- Urban installation uses moss to remove pollutants from air
- It offers the environmental benefit of 275 trees, its makers say
(CNN)Air pollution is one of the world’s invisible killers.
(CNN)Air pollution is one of the world’s invisible killers.
There is nothing wrong with making a mistake. It’s what you say to yourself after you mess up that matters. Your self-talk (the thoughts you have about your feelings) can either magnify the negativity or help you turn that misstep into something productive.
Negative self-talk is unrealistic, unnecessary, and self-defeating. It sends you into a downward emotional spiral that is difficult to pull out of.
All self-talk is driven by important beliefs that you hold about yourself. It plays an understated but powerful role in success because it can both spur you forward to achieve your goals and hold you back.
As Henry Ford said, “He who believes he can and he who believes he cannot are both correct.”
TalentSmart has tested the emotional intelligence (EQ) of more than a million people and found that 90% of top performers are high in EQ. These successful, high EQ individuals possess an important skill—the ability to recognize and control negative self-talk so that it doesn’t prevent them from reaching their full potential. This is something many of them learned in emotional intelligence training.
These successful people earn an average of $28,000 more annually than their low EQ peers, get promoted more often, and receive higher marks on performance evaluations. The link between EQ and earnings is so direct that every point increase in EQ adds $1,300 to an annual salary.
When it comes to self-talk, we’ve discovered six common, yet toxic, beliefs that hold people back more than any others. Be mindful of your tendencies to succumb to these beliefs, so that they don’t derail your career:
Toxic Belief #1: Perfection = Success
Human beings, by our very nature, are fallible. When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure, and end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish, instead of enjoying what you were able to achieve.
Toxic Belief #2: My Destiny is Predetermined
Far too many people succumb to the highly irrational idea that they are destined to succeed or fail. Make no mistake about it, your destiny is in your own hands, and blaming multiple successes or failures on forces beyond your control is nothing more than a cop out. Sometimes life will deal you difficult cards to play, and others times you’ll be holding aces. Your willingness to give your all in playing any hand you’re holding determines your ultimate success or failure in life.
Toxic Belief #3: I “Always” or “Never” Do That
There isn’t anything in life that you always or never do. You may do something a lot or not do something enough, but framing your behavior in terms of “always” or “never” is a form of self-pity. It makes you believe that you have no control of yourself and will never change. Don’t succumb to it.
Toxic Belief #4: I Succeed When Others Approve of Me
Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain⎯you’re never as good or bad as they say you are. It’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, but you can take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what people think about you, your self-worth comes only from within.
Toxic Belief #5: My Past = My Future
Repeated failures can erode your self-confidence and make it hard to believe you’ll achieve a better outcome in the future. Most of the time, these failures result from taking risks and trying to achieve something that isn’t easy. Just remember that success lies in your ability to rise in the face of failure. Anything worth achieving is going to require you to take some risks, and you can’t allow failure to stop you from believing in your ability to succeed.
Toxic Belief #6: My Emotions = Reality
If you’ve read Emotional Intelligence 2.0, you know how to take an objective look at your feelings and separate fact from fiction. If not, you might want to read it. Otherwise, your emotions will continue to skew your sense of reality, making you vulnerable to the negative self-talk that can hold you back from achieving your full potential.
When someone you love has high-functioning anxiety, it isn’t always obvious. And success in life ― whether recognition at work or, say, being particularly sparkly at a party ― doesn’t mean he or she isn’t dealing with something internally.
While those living with the condition are dealing with debilitating side effects, they hide it well ― even from their loved ones or significant others. People who struggle with the disorder often experience excessive worry and panic, headaches and more.
As with any mental health condition, the more people know about it, the better. Education is critical when it comes to erasing stigma ― and less stigma could mean more people with disorders will reach out for help. Research shows negative stereotypes often prevent people with mental health issues from seeking treatment.
We asked our Facebook communities to share what they want their partners and families to know about high-functioning anxiety as a way to shine a light on the condition. Below are some things to keep in mind if you love someone who is dealing with it:
“Some daily activities that may seem easy for them are not for me. Shopping, going to the post office, school, etc. It’s not easy and sometimes there are days that I can’t fake it and pretend that my anxiety isn’t out of control.” ―Sabrina Campbell
“I wish he understood I physically feel like I am on a roller coaster with an endless drop, and I fight back tears as I beg my body to normalize.” ―Julie Carr
“I’m ashamed of my anxiety and so I try to hide it. Unfortunately, because he’s closest to me, when I can’t hold it in anymore, he usually gets the brunt of it.” ―Amy Schultheiss
“I wish my significant other could realize that just because I get out of bed and tackle the day does not mean that I’m not having anxiety. Anxiety is not well seen by others who don’t experience it.” ―Emily Yocom
“Something my girlfriend does that I really appreciate is that she waits for me to bring up that I’m being anxious, even though she can see things at home and work are piling up. And then when I finally lose it, she helps me make a big list of all the things going on.” ―Maria Lyon
“I can hold meetings with nearly 200 people who report to me, speaking eloquently and persuasively, yet become paralyzed when I am at a party, unable to think of something to say to friends. We can be having fun at a barbecue when something triggers me and I need to flee … It isn’t something that you can always predict.” ―Susan Vliet
“That there’s never a sense of security. Every great thing that happens is dulled by wondering how it’s going to go wrong or what other thing in my life is going to fall apart.” ―Alexandra Mykita
“Telling people to just ‘get over it’ or to ‘face your fear’ is not helping and just makes the feeling worse because it makes you feel crazy when you’re not.” ―Haley Michelle
“It’s not a choice. If it were up to me I certainly wouldn’t choose to feel like this. My hope is that there will be more tolerance and understanding that this is out of my control.” ―Carla McDonald
“I wish he knew that my constant fears of him breaking up with me has nothing to do with him or that I don’t trust him, it’s my brain telling me that I’m not worth the trouble. That I’m a liability.” ―Christina Loken
“Just be there to support and love, and be open.” ―Glori Sutton
Just a few gentle reminders to tuck away. Anxiety is the worst, but loved ones know the warning signs — and acting on them — can help make it better.
The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control.
If you follow our newsletter, you’ve read some startling research summaries that explore the havoc stress can wreak on one’s physical and mental health (such as the Yale study, which found that prolonged stress causes degeneration in the area of the brain responsible for self-control). The tricky thing about stress (and the anxiety that comes with it) is that it’s an absolutely necessary emotion. Our brains are wired such that it’s difficult to take action until we feel at least some level of this emotional state. In fact, performance peaks under the heightened activation that comes with moderate levels of stress. As long as the stress isn’t prolonged, it’s harmless.
Research from the University of California, Berkeley, reveals an upside to experiencing moderate levels of stress. But it also reinforces how important it is to keep stress under control. The study, led by post-doctoral fellow Elizabeth Kirby, found that the onset of stress entices the brain into growing new cells responsible for improved memory. However, this effect is only seen when stress is intermittent. As soon as the stress continues beyond a few moments into a prolonged state, it suppresses the brain’s ability to develop new cells.
“I think intermittent stressful events are probably what keeps the brain more alert, and you perform better when you are alert,” Kirby says. For animals, intermittent stress is the bulk of what they experience, in the form of physical threats in their immediate environment. Long ago, this was also the case for humans. As the human brain evolved and increased in complexity, we’ve developed the ability to worry and perseverate on events, which creates frequent experiences of prolonged stress.
The more time you spend worrying, the less time you’ll spend taking action that will calm you down.
Besides increasing your risk of heart disease, depression, and obesity, stress decreases your cognitive performance. Fortunately, though, unless a lion is chasing you, the bulk of your stress is subjective and under your control. Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ under stressful circumstances. This lowers their stress levels regardless of what’s happening in their environment, ensuring that the stress they experience is intermittent and not prolonged.
While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that successful people employ when faced with stress, what follows are ten of the best. Some of these strategies may seem obvious, but the real challenge lies in recognizing when you need to use them and having the wherewithal to actually do so in spite of your stress.
1. They Appreciate What They Have
Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the “right” thing to do. It also improves your mood, because it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood, energy, and physical well-being. It’s likely that lower levels of cortisol played a major role in this.
2. They Avoid Asking “What If?”
“What if?” statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry. Things can go in a million different directions, and the more time you spend worrying about the possibilities, the less time you’ll spend focusing on taking action that will calm you down and keep your stress under control. Calm people know that asking “what if? will only take them to a place they don’t want—or need—to go.
3. They Stay Positive
Positive thoughts help make stress intermittent by focusing your brain’s attention onto something that is completely stress-free. You have to give your wandering brain a little help by consciously selecting something positive to think about. Any positive thought will do to refocus your attention. When things are going well, and your mood is good, this is relatively easy. When things are going poorly, and your mind is flooded with negative thoughts, this can be a challenge. In these moments, think about your day and identify one positive thing that happened, no matter how small. If you can’t think of something from the current day, reflect on the previous day or even the previous week. Or perhaps you’re looking forward to an exciting event that you can focus your attention on. The point here is that you must have something positive that you’re ready to shift your attention to when your thoughts turn negative.
4. They Disconnect
Given the importance of keeping stress intermittent, it’s easy to see how taking regular time off the grid can help keep your stress under control. When you make yourself available to your work 24/7, you expose yourself to a constant barrage of stressors. Forcing yourself offline and even—gulp!—turning off your phone gives your body a break from a constant source of stress. Studies have shown that something as simple as an email break can lower stress levels.
Technology enables constant communication and the expectation that you should be available 24/7. It is extremely difficult to enjoy a stress-free moment outside of work when an email that will change your train of thought and get you thinking (read: stressing) about work can drop onto your phone at any moment. If detaching yourself from work-related communication on weekday evenings is too big a challenge, then how about the weekend? Choose blocks of time where you cut the cord and go offline. You’ll be amazed at how refreshing these breaks are and how they reduce stress by putting a mental recharge into your weekly schedule. If you’re worried about the negative repercussions of taking this step, first try doing it at times when you’re unlikely to be contacted—maybe Sunday morning. As you grow more comfortable with it, and as your coworkers begin to accept the time you spend offline, gradually expand the amount of time you spend away from technology.
5. They Limit Their Caffeine Intake
Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the “fight-or-flight” response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re responding to a curt email. When caffeine puts your brain and body into this hyperaroused state of stress, your emotions overrun your behavior. The stress that caffeine creates is far from intermittent, as its long half-life ensures that it takes its sweet time working its way out of your body.
The easiest way to make stress intermittent lies in something that you have to do everyday anyway: breathing.
6. They Sleep
I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. Stressful projects often make you feel as if you have no time to sleep, but taking the time to get a decent night’s sleep is often the one thing keeping you from getting things under control.
7. They Squash Negative Self-Talk
A big step in managing stress involves stopping negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things your inner voice says, it’s time to stop and write them down. Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity.
You can bet that your statements aren’t true any time you use words like “never,” “worst,” “ever,” etc. If your statements still look like facts once they’re on paper, take them to a friend or colleague you trust and see if he or she agrees with you. Then the truth will surely come out. When it feels like something always or never happens, this is just your brain’s natural threat tendency inflating the perceived frequency or severity of an event. Identifying and labeling your thoughts as thoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive new outlook.
8. They Reframe Their Perspective
Stress and worry are fueled by our own skewed perception of events. It’s easy to think that unrealistic deadlines, unforgiving bosses, and out-of-control traffic are the reasons we’re so stressed all the time. You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them. So before you spend too much time dwelling on something, take a minute to put the situation in perspective. If you aren’t sure when you need to do this, try looking for clues that your anxiety may not be proportional to the stressor. If you’re thinking in broad, sweeping statements such as “Everything is going wrong” or “Nothing will work out,” then you need to reframe the situation. A great way to correct this unproductive thought pattern is to list the specific things that actually are going wrong or not working out. Most likely you will come up with just some things—not everything—and the scope of these stressors will look much more limited than it initially appeared.
9. They Breathe
The easiest way to make stress intermittent lies in something that you have to do everyday anyway: breathing. The practice of being in the moment with your breathing will begin to train your brain to focus solely on the task at hand and get the stress monkey off your back. When you’re feeling stressed, take a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing. Close the door, put away all other distractions, and just sit in a chair and breathe. The goal is to spend the entire time focused only on your breathing, which will prevent your mind from wandering. Think about how it feels to breathe in and out. This sounds simple, but it’s hard to do for more than a minute or two. It’s all right if you get sidetracked by another thought; this is sure to happen at the beginning, and you just need to bring your focus back to your breathing. If staying focused on your breathing proves to be a real struggle, try counting each breath in and out until you get to 20, and then start again from 1. Don’t worry if you lose count; you can always just start over.
This task may seem too easy or even a little silly, but you’ll be surprised by how calm you feel afterward and how much easier it is to let go of distracting thoughts that otherwise seem to have lodged permanently inside your brain.
10. They Use Their Support System
It’s tempting, yet entirely ineffective, to attempt tackling everything by yourself. To be calm and productive, you need to recognize your weaknesses and ask for help when you need it. This means tapping into your support system when a situation is challenging enough for you to feel overwhelmed. Everyone has someone at work and/or outside work who is on their team, rooting for them, and ready to help them get the best from a difficult situation. Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Something as simple as talking about your worries will provide an outlet for your anxiety and stress and supply you with a new perspective on the situation. Most of the time, other people can see a solution that you can’t because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation. Asking for help will mitigate your stress and strengthen your relationships with those you rely upon.
Want to learn more from me? Check out my book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0.
By Phil Gast
If you suffer from stress and anxiety, odds are someone in your life has mentioned meditation as a way to cope with it. Psychiatrists often recommend this therapy, and for good reason — research based on 19,000 meditation studies found mindful meditation can in fact ease psychological stress.
Despite that data, however, meditation isn’t for everyone. And it may not serve some people who experience the most severe bouts of stress.
I have chronic generalized anxiety, which means I’m always experiencing a level of tension or stress. For the most part I can manage it, but every now and then, it’ll hit hard without warning, and uproot my day completely.
In college, my therapist recommended I try meditation to curb my anxiety. At first, I was happy to oblige. I tried a variety of styles, from Zen meditation, which has you focus on breathing, to primordial sound mediation, which involves, well, making primordial sounds.
It didn’t work. I’d often find myself more anxious at the end of a 15-minute meditation session than I had been at the beginning. And I’m not alone: In general, it can be more difficult for people with chronic anxiety to meditate, because they have more stress-ridden thoughts than the average person, according to clinical psychologist Mitch Abblett.
That said, there are plenty of ways to achieve the same level of relaxation without sitting cross-legged on the floor. They’re all rooted in a technique called “the distraction method.” It’s part of Dr. Albert Ellis’ Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, which works under the assumption that a person’s way of thinking is intrinsically tied to their emotional functioning.
The method consists of doing basic activities can help you take a step back from your anxiety. Psychologist Anjhula Mya Singh Bais explains the distractions can help people to “objectively view issues causing disturbances in a manner that is both pragmatic and helpful in a low intensity, low pressure and low stakes environment.”
What she means is by doing something simple and functional, you may be able to relax, regroup and perhaps reexamine the issue that was causing your anxiety from a much more levelheaded place.
Here are six suggestions for activities that may calm your brain without meditation, based on expert opinions and my personal experience:
Working with your hands diverts energy into something productive, and often results in a cool or even beautiful creation.
“Being artistic calms the nervous system because when we’re focused on creative activities, our attention moves away from constant worrying,” New York therapist Kimberly Hershenson says. “This helps the nervous system regulate, allowing our brain to clear space to process difficult issues.”
There are a multitude of benefits that come from practicing yoga, and a quieter mind is just one of them. It’s basically active meditation, which is great for the anxiety-prone, because it allows you to focus on your breathing and body without getting stuck in your head.
“Yoga helps build concentration and is a great way to improve overall focus,” explains Silvia Polivoy, clinical psychologist and co-founder of the Thevine Spiritual Center. “In addition, it enhances memory and improves brain power.”
If you’re new to yoga, I highly recommend starting with Lesley Fightmaster’s online videos.
It may sound simple, but similar to yoga, walking outside (without your phone) allows you to refocus your anxious energy on a physical act and take in the world around you. Here’s a great way to start, courtesy of psychotherapist Melissa Divaris Thompson:
“The more you can get into nature the better. Walk with consciousness. Notice how your breath feels. Notice your feet walking on the surface with each step.”
I often sing and whistle to bring myself back into the present. It automatically lightens my mood and regulates my breathing if I’m hyperventilating. The best part is you don’t have to be a good singer for it to work for you.
This one’s especially great for people with anxiety that affects their sleep. David Ezell, the clinical director and CEO of therapy provider Darien Wellness, recommends writing with a pen and paper to get away from distracting screens.
“The objective is to relieve the pressure of thoughts analogous to a water tank too full of H2O,” he writes in an email. “I tell my patients to see their arm as a pipe and the notebook the reservoir into which the water flows.”
Cooking is filled with basic tasks that let you focus on all sorts of sights, smells, tastes and textures. Once you’re done, you can practice mindfulness while you eat.
Your personal distraction method may not be on this list. But if you keep experimenting with different strategies, you’ll be sure to find it.