12 Days Of Mental Toughness For Christmas

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Merry Christmas from 

Bakjac Consulting

I have to admit, Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year. I am one of those people who absolutely loves to put up the Christmas tree. It is a tradition in our family to put up the tree on the same day as the Christmas Pageant in Adelaide, and yes, I do have OPD (that’s Ornament Placement Disorder), and I love to drive my kids mad until they get it right.

For many of us though, Christmas can be quite a stressful time of year. Workloads can get excessive, and sometimes we have so much on that we just don’t know which way to turn. Some of us are also confronted by the fact that we may be alone at Christmas and this can bring its own challenges.

So following are 12 strategies to enhance your mental toughness over the Christmas period. So as I sing, “On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me”……., Consider these 12 opportunities to enhance your mental toughness so you not only survive the Christmas period, but thrive.

1)   Recognise what is within your control.

Consider drawing two large circles one within the other. In the outer circle write down all the things about the situation which you cannot control. In the inner circle write down all the things about the situation which you can control. Now, consider which circle are you thinking about the most?

There is an old Chinese proverb – “If you have a problem which you can control, then you don’t have a problem and if you have a problem that you cannot control, then you also do not have a problem.”

2)   See challenges as opportunities.

There are many things in our lives that push us outside of our comfort zone. This can obviously feel very uncomfortable. However it is only in a state of complexity where we experience growth. So rather than say “I can’t do it”, reframe this for yourself and say “I can’t do it yet”.

3)   Stay above the line.

We can often get bogged down by a problem we are facing and get caught up in blame, negativity, excuses and frustration. Rather than be below the line, ask yourself the question “what is one thing I could do right now to move myself one step forward”.

4)   Stomp on your ANTS

We all have ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts). We catastrophise, we engage in black and white thinking, we mind read and we generalise. Consider the automatic negative thoughts you tend to engage in. Ask yourself how could you stomp on your ANTS and make them PETS (Performance Enhancing Thoughts)?

5)   Create stickability to your goals.

We have all heard of SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely). But while many of us are aware of the acronym, many of us fail to develop and write down our goals and commit to dedicated action. Really consider, what is it that you want to achieve, when is it that you want to achieve it, and what will it look like when you get there.

6)   If you name it you can tame it.

Often, we have difficulty understanding our emotions and as a result we have difficulty deriving an appropriate action plan for an emotion we do not understand. So consider:

•      Recognising the emotion - “If you name it you can tame it”

•      Understand the emotion – what generated it. What was the thought behind/generating the emotion?

•      Now what steps can you take to manage the emotion?

•      Express the emotion – how can you do this in a productive way?

7)   The aggregation of marginal gains.

At this time of year, don’t try to make big changes which you will have difficulty sustaining. What if you tried to just improve a few areas of your life by just 1%? Consider the opportunities and the advantages of the aggregation of all of those marginal gains. Consider improving your relationships by just 1%, consider improving your well-being by just 1%, consider improving your opportunity for relaxation by just 1%, consider your opportunity by being more mindful by just 1%.

8)   Shift your focus.

It is easy for us to get caught up in selective attention. When we put a run in our stockings, we drop our coffee cup or our children are fighting, it is easy for our brains to only focus on the one negative thing that is happening around us and catastrophise by saying, “now I’m going to have a bad day”.

Instead, shift your attention and decide to focus on the positive. Decide to notice three good things that are happening in your life. These things don’t necessarily have to be particularly huge or meaningful to anybody else but you. Has somebody been particularly helpful, have you noticed a funny YouTube video recently, do you like the outfit you have on today? You can reset your mood if you aim to focus on the good things that happen around you and to you throughout the day.

9)   Let it go, let it go…..

Come on…… sing it out loud “Let it gooooo, Let it gooooo”

My Nana used to have a lot of great sayings that she used to spout at me on a regular basis. One of my favourites was “Michelle, a problem shared is a problem halved”.

Often we are so close to a problem that “we can’t see the woods for the trees” (this was another of Nan’s favourites) and we are confused by the scenario, options, decision etc etc.

Talking the problem out with a trusted person can often really help. By letting your big worry be “exposed” it often does not seem quite so big and a trusted friend might be able to give you the perspective you never had, and drive you toward some dedicated action which allows you to put that ever present worry down. Plus venting can be good as well!

10)  Don’t look back – you’re not going that way.

We seem to spend a whole lot of time looking back over our shoulders to ruminate on all the things we have done which typically feeds our worry monster. However, spending too much time in the future can also feed that same monster and we can get caught up in all the disasters we imagine “could” happen.

So focus on spending more of your time and attention in the present moment. Reconnect with what is occurring in the moment and “be mindful”.

Slow yourself right down and take notice of what’s going on around you. Focus on disrupting your worry and ruminative thoughts and reconnecting with what is going on around you right at that moment.

    11) Treat yourself

Never underestimate the value of reward. A sweet treat, a nice hot bath, a massage, sitting in the garden with a cup of coffee, or a lunch date with a friend, all of these provide a great opportunity to take a timeout, refresh ourselves and gain a newfound sense of energy to deal with the Christmas season.

12)  Put your own air mask on first

This is the time of year where we have to recognise that our well-being needs to be at the forefront of our attention. Are you running around with an air mask in your hand administering oxygen to everybody else, or are you putting your own air mask on first so that you are in a better position to assist others around you.

So there you have it. 12 strategies to develop your mental toughness through this Christmas period.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and look forward to sharing fantastic insights on mental toughness and well-being in the New Year.

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner. Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing. You can find her at or




The Power of One Word

Christmas is over and everyone is looking to the New Year. Have you considered your New Year’s Resolutions yet?

Every year, we engage in this ritual. We pick a single point in time each year to try and make a huge life decision, (usually with little thought or planning). We aim to change our attitudes and our behavior through a brief moment of reflection at 11:55pm on New Year’s Eve and expect that will suffice to allow us to reach our lofty goal. And yet, these poorly conceived plans and goals rarely end in positive outcomes and by mid to late January are all but forgotten.

It would seem that our three most popular goals are 1) getting fit, 2) lose weight and 3) quit smoking. Yet within a month of setting these goals, we have tossed them by the wayside, some of us with a little twang of guilt.

According to research, most people — 75 percent — who make a resolution fail on their first attempt and most people — 67 percent — make more than one resolution.

So my question to you is….Why not try something different this year?

Why not consider a single word which can represent all your goals and aspirations for 2017. Just consider one big, contextual word for the year. That’s right, no resolutions, no SMART goals, just one word that is meaningful for you and represents all that you want to achieve for the year ahead.

Last year I read “The Game Changer” by Dr Jason Fox. If you get the chance it’s a great read and fantastic for change management and motivation. Dr Fox talks about contextual momentum. This is getting the balance right between specific goals and open possibilities while still moving forward and making progress. He recognises that it is great to have small crisp action steps that give you daily and weekly traction. You can also plan for monthly and even quarterly goals, however when you start to plan longer term than that, things are not as easy and we can’t necessarily see that far out. There are too many factors we can’t yet use our crystal ball for. What we can do is set “one word”. One word against which we can measure all of the plans and goals we set for ourselves for that year.

If we are going to use the 1st January each year as a time for reflection, it certainly is a great time to hit the reset button. What do you want the coming year to represent for you. What “one word” will exemplify your contextual goal for the year? Then every time you set yourself a new goal, or a new project – you can measure it against your one word.

Now don’t go for the obvious here ok!! I know it sounds logical to pick the first word that comes into your head. But don’t do that! This takes time and reflection. Your word will be with you for a whole 12 months. Make it count. Consider: What do you want to achieve this year? Do you have a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)? Or is this year about consolidation and sustaining what you have? Your word has to instantly represent to you what you want and how you will achieve it.

Last year, my word was “Spirit”. It was a year of tremendous personal upheaval and I wanted a word to represent Resilience and my ability to keep going and get up even when I’d been knocked down time and time again. It was a word for me that represented survival. But this year, I wanted my word to not just be about surviving, but thriving.

It took me a few days to come up with my word.  The word I finally settled on was “Monkey”. On reviewing my Chinese Zodiac, I am born in the year of the Monkey. Interestingly though, it seems that your Zodiac year is in fact not a year of good luck for you and 2016 was the Year of the Monkey. So the next year, (the year of the Rooster), has greater opportunities.

The Monkey has many great attributes including natural curiosity, cleverness, playfulness, and they are fast learners. They are also very social animals with a high need for stimulation and are inquisitive. They also love a challenge. Monkeys also eat lots of fruit and veggies and are constantly on the move – a good goal for one of my goals of getting fitter.  So….. since I want 2017 to represent growth, increasing social interaction and networking, getting healthier, learning and adventure, the word Monkey seems to fit all my needs.

So whenever I am faced with a fork in the road or a daunting challenge, I can ask myself, “What would a Monkey do?” How can I live that Monkey curiosity, playfulness, and social life that a monkey leads? Every goal you set yourself, every challenge, every risk, you can measure against your one word.  

This is a great exercise to do with family members and work colleagues, and people you work with can be great to keep you honest. Let’s say that you set your word as “Pirate”, for the purpose of experiencing new adventures and new opportunities as your goal for the year. Colleagues can ask you at critical moments, “Is that what a pirate would do?” Or what about the word “Nike” – everything you are challenged by consider…. “Just do it”. The options are endless. The only rule is you need to measure what you want your next year to represent against your one word. It will be individual for everyone.

So…… Now it’s your turn. What will your “one word” be? What will your one word be that you measure all goals against for 2017? Have a go. Think about it carefully. Once you have it, toss it around in your head for a day or so and make sure it fits you like a good pair of jeans. Then use a whole A4 page and print out your word and put it on the fridge. Now you’re ready. Go for it. Achieve everything your word represents.


Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited mental toughness practitioner.  Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their mental toughness to improve performance, behaviour and wellbeing.  You can find her at or