During Hard Times: Accentuate the Positive
Reach out to friends for stress reliefBy Pamela A. Keene
Since March of last year, Americans have dealt with exponential amounts of stress, depression and loneliness. Issues such as COVID-19, job loss and economic challenges have accelerated the emotional challenges that make life more complicated.
Although some of these matters are outside your control, there’s positive news.
“Few things are more important than how we feel emotionally day to day, including how we feel about ourselves,” says James E. Maddux, Ph.D., senior scholar at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. “Good mental health consists not just of the absence of anxiety, loneliness, depression and stress but also of a sense of positive well-being — the sense that I am a valuable and worthwhile person and that my life has purpose and meaning.”
James says that the key is whether a person views these day-to-day challenges as a constant struggle or as something to value, look forward to and learn from.
“The way you deal with the challenges you can control and how you approach them can make all the difference.”
“The way you deal with the challenges you can control and how you approach them can make all the difference,” he says. “We know from decades of research that loneliness can be detrimental to mental and physical health. For this reason, one way to improve both is to spend time on a regular basis with people we enjoy spending time with.”
Extroverts and introverts have different levels of need for companionship and alone time.
“However, even the most introverted people need a few close, intimate relationships with other people,” he says. “The most extroverted and social person requires some alone time to recharge. The risk is going to the extreme in either case.”
Finding a trusted friend or family member to use as a sounding board, someone who will be candid yet sensitive to feelings, is an excellent way to deal with issues. Talking through a problem can help break the cycle of trying to figure out a solution on your own.
Exercise, just getting moving, can be another way to cope with daily stressors. “Taking a walk, meditating or doing yoga can positively influence your outlook,” James says.
Stressors can come in many forms from family pressure to work demands, dealing with health conditions — your own or those of a loved one — or simply trying to take care of everyone around you without taking care of yourself.
“One of the most important words in the English language is ‘no,’ but it’s also the hardest one to say, especially to a loved one or an important person in your life,” he says.
“However, if you can learn to say ‘no’ to avoid getting overly committed, you’ve taken an invaluable first step in managing your controllable stressors.”
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