Publish Date: November 24, 2021
With the holiday season upon us, giving thanks and recognizing joy can be an important fix for the psychological and emotional trauma that so many nurses have experienced over the past two years, according to Joe Tye, CEO and Head Coach of Values Coach, Inc., known for his work to build positivity and purpose into healthcare culture.
“Unless it is being consciously directed, the human brain will default to negative, frightening and depressing thought patterns,” Tye says. Emotional negativity can drag down anyone these days, especially nurses facing the ongoing pandemic, staffing challenges and exhaustion. “But nurses can choose to override the negativity and resentment they may feel as Covid emotional long-haulers,” he explains.
How? By replacing resentment with gratitude.
“Gratitude is prospective optimism,” Tye notes. He describes emotional negativity as a ‘circling the drain’ phenomenon where the more you complain the worse things seem, and the more you complain with others, the more negative emotions start to circle upon themselves.
“Gratitude stops this downward spiral and pushes your focus to the future because gratitude is the platform of optimism,” Tye says. “If you are not grateful for the blessings of today, you are less likely to be optimistic about the possibility of greater blessings in the future.”
This focus on optimism is part of The Pickle Pledge that Tye created, and that many healthcare teams have adopted to create a more positive culture by fostering more positive personal attitudes. The Pickle Pledge states, “I will turn every complaint into either a blessing or constructive suggestion.”
“You can have resentment or gratitude, but you can’t have both because your brain only has so much mental capacity,” he says. “By choosing to focus on what you have or what you can do to change something for the better, you choose to be more optimistic today and to see the potential for a more positive tomorrow.”
Tye also acknowledges that turning your mind from negativity to optimism could be the hardest and most important work you ever do.
Make Gratitude a Habit
To start rewiring your brain for positivity, consider these three suggestions Tye shares for incorporating gratitude in your daily thoughts:
- Make a Daily List of What Gives You Joy
“It could be butterflies or dental floss, whatever thing in your day gives you some small joy,” Tye explains. He says adding up the joys in our life each day helps us outnumber the things that make us sad, mad, or resentful.
- Remember That Actions Follow Attitudes
Pay attention to your own self-talk, Tye advises. If you are fixating on the negative or dwelling in complaints, this inner dialogue can drag you down and even drag down those around you.
“Remember, if you are in a negative place, ask yourself if what you are saying to yourself is making you feel better or worse,” Tye suggests. “Your problems are real, but that doesn’t mean you have to allow what’s not right in your life to ruin what is right in your life.”
- Check Your Perspective
While the difficulties everyone is facing today are tough, possibly some of the toughest we’ve ever known, there is also good all around us, he reminds. “Think about the good versus the bad in your life, make a chart and write things down if you need to. Chances are you will have more good than bad to acknowledge.”
Acknowledge Your Reality
You can have gratitude and still acknowledge the difficulties you face, Tye suggests. He cites the Stockdale Paradox from James Stockdale, who was a prisoner of war for almost eight years during the Vietnam War. Stockdale said the prisoners least likely to survive were the ones who said, “we will be home by Christmas” or “we are never going home.”
“You have to simultaneously be brutally honest with the reality you face, while also being relentlessly optimistic that eventually everything is going to work out great,” Tye says. “This pandemic and the challenges nurses face is not over, but it will be, and it’s important to remember that.”
To support mental and emotional health for care providers, Tye and his team are launching The Pickle Challenge for Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing, which encourages individuals to:
- Say The Pickle Pledge: “I will turn every complaint into either a blessing or constructive suggestion.”
- Take a bite out of a pickle.
- Challenge someone else to do the same.
As part of the challenge, health care organizations are encouraged to turn staff complaints into charitable contributions directed toward nonprofit organizations that are having an impact on mental wellness within the healthcare community.