It's Hot Out There!! Remember your Mental Sunscreen!

Summer is upon us and the temperatures continue to rise. In the words of Glenn Frey's 1984 song...."The heat is on!" With all this heat and sun it is important to take precautions and protect yourself. Do you recall the memorable class of '99 address including the tip of wearing sunscreen? (Click below to listen)

 Address to the class of '99

Address to the class of '99

While wearing sunscreen is an important tip it isn't the only point of this article, nor the only advice that speech gives. One of the things it talked about is dealing with others. Part of what can scorch us is the words and actions of those around us, including our loved ones. Hence the importance of a different kind of sunscreen, mental sunscreen. The key here it so ensure you are using the correct SPF. Sun Protection Factor? No. For this conversation, what I mean by SPF is Strong Psychological Fortitude. So what factor are you using every day? In the same way that you can head outside covered in sunscreen with a factor of 4, 15, 50, or even greater, which mental SPF are you applying? If you go out with an SPF of 4 you certainly run a higher risk of getting burned. How prepared are you each day? 

The truth is that some days it is an absolute scorcher. The people we encounter whether family, friends, co-workers, classmates, or other can spit out some harmful UVs, Unkind Venomous talk/action. Even when flying solo, we are just as capable of getting burned when we shine the UVs on ourselves.

Physically, the affects of Ultraviolet rays can be extremely significant. The damage to the skin is not something unknown to me. My biological father passed away when I was only 4 months old of skin cancer, melanoma. I'll be honest, I have not always been smart about applying sunscreen at all times despite an early warning alarm when I was just a newborn. How have you perhaps not listened to messages given to you throughout your life? Will you heed this message? I picked up bad habits like forgetting to keep sunscreen handy and not applying it before going out to play soccer, go for a run, at the beach, etc. Now it is something I intentionally and deliberately choose to make a priority. 

One of the common unhealthy habits I hear from people (yes, even those who aren't clients) is negative self-talk. Four of the most common forms of toxic talk, and the buzz words/phrases associated with each, are:

  • Demands (should; must; have to; need to)
  • Awfulising (worst; horrible; miserable; terrible; never; forever)
  • Low Frustration Tolerance (I can't; I quit)
  • Self-Depreciation (I'm not good enough; I stink; I'm unworthy; I'm stupid; I don't deserve to live)

These words and phrases are rampant in our world today, including our own vocabulary. Take 'Demands' for instance. I challenge you to count how many times you use the words "need to" or "have to" during the next 24 hours. Added challenge, count how many times you hear it from others. With all the "need to" and "have to"s in the world today it is no wonder why so many people struggle with depression, anxiety, and more. All the pressures those words create are what we apply on ourselves and one another and it is climbing steadily. Even in the case of marketing, advertisers use these key words to hook people into buying whatever new product they are wielding. 'Demands' aren't the only thing important to protect yourself from mentally. 'Self-Depreciation' thoughts are another. In this form of negative self-talk we highlight our inadequacies and beat ourselves about it. This is something that often starts at a young age. Whether I am working with children or adults I hear this language. Truth be told, I hear it everywhere I go, not just from the people in my office. The effects, much like real UV rays, are harmful and lasting. It is time to sunscreen up! 

Positive talk helps to counter the harmful affects of negative thinking:

  • Preferences (I would like; I prefer; It is important)
  • Anti-Awfulising (It is not the end of the world)
  • High Frustration Tolerance (I can do this; It will take more time/effort/focus but I can do it; I can figure it out)
  • Self-Acceptance (I am worthy; I am growing and learning)

The key for increasing your SPF, Strong Psychological Fortitude? Be mindful of the words you use (spoken AND unspoken). Catch the negativity and switch it out for the positivity. Even the words of others. Filter their words before receiving them. Practice, practice, practice. The next time someone says, "You have to read this book!", which then makes you think about the 6-8 books already collecting dust on your night stand that you haven't touched in weeks because of the deadlines at work, or the kids being sick, or the stress of the holidays coming up, flip it..."If I can find the time, it would be nice to read that", or "Maybe I can read it later", or "I would love to hear your highlights of the book that you took away from it." Certainly this applies to much more than reading. It applies to the work place, athletic field, performance stage, music room, classroom, the home, and lots more.

Now you might wonder, as other clients have, "Isn't this going to take away my competitive advantage or fire?" It doesn't have to. You can still push yourself to excel without all the unnecessary negative stress associated with this language. In any of the aforementioned scenarios you can still create goals and strive and pursue them with fervor. 

I have encountered countless hurting and defeated individuals, over the years of practicing, who have come in impacted by harmful UV rays, Unkind Venomous talk/actions, of themselves and others. Stuck living out this habit day in and day out. This is not something you just flip a switch and it is gone. We are talking about cognitive patterns burned into neural pathways after years of repetition, years of experience. That said, part of the beauty of the human brain is in it's neural plasticity. It is reshapable, able to be retrained. It does take time and effort. But then, most things worth doing do. In short, there is hope! So when the heat is on remember to wear your mental sunscreen, because...it's hot out there ya'll!

I have seen great beauty of spirit in some who were great sufferers. I have seen men, for the most part, grow better not worse with advancing years, and I have seen the last illness produce treasures of fortitude and meekness from most unpromising subjects.
— C.S. Lewis (The Problem of Pain)