Psychologist Provides Tips for Shop Owners and Employees to Cope in Distressing Times

By Chasidy Rae Sisk

Rachael Bell, MS, MS, LPC, of Bell & Associates, LLC explored how shop owners and employees can cope with the depression and anxiety that may be exacerbated during distressing situations, such as the circumstances where many people have found themselves in 2020. During the June 18th Shop Owner Success webinar from Kukui, hosted by Jimmy Lea, Bell discussed maintaining mental health and how stressors can impact shop owners, their employees and their businesses.

“These are very challenging times,” Bell began. “On top of the COVID-19 pandemic and the social unrest, being a shop owner adds to that anxiety. It’s important to learn how to cope in these stressing times and reduce anxiety and depression that result from these situations. It’s important to be self-aware, but you should also be aware of what other people in your life may be experiencing.”

Listing some symptoms of depression and anxiety to help attendees identify these possible disorders, Bell cautioned, “Counselors look at the frequency and duration of symptoms to diagnose actual disorders. These symptoms can be temporary and situational, in which case, there would be no diagnosis.”

Next, Bell explored negative thought cycles, explaining, “We can’t always change our situations. Situations just happen sometimes; however, we can change how we think about it. Situations can prompt a series of thoughts which impact how we feel, and how we feel will have a direct impact on how we respond, and how we respond will have either good or bad consequences. Often, these thoughts happen so quickly that we’re not even aware of the thought, just our feelings or actions that result from it.”

Bell recommended using the Positive Data Log, a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, to identify which thoughts are leading to negative feelings and actions. “Without being aware of your thoughts, changes in feelings, actions and consequences are not likely to happen. To stop the negative cycle, you must begin by being aware of the thought, and then change the negative thought to a positive one. This method is scientifically proven to be the most effective, and it can rewire your brain and the neurological pathways involved in how you feel.”

The first step of the Positive Data Log is to identify the core negative thought that’s leading to an undesirable feeling, behavior or action, or “Asking the why until you get to the root of the negative thought,” Bell explained. Next, replace the core negative thought with an opposing positive thought, and finally, find at least five pieces of proof to support the positive thought. “People have found endless proof to support their negative thought process,” Bell said. “That’s why it’s so important to find proof to support your positive thoughts as well. By counteracting negative thoughts, this method can help counteract depression and anxiety.”

Bell suggested that shop owners locate local counselors who are willing to work with their team members if symptoms of anxiety and depression are noticed. “Find a counselor that teaches skills to empower you to change your thought process and responses. The more skills a counselor teaches, the better,” Bell noted. “They should be teaching you skills so you can help yourself. If you train daily and master those skills, you can control how you think, feel and respond to certain situations.”

“Shop owners deal with additional stresses beyond what all of us contend with,” Bell continued. “You also deal with the financial side of your business, the organizational side, leadership… Business ownership adds a lot of unique stressors, and if you don’t develop the appropriate skills to deal with that, you can quickly fall into a negative cycle, which can impact your interactions with customers and employees.”

While practicing the Positive Data Log, Bell explained that it should be completed mentally, not on paper, to improve the impact it has on the neurotransmitters in the brain. She suggested using it 15-20 times each day and insisted that the negative thoughts must be challenged in real-time. “The average person has about 200 negative thoughts each day, but you should only address 15 to 20, prioritizing them based on how much they affect your quality of life. If the thoughts are repeating, be careful not to complacently think that you already worked on that; do it again because you’re training your brain, and repetition is one of the best ways to train.”

Bell added, “The Positive Data Log creates new neuronal pathways in your brain. The frequent use of the skill reduces depression and anxiety, and the skill reduces other negative feelings, including irritability, low self-esteem, and other negative mood states that lead to undesirable behaviors and consequences. The skill has been found to be highly effective, even if you’re not diagnosed as depressed or anxious.”

A replay of the webinar is available at kukui.com/blog/

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