we move forward in a healthy way? That is one way to help them understand that it’s really not the end of the world that you drop the toy on the floor.

I mean, as a parent, we’ve all seen our kids throw a temper tantrum about some small, tiny thing, and you’re like, “Why are you so upset over this?” Because they haven’t learned those skills and strategies yet to deal with the big feelings that they have as our kids going to school. Now they’re in those third, fourth, fifth grades, their mental strength has to grow as they tackle harder subjects, has to grow as their homework level grows, has to grow as they find themselves doing more with their time. Maybe they’ve joined a club or an afterschool thing, another sport, that kind of thing.

Strength Through Struggles

And so they are learning still to regulate their emotions because yes, those younger kids can feel overwhelmed and whatnot, but they’re also learning to handle their mental growth. All of a sudden stuff is a little bit harder in school. And you’ll hear them, “I can’t, I’m dumb, I’m not able. I don’t understand.” They go into this spiral of, “I’m not good enough.” And it’s a matter of helping them see that for some things, super easy. For other things, might take a little bit more practice, but it’s okay.

I remember a conversation I had with my daughter back when she was doing seventh or eighth grade math, I don’t remember which, but she was telling me how she was no good at math. First of all, that’s not mental strength. That’s really bad stinking thinking. But I asked her, I’m like, “Why do you think you’re not good at it?” She goes, “Well, it takes me forever to get the answer.”

The thing about math is it doesn’t matter if it takes you one minute or five minutes to get the answer. You just have to get the answer. So if it takes you a little bit longer, that’s okay because you just have to take a little longer. And it’s taking those positive actions to understand the skills to keep moving forward.

So as we talk about mental strength this month, we’re going to give some tips and strategies about changing how you talk to yourself about handling those big emotions and what we can do about that and how we can help those around us also grow their mental strength, how we can help those around us utilize the tips and strategies that we’re learning ourselves so that we can all move forward in a positive manner.

Thanks, and I’ll 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