To say that our lives have been turned upside down would be an understatement. We’re confined to our homes. Some of us are faced with issues of employment. Locating essential materials such as paper goods, cleaning supplies, and water often feels like a sick scavenger hunt. We are filled with fear every time we leave the house. We have sick loved ones who have to face the coming days alone. And worst of all, there’s no real end in sight. As we hold vigil hoping to hear that things will go back to normal soon, there is no certainty that life as we once knew it will even exist once we make it to the other side of this pandemic And still, we persevere because we have no other choice.
During challenging times like this, having the right attitude is almost just as important as adhering to safety guidelines and practicing good hygiene. At this point, we are not just in a battle for our physical health, but our mental, emotional, and spiritual health are at stake as well. Studies have shown significant spikes in anxiety, depression, and insomnia since the COVID-19 outbreak made its way to American soil.
“We are beginning to see a significant impact on the mental health of everyday Americans as a result of the pandemic,” said Cohen Veterans Network President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Anthony Hassan. “Before the pandemic, there was already a mental health crisis in America, with high demand and relatively limited resources, the pandemic appears to be making it worse. And we know isolation can have negative consequences in terms of anxiety, depression, and suicidality.”
Additionally, research has shown that even small amounts of negative brain activity can lead to a weakened immune system, making you more prone to illness.
For this reason, it’s important that we act as the guardians of our own peace, which includes filtering what we watch, listen to, and most of all, the people with whom we interact. Some people are innately negative. They complain without reason, they stir up drama for sport, and they project their unhappiness onto others. In challenging times like this, it’s necessary to practice emotional distancing with people who fall beneath this category. Here are a few tips for doing so:
Refuse to engage in negative interactions
First and foremost, make up your mind that you will not engage in negative interactions. When you know a person well enough, you can tell when they’re in a mood or when they’re trying to steer the conversation into the territory of an argument or negative exchange. Do not engage.
In an essay for Psychology Today, Dr. Seth Meyers recommended making a mental list during the conversation to distract yourself from what is happening.
“Once you realize that the difficult person is being characteristically difficult and is on the brink of getting you to engage or join them in their negative feelings, distract yourself while they are talking by making mental lists,” Dr. Meyers advised. “Make any of the following lists in your head which will allow you to detach from what the difficult person is saying or doing: make a list of any birthdays of friends or family in the next month; make a list of items you need at home from the market or store; or make a list of two or three things you need to clean or organize.
Another effective way to protect your peace from negative people is to simply limit your interactions with them during this time. You can go from regular contact to low contact or from low contact to no contact. It can also help to “mute” or “snooze” them on social media platforms.
Diffuse with humor
Humor is a great way to redirect conversations. According to research, humor can help to diffuse conflict in relationships.
“So, when you have an argument with your significant other, shifting the argument to a funny moment can absolutely create a more friendly discussion,” Dr. Reef Karim, assistant clinical professor at UCLA, told Cosmopolitan.