PERSON OF THE WEEK: It can be difficult to accentuate the positive when surrounded by the negative. And in the past few years, mortgage bankers experienced a surplus of negative situations that have contributed to difficult and stressful working conditions. But one does not have to fall victim to this toxic situation, according to Diane Lang, adjunct professor in psychology at New Jersey's Montclair State University and Centenary College and a therapist at the Universal Institute in Livingston, N.J. MortgageOrb spoke with Lang about her strategy of ‘retraining’ the brain to empower the individual who faces a gloomy surrounding.
Q: The notion of ‘retraining’ your brain sounds complicated and a bit scary. Is it, or is this process easier than one might imagine?
Lang: The process might seem scary, but it is really about changing your thoughts that would change your actions. What we think about produces actions and behaviors. So it is really not complicated at all – it is about becoming aware of your thoughts and how you are feeling.
Once you become aware, you can make the necessary changes. We have clients do an exercise called ‘snap to awareness.’ The clients wear a rubber band for a day, and every time they have a negative thought or say a negative comment, they snap the rubber band. They keep track of the snaps, and at the end of the day, they can see how negative they are. The awareness is key to changes.
Q: The mortgage banking industry has been the subject of relentlessly negative commentary from many sectors of the media and the federal government. How can the industry handle this high level of negativity and create the proverbial lemonade from such sour lemons?
Lang: It is very hard to work on things you cannot control, and that goes for each person and company. So, instead of focusing on the negative image or reputation that is part of the past, start asking yourself: What can I do now? What can we work on to make people trust us and remove the negativity?
Always work on what you can control. If not, you will remain angry and frustrated.
Q: Does physical exercise play a role in the process of retraining your brain?
Lang: If we are stressed out, anxious and angry, it is very hard to be productive and motivated. So, I suggest walking four times a week at 30 minutes each time. If you can do these simple walking exercises, you will feel less stressed, more motivated and creative.
This amount of walking gives off the same results as an anti-anxiety pill. You reduce your stress hormones while at the same time producing endorphins (the happy chemical) that will make you feel better. Also, taking a break from work allows you time to refresh and refuel.
If you can walk outside in nature, you will get a boost of creativity. Nature calms us and allows us to be refreshed and to see things in a new perspective. Exercise and being outside in nature is a positive.
Q: Is it possible for a person to embrace positive change while surrounded by toxic, negative people and environments?
Lang: Moods and emotions are contagious. We suggest that clients do an emotional detox and remove the ‘toxic’ people from their lives. If you can break up with them, then do it. If you can break off a relationship and you haven't, then you need to ask yourself: what need of mine is it fitting?
If you cannot break off a toxic relationship, then set up boundaries and limitations so you can remain mentally healthy. An example would be saying no to a toxic person when he or she is asking for unreasonable things. Learn to say no!
Also, realize that people's negative behaviors have nothing to do with you. We need to realize that and not take it so personally. It is not an attack on us; it is the other person's problems. If we can realize that, we can feel less stress.
Again, we cannot change others, so if we continue to try to change the toxic people, we are setting ourselves up for failure. So, remember that you can change how you react.
Another option when surrounded by toxic people is to send them love. Some people see it as white light, but by sending positive energy or love, you're keeping yourself calm and not letting the toxic persons energy ruin your day.
But if the environment becomes too toxic and it is affecting your daily happiness and productivity, it might be time to look for a new job.