In just three weeks, stress levels and mental and physical complaints declined in small but significant amounts. On the days they wrote about good things, the participants were better able to detach from work stress when they got home in the evening.
A doctor gave me a compliment today because I knew exactly what to do in an emergency situation, and I helped a patient who was having a seizure.
Moreover, it creates a positive feedback loop. People who reflect on good things that happened at the end of the day are more likely to share them with loved ones. This, in turn, bolsters social connections which reduces stress even more. Another positive by-product is improved sleep. A good night’s sleep leads to greater alertness and a better mood the following day. Noticing good things may even make you more creative. Research shows positive emotions enhance creative thinking and innovation. Focusing on positive events does not come naturally for most of us. Evolution has programmed us to notice negative events and anything that may be perceived as a threat. This made sense for our ancestors but no longer applies today. As the above study highlights, just because your inclination may be to ruminate on the negative, it does not mean your fate is sealed. By intentionally noticing good things you can overcome the gravitational pull into thinking about what can or did go wrong. Practicing this activity every day will provide you with strength and a positive outlook. Start capitalizing on it today.
This simple practice—writing about three good things that happened—creates a real shift in what people think about, and can change how they perceive their work lives.
When you are feeling overwhelmed try to pinpoint exactly what is bothering you and describe your feelings more precisely. Are you frustrated? Disheartened? Despondent? Exasperated? Instead of resigning yourself to a generalized negative mood for the next few hours, try to label your emotions.
People who are able to differentiate their negative emotions are better at regulating and managing them, according to science. Rather than being consumed by a general feeling of malaise, differentiators are more action-oriented. Knowing what is wrong empowers them to seek a solution and tailor a response to the situation. For example, recognizing that you felt flustered after a disagreement with a colleague might prompt you to speak to the manager or go for a walk outside. Feeling “bad” doesn’t provide you with the same kind of useful information. It just hovers over you like a cloud. And because it is so vague, it can easily spill into other aspects of your life and be the reason you snap at your partner later that day.
People who struggle with emotion differentiation are more likely to feel overwhelmed and helpless. They may also be more vulnerable to unhealthy or unfocused responses like binge drinking or physical aggression. Distressing feelings are more likely to dominate their attention and dictate how they behave.
The good news is that emotional differentiation is a skill that can be learned and deployed on a daily basis. By expanding your emotional vocabulary, you are giving yourself the tools to label and understand an array of nuanced emotional states. Not only will your bad moods be less bad, you will be better equipped to handle stress when it arises.This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Marie Claire Magazine.
- If you could be any historical figure, who would it be and why?
- Describe a quality you admire in your best friend.
- What lesson have you learned that you would like to share with people younger than you?
Why are we so afraid of COVID-19? It's “the mix of miscalibrated emotion and limited knowledge” explains
Unanswerable questions coupled with conflicting information, especially from government officials and experts, further fuels fear. One moment, you’re told it’s no big deal and the next, schools are shutting down. Mixed messages are confusing and amplify uncertainty. It’s no wonder people are panicking.
Will the virus peter out during the summer months?
How soon will we have a vaccine?
How many people are asymptomatic?
Why are children less affected?
Here is what we do know. There are actions you can take to help you feel more in control even when the world feels like it is spinning out of control.
1. Check Your Screentime
Are you compulsively checking the CDC website for updates? Did you double your Twitter screen time in the past week? If the answer is yes, it’s highly likely that this behavior is stoking your fears and making you feel even more vulnerable. Think of your attention as a flashlight. What do you want to shine it on?
2. Skip ContagionThis is not the moment to watch movies like Outbreak or Contagion.
3. Do You Really Need That Lipstick?
When germs abound, vanity kicks in. A study found that when people worry about catching a disease, they tend to focus more on how they look and spend more money on their physical appearance. It’s the “behavioral immune system” signaling to others, “Hey, I’m healthy.”
4. Talk About Something Else
You might think that the best way to solve a problem is to think it through but when information is lacking and fear is driving emotion, this can backfire. There is no benefit to ruminating about the spread of coronavirus. Nor is it helpful to make it a topic of every conversation you have with others. Discovering your friend bought a year’s supply of toilet paper at Costco might prompt you to do the same but it won’t give you peace of mind.
5. Don’t Eat Your Feelings
People tend to eat more and mindlessly when they’re stressed. Don’t let anxiety dictate your diet. Actively decide to make healthy choices that fortify you during this vulnerable period. Research from Yale University suggests that a protein-based diet might help fight the seasonal flu. Rats who were fed the keto diet (high in fat and protein, low in carbs) were better equipped to combat and overcome the influenza virus than rats who were fed the equivalent of Wonder bread and spaghetti.
6. Get Some Fresh Air
Consider skipping the gym and exercising outdoors instead. Hop off the subway before your stop to minimize potential exposure and to put a spring in your step. Spending time outdoors is good for your immunity and your mood. People who report more positive emotions are less likely to catch a cold. Even when they do catch a cold, they don’t feel as bad as the “Debbie Downers.”
This is not the time to stay up late binge-watching Netflix. People who don’t sleep enough are more likely to get sick after being exposed to an infection. During sleep, the immune system releases proteins called cytokines which protect us against bacteria and viruses. You’ll also feel less stressed when you’re well-rested.
8. The Basics To Keep Yourself and Others Healthy:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; before eating or preparing food; upon arrival anywhere. • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. • Stay home when you are sick. • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.I appreciated Dr. Abdu Sharkawy’s take on how to navigate this challenge:
I implore you all. Temper fear with reason, panic with patience and uncertainty with education. We have an opportunity to learn a great deal about health hygiene and limiting the spread of innumerable transmissible diseases in our society. Let's meet this challenge together in the best spirit of compassion for others, patience, and above all, an unfailing effort to seek truth, facts and knowledge as opposed to conjecture, speculation and catastrophizing. Facts not fear. Clean hands. Open hearts. Our children will thank us for it.
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My Tip Of the Week on @TheCharacterLab : Six ways to stay connected while keeping your distance. https://characterlab.org/tips-of-the-week/keep-your-distance/
"There’s an invisible current of dread running through the world. It messes with your attention span. I don’t know about you, but I’m mentally exhausted by 5 p.m. every day, and I think part of the cause is the unconscious stress flowing through us." https://nyti.ms/3aEYvR2
"We are far more resilient than we give each other credit for." Great article by @freerangekids https://reason.com/2020/04/03/coronavirus-trauma-resilient-covid-19-parents-kids/ via @reason