The power of positive self-talk is undeniable. Having a positive internal narrative is linked to numerous benefits such as feeling better about yourself: one study even claims these benefits can include living longer! However, when stress levels rise in our personal lives or at work, staying positive in our own minds is not easy.
Some stress is healthy and may be essential to help us to meet deadlines and prioritize tasks we must complete. But too much can risk feelings and thoughts that lead to burn out. When stress becomes too significant, it begins to shift our internal dialogue. When this occurs, that negative self-talk can sabotage our ability to deal with stress and our workload in a manner that helps resolve the stressors. This can then lead to emotional shut down or reverting to unhealthy ways to cope such as drinking too much or avoidance.
Here are some ideas on how we can help support ourselves:
Pay attention. Be astutely aware of your internal narrative. Notice subtle changes that may signify you are overwhelmed or not managing your stress well. Reflect on what may have changed in your workload that may be contributing to this, perhaps a new project at work, recent money stressors, or relationship stressors.
Reframe. Use a notebook to write down some of the narrative thoughts you notice floating through your mind. Later, when you sit and unplug from your day, write down an opposing argument to help you reframe each of those negative thoughts. For example, “I just can’t take it anymore!” can be reframed to “I have made it through tough times before, I know I can do this.” Use this argument to counter each time you notice that negative self-talk rising up.
Say it out loud. Burn out and stress are contagious and negatively impact the collective health of our family or our team at work. But talking in a solution focused way with loved ones or our supervisor can help bring these concerns into the open for discussion and problem solving. Set the intention in your mind to show up for yourself and those you care about by expressing these stressors, “There is something important we need to address…” Avoid allowing the thoughts and emotions to become too overwhelming by stuffing them inward. Stress does not disappear when we ignore it, we have to actively engage it to help diminish the negative impact it can have.
Show compassion. Approach your thinking with kindness and an openness. Work to see things clearly, evaluating what is a temporary increase in stress and what area requires you to seek out additional assistance. Engage in activities to bring self-talk to the front of your awareness such as journaling or developing positive mantras. Part of that self-talk needs to be asking ourselves what we need to take good care of ourselves. Our self-talk is the driving force in being able to engage in self-care…in identifying that we are worthy of a day off or to assert what we need to others.
Now more than ever, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is an emotional one. Fears of severe illness are down, with vaccines and improved recovery rates. The emotional toll caused by the pandemic seems to be reaching its peak, flooding the mental health system with people struggling with mental health and addiction symptoms. Be gentle with yourself. Ask for help. Partner with your people at work and home to help manage the stress this new emotional wave of the pandemic is putting on you!
Vice President of CCBHC Clinic Operations