You walk in the door and make your way to the time clock. This typically mundane task usually takes all of 2 minutes. Today that pit inside your stomach has now consumed your liver and kidneys. You are bombarded with staff issues, dinging call bells, and yelling patients. Oh, it’s going to be one of those days huh! After finally making it to the time clock (15 minutes late) you make your way to report where someone looks at their watch, looks at you, looks at their watch, looks at you, looks at… you get the point. This positive day has since gone crazy!
Walking into a chaotic work environment is akin to waking up to the neighbor mowing their lawn at 5 am, it’s bound to set you on a negative path and put you in a terrible mood for the remainder of your day. When this happens, it’s not just your mood that suffers, your patients suffer, and your staff suffers. You’re apt to overlook important tasks and rush through assessments.
So how do you turn it around?
How do you recover a positive attitude?
I think it’s important to note that people are, well, people. We have emotions that color our days. But, I have known nurses who, once set on this path of negativity just can’t recover. It’s important to be able to bounce back and put aside the chaos to provide the best care possible for our patients and be the best nurse leader in our industry.
I worked with a nurse, for a short period of time, but something really amazed me. She was so positive, kind, caring, and competent. I didn’t know until much later that she was in the middle of an ugly divorce and just lost someone close to her. All the while going through financial troubles and dealing with the craziness of the job.
I thought about how profound that was. In an age where the world revolves around “self,” this nurse put her “self” aside and focused on the patients. I never did connect again, but I can only imagine how far she went in her life and in her career.
Now personally, I am more like a sponge. I am kind of person who sits next to someone who is crying and begins tearing up. If someone is yelling at me, I emotionally drop to their level. I recognized this about myself years ago.
I had a particularly grouchy boss. I mean every day she was in a bad mood. I would walk in the door happy hopeful and reach my desk miserable and dreadful. It was crazy how I reacted to her negativity. So, I began working on this in myself to become a stronger leader. I decided I wanted to influence others emotions in a positive way rather than let their emotions influence me.
Automatic Negative Thoughts
I remember driving to work, as I got closer my mood would get worse, anticipating the negativity. I realized as this mood peaked I would get negative thoughts running through my head almost on their own volition which would, in turn, sour my mood even further.
These negative thoughts that pop into our heads are called Automatic Negative Thoughts. I love how Dr. Daniel G. Amen, MD in ANT Therapy explains these “ANTs.”
“If you could look into the thoughts of people who are depressed, you would find one dispiriting thought following another. When they look at the past, there is regret. When they look at the future, there is anxiety and pessimism. In the present moment, something is most often unsatisfactory. The lens through which they see themselves, others, and the world has a dim grayness to it. They are suffering from Automatic Negative Thoughts or ANTs. ANTs are cynical, gloomy, and complaining thoughts that just seem to keep coming all by themselves.”
Dr. Daniel Amen goes on to speak about, how powerful thoughts are, and their impact on our physical state. He theorized that we can learn how to control these negative thoughts by correcting them as they happen.
Challenge your thinking
Next time an ANT crawls into your head. Challenge it. By challenging these thoughts we can change them and control them. When you are lost in that self-deprecated cinematic visualization of yourself bombing your interview and walking out in slow motion with people laughing at you as you pass. Stop the film. Rewind it. Now change it.
Visualize yourself landing that job and walking out with your head held high. It takes the time to master this task, but persistence is the key. I will also note how It feels awkward at first. Which is weird right? Why would it feel awkward to visualize yourself doing great things? I don’t know. But trust me it does. Soon, however, you will get the hang of it and begin to shape your mind and react by thinking positive.
Be Aware of your own mind
Brendon Burchard, a New York Times Bestselling Author, speaks in is video “How to Reprogram your mind (for positive thinking)” about becoming more self-aware of your thoughts. Brendon gives the example of any time you’re in line, for any reason, analyze your thoughts. Take time to think about what you are thinking about and ask yourself if that thought is positive and is going to help or negative only causing you stress and anxiety.
Focus on the now
“My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.” Michel de Montaigne.
Many times, as things begin to go downhill, it’s not so much about what is happening now that has us all worked up. It’s the thought of what’s next.
The Huffington post in 2015 wrote an article entitled “85 Percent of What We Worry About Never Happens”.
“The stress hormones that worry dumps into your brain have been linked to shrinking brain mass, lowering your IQ, being prone to heart disease, cancer, and premature aging, predicting martial problems, family dysfunction and clinical depression, and making seniors more likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s.”
Press the Clear Button
In the article above Don Joseph Goewey gives an excellent way to clear ourselves and stop the worrying in their tracks mentally.
She explains that our worry center can be interrupted with a simple technique.
“You imagine a button at the center of your palm. You press it and count to three, thinking of each number as a color.
- Breathe in, count 1, think red.
- Breathe in, count 2, think blue.
- Breathe in, count 3, think green.
- On the exhale, completely let go of thinking anything for a moment.”
Don’t be a victim
It’s easy to get trapped in a victim mindset. “This damn car always breaks down just when I need it!” “Why does this stuff always happen just to me?”, “Nobody else’s Job/Boss/Staff/Patients (you fill in the blank) are as bad as mine.” Well, I hate to break it to you, but no matter how bad you have it someone has it much worse. You think your day is bad, how about the patient you are caring for that just lost her son in the same car accident that has left her fighting for her life. Take a minute to feel sorry for yourself, soak it in, now push it away. Everyone has struggled, you are not alone or unique here. Don’t let that feeling over power and control you.
As a leader attitude is everything. You set the tone for your work environment. You have the power to influence everyone else’s attitude. By learning to control your thinking and using techniques to shut down worry, you can turn a bad day around and find a strength you didn’t know you had.
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