It’s easy to say, “you should leave a toxic situation.” However, when your livelihood depends on a hostile work environment or an unpleasant roommate’s contributions, you might not be able to walk away. That doesn’t mean your psyche won’t take a hit from the non-stop onslaught of insults, sarcastic comments and negativity.
What can you do to keep from losing your sense of self, your sunshine? Here are X tips for staying positive when you’re surrounded by negativity.
Feeling trapped in an unpleasant situation can send your stress hormone levels soaring. Your cortisol production ramps up, causing no end of further troubles. You find it difficult to sleep, you start craving fatty foods that pack on unwanted pounds and you can’t concentrate on your daily tasks.
Seek out quiet places where you can go to regroup when it all gets to be too much. If you don’t have a private office at work, your car makes a good place to collect your thoughts. Even if you can’t walk out in the middle of a meeting or customer interaction, knowing you have somewhere to go to process the encounter afterward can help ease your tension.
At home, you might withdraw into the bathroom when you need a few moments if you don’t have a private bedroom. Another option is finding a quiet nearby park bench or cafe where you can go when the one(s) you live with begin arguing or blaring death metal.
Although the negative Nancys of the world can dampen your outlook, cultivating relationships with positive people can balance out the equation. Foster as many friendships outside of your situation as possible.
Be careful, though, that you don’t fall into the trap of trauma-bonding with a colleague and reinforcing each other’s negativity instead of looking for positive outlets. Yes, it can feel divine to have someone who truly “gets it” when it comes to your supervisor’s toxic behavior or your working conditions. However, doing nothing but complaining about the situation over drinks won’t change it. It will only leave you trapped — you might even let guilt lead you into turning down other opportunities that come your way.
Instead, seek people who encourage you to reach for your dreams. Align yourself with those who believe you can change your circumstances and cheer on each attempt you make like a real friend should.
Keeping your emotions bottled up will only amplify your stress. It also increases the chances you’ll snap and express them in inappropriate ways that get you fired or leave you looking for new housing.
Instead, allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling and seek healthy ways to blow off steam. For example, you might go for a long run or beat the living daylights out of the heavy bag at the gym. If vigorous physical activity isn’t your jam, hopping in your car and cranking the tunes, transforming your ride into your personal karaoke bar, might do the trick.
Mother Nature has the power to heal. Merely gazing at pictures of nature has the power to decrease stress levels and boost your mood. Immersing yourself in the outdoors is even better.
Going for a hike allows you to let outside chatter fall away as you sink into a quiet, contemplative state. Giving yourself time to think free from the incessant demands of daily life can sometimes help you see the best way to cope with your situation. Try not to force it — clear your mind or let it wander where it will while your feet do the same.
One of the best ways to stay positive when surrounded by negativity is to make a plan to improve your situation. Even when it seems as if there’s no way forward, you can do something small each day to move closer to being where you want to be in life.
For example, if you’re trapped in a toxic work environment that you can’t leave for financial reasons, what’s to stop you from seeking other opportunities? Instead of getting discouraged that you don’t have as much time to search for new work as you’d like, take a targeted approach. Apply to one new position each week. Take time with the application, giving it your best effort.
If you can’t stand your living situation, write a list of what it would take you to leave and go elsewhere. Network with community organizations dedicated to helping people find affordable housing and get creative. While some people sadly live in vehicles out of necessity, others choose this lifestyle as an alternative to sharing their homes with others.
Dealing with toxic situations can impact your mental health. Please use the tips above to stay positive when surrounded by negativity.