Updated: Oct 2
You may have heard the phrases. "toxic work environment" or "toxic relationship. Toxic=negative and being around negative people, working in a negative environment, can have serious drawbacks. In some extreme cases it can turn a positive person into a negative one. You are the product of your environment. When it comes to stress management, negativity matters. It can cause stress that was never there or exacerbate the stress that you are under. In fact, it may have a drastic impact.
Being in or working in a negative environment increases your stress response 100 fold. When you have a stress response, a hormone called cortisol gets released in our body. It's the hormone that first responds to protect you when you are in "fight, flight, or freeze." Too much or constant cortisol release can affect your immune system. People who suffer from extreme stress often complain that they feel physically sick. That is the cortisol dump and your body's inability to process it effectively. When your immunity is affected it's serious, I'm talking your lifespan get shortened, increased incidences of heart disease, depression and thoughts of suicide. Brain studies have shown that those exposed to constant negativity have a different looking brain than those who are not exposed to constant stress.
Chronic stress breaks down your body to the point where you immune system gets so low that you may may find an increase in getting colds. One big clue for you is if you always get sick when others around you do. And I mean every time. There's also chronic fatigue, cancer, and anger issues. Studies have shown that anger is the most prevalent emotion that goes with negativity. I can certainly attest to that after 9/11. It was a major focus of my therapy for PTS. I was one angry bird. Anger was the one thing that you could count on with me if I thought you might have said something wrong, or I would just fly off the handle if somebody would cut me off in traffic. It was not a reasonable rational response to what was going on around me because of what was going on inside of me, which was constant stress.
So let me give you a clear picture of what constant stress and cortisol release can look like unchecked. I lived this. After 9/11 I was in constant fight or flight which meant my body was dumping cortisol like crazy. Eventually my body ran out. It literally stopped producing it.
So my body went to the next protective mechanism to make up for no more cortisol, adrenaline. And the release of adrenaline in this state makes it feel like the stress is being lowered. But it's a trick...
The adrenal system has been damaged. I'm not a doctor, I'm telling you my story. How did I know? There are a few simple tests which you can ask your doctor to run. The tests are simple, blood & saliva. My doctor's response was, "Sam, I got bad news. You're flatlined." Not only could I not make cortisol anymore, but my adrenal system had completely crashed. I was forced to change everything about my lifestyle so that I could start producing cortisol again. Constant negativity can produce these same results . So what can you do about it?
There's actually a lot you can do from meditation and mantras to positive thinking if that's your thing. As a former law enforcement officer that was a little far out for me at first. One of the best things you can do is take that negativity, but don't hold it in you. Be resilient, decide that you can live above it and outside it. So if you're in a toxic, negative environment and you're constantly bombarded, you don't have to accept it. Studies have shown if you accept it and you take it on, you actually will become a negative person as well. Decide to put the shields up. Imagine being a superhero like Captain America or Wonder Woman, or pick whatever superhero shield you like. When somebody is being negative or you find yourself saying negative things...Shields up! You are blocking the ability for the negativity to get inside of you. I absolutely would recommend that you get professional help if you find that you feel depressed or have had thoughts of suicide because of a toxic environment. There's nothing wrong with it. It will allow you to see more clearly and establish your resiliency again.
Beating a toxic environment isn't easy. It takes determination and hard work. You were not born negative and you certainly don't have to allow your environment to make you one.
Remember, when someone is negative or you find yourself in a negative place, "Shield up!"
If you'd like more stress busting tactics, please visit solveyourstress.com and sign up for my free training. Connect with me on social @TheSamHorwitz on FB, Twitter, and IG. And @SamanthaHorwitz on YouTube and LinkedIn.