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Coronavirus Updates, Your Health | 4 months ago

5 Habits to Embrace Positivity During Hard Times

Atrium Health experts offer advice on reframing our thoughts to refocus on the positive.

It’s not just you. It seems like everyone – especially healthcare providers – are feeling overwhelmed, anxious and exhausted as the pandemic stretches into another year. We’ve gathered experts from Atrium Health who offer practical advice about how to embrace positive thinking and self-care strategies that can help us endure this time.

If you need a boost, consider these tactics shared by four Atrium Health teammates: Kim Phillips, MS, LCMHC, psychotherapist with Behavioral Health Services; Karla Lever, PhD, LCMHC, director of Employee Assistance Program; Rev. Greg Hathaway, director of spiritual care and education operations at Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center; and Robin Adams, MA, LCMHC, CRC, psychotherapist at Atrium Health Carolinas Rehabilitation. 

1. Use Positive Reframing Strategies

  • Notice the good. We know from years of research that our brains are biased towards the negative. It can make a world of difference just to ask, ‘What else?’ This question does not deny what’s hard, but it invites us to also notice what is good. For example, when a unit may be short staffed, it can make a difference to notice the teamwork happening as people step up during the challenges.” (Rev. Hathaway)
  • “Use positive self-talk. Identify a statement you can tell yourself for encouragement, like, ‘We're doing the best we can.’”(Phillips)
  • “Remember that in most cases, you can control what you think and what you make of each situation. If you focus on negative thoughts, you limit your brain’s ability to naturally anti-depress itself. Consider a recent bad moment you had: You had the choice to make the unpleasantness more or less important depending on your interpretation. An interaction with someone who is angry with us, for instance, can cause one person to have a much worse day than another – and this is due to our internal self-talk during and after the incident.”(Dr. Lever)

2. Focus on What You Can Control

  • “Embrace radical acceptance in the moment of what other people are/are not doing. We can provide information or make recommendations, but we cannot control what others decide to do.”(Phillips)
  • “Giving each other and ourselves grace and understanding will help us all thrive though this difficult time. Remember: When people are stressed, they don’t always make the best decisions and aren’t always civil. Remembering that almost everyone is struggling in a real way can help us to be kind and to offer this grace.” (Dr. Lever)

3. Think of the Bigger Picture

  • “Keep a larger perspective. Things like denial, disregard and going AMA (Against Medical Advice), have always been around. Also, remember that we have a lot more information and tools now that we are several years into this pandemic; it's not like it was at the beginning.” (Phillips)
  • “Understand and recognize that although this moment may be stressful or painful, the next moment can be different. We all have been through very difficult times that were, at some point, followed by better times. And by the same token, being intentional about noticing that your present experience is positive (or at least not negative) can allow you to embrace this more enjoyable moment rather than letting it go unnoticed.” (Dr. Lever)

4. Be Kind to Yourself

  • “In those moments when we feel particularly distressed, it helps to recognize that our own responses don’t make us ‘bad’ or ‘less than.’ It just means we’re human. So fundamental to our ability to cultivate resilience is self-compassion.” (Rev. Hathaway)
  • “Supportive relationships are crucial. Give support and remember to allow yourself to receive support as well! This can be difficult for caregivers, but balance in relationships is how we avoid loneliness and isolation.”(Dr. Lever)
  • “Maintaining a healthy balance between work and home is essential to remain effective while preventing burnout, particularly during this epidemic, by taking time for YOU. Try to maintain consistent hours at work as much as possible; overdoing it can create mental fatigue and lackluster performance.” (Adams)

5. Embrace Enjoyable and Restorative Activities

  • “Often our instinct when we are sad, depressed, angry or stressed is to avoid the things we know will help. For instance, we have a tendency to become less physically active and more withdrawn when we’re stressed, which lowers our energy and makes it harder to stop making problems the sole focus of our thoughts.” (Dr. Lever)
  • “Our breath is a wonderful tool that is always with us, takes no or very little time to engage, costs us nothing, and can be very effective in helping us find calm in moments of acute stress. Here is simple breathwork practice: Extend your exhale for twice as long as your inhale and repeat this for three breaths. You can also combine breathing with positive affirmations or statements such as, ‘Breathing in, I accept today. Breathing out, I embrace tomorrow. Breathing in, I see all I can achieve. Breathing out, I achieve it. Breathing in, I see my truth. Breathing out, I live my truth.’”(Rev. Hathaway)
  • “Take a day off at least every other month when possible to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Do something when you are off, like seeing a movie, planning a date night with friends or loved ones, enjoying a spa day. You are less prepared to return to work when you have not utilized your time for something pleasurable.” (Adams)