Everyone is naturally bent toward either optimism or pessimism. For some folks, it’s easy to see the silver linings, while others default to negativity. The vast majority float somewhere between the extremes and cycle between the two tendencies depending on the circumstances. 

But it’s safe to say everyone has stretches where it is an uphill climb to have a positive attitude. We go through stretches where the combination of challenging external stimuli and internal turmoil make for hard seasons. Many find themselves in that situation right now.

Mental health is a complex topic, and there are no silver bullets for when you feel really down. However, there are steps you can take to hopefully move the needle. If you find yourself feeling beat down and discouraged by the current state of the world, economy, and industry, then consider how the information you’re ingesting and the people you’re surrounded by (or six feet from) are affecting your mental state.

Consume optimism

I have a close friend who stopped watching a specific TV series because he felt like it was negatively affecting him. The main character, who was more of an anti-hero than a protagonist, was cruel and manipulative. My friend noticed that he was dealing with people more harshly than usual, and he thought it might have something to do with this show. So he chose to stop watching.

What your mind ingests can and will affect you. For you, it may not come in the form of weeding out fictional shows and books. We all need an appropriate escape from reality, especially these days. If you’re picking up on a higher level of negativity than usual, dig in and consider the source.

So much of the information we take in from the media these days is an absolute beating. It’s all gloom and doom. If you spend too much time watching network news or scrolling through social media, then it will become easy to convince yourself that the sky is falling.

There is an appropriate middle ground between bludgeoning yourself with bad news and burying your head in the sand. Neither critical negativity nor blind optimism is beneficial. They each bring with them their own brand of ignorance.

The goal is to be a responsible citizen. Seek out reasonable and respected sources of information that help you to understand the situation without pushing fear and negativity. The Society of Professional Journalists states in their code of ethics that journalists are to seek truth and report it, as well as minimize harm. They explicitly state that “The highest and primary obligation of ethical journalism is to serve the public.” 

Does fearmongering serve the public? Does it minimize harm? Is it the whole truth? No. News is intended to be unbiased and informative. If what you’re taking in doesn’t check those boxes, find a new source.

Then there are the social media warriors who position themselves as experts and spew their unqualified thoughts and opinions. They are not bound by this code of ethics. A major problem we face with social media is that our minds immediately give authority to faces we see on a screen. Our brain struggles to separate between trusted nightly news anchor and Facebook conspiracy theorists because they’re both on screen.

We have to be vigilant about who we allow to feed us information. Not all journalists are unethical dirtbags and not everyone posting on social media is an unqualified idiot. But you need a strict filter. If it’s not beneficial to you, your business, or your mental health, get away.

Surround yourself with realistic optimists

The people who you surround yourself with play a huge role in your mindset. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. You’ve probably heard that a few times, but there is a reason everybody and their grandpa references it. Because it’s true.

We pick up on the tendencies, habits, and mindsets of the people that we spend the most time around, so it is crucial that we are intentional about who we let into our inner circle. Everyone deserves kindness, love, and respect, but not everyone should have a platform to speak into your life. Surround yourself with positive people who can pick you up when you’re down.

We need to be especially vigilant about who is around us and how they affect what is going on between our ears. Chicken littles and naysayers aren’t going to do us much good. People who affirm your negative thinking and just pile on with you only hurt. You feel like you have an advocate, but you may just be digging the hole even deeper. 

On the flip side, sunshine pumpers can get you in trouble too. It’s easy to stagnate if we are always convinced that everything is great. I’m great, your great, our families are great, our businesses are great. These folks may fail to speak into your shortcomings or even fail to validate your negative feelings. They can’t handle the bad news, so they ignore it, and you’re left feeling unheard.

Your most trusted advisors must walk a tight rope between optimism and realism. They’re positive, but they’re not ignorant. They build you up, but they don’t drown you in flattery. They validate your hurts, fears, and hardships, but they don’t let you sulk. They call you out on your shortcomings and failures, but they care enough to help you grow and overcome them. They understand your challenges, and they help you look for solutions. Depending on what the situation calls for, they can be your biggest cheerleader or your biggest critic. They’re willing to do what is best for you, even when it’s hard. 

The people you keep closest to you need to be able to pick you up when you’re down. They’re the people that you can be honest and vulnerable with, knowing that what you share won’t be used against you. Get around people who you can struggle around, but make sure they don’t leave you there. 

Lead with optimism

You’re not only guarding your mind and cultivating a positive outlook for yourself. Your clients and team members need someone who can lean in with a positive and caring outlook. Real estate transactions can be emotionally taxing enough without a global pandemic. How much more so now with all the additional fear and uncertainty that clouds everything?

The expert consultant does not let fear lead. You can neither be led by fear nor can you allow yourself to project fear onto your clients. If you have skepticism about the market or your ability to provide value, that needs to be handled behind closed doors. Don’t let it negatively affect your clients. 

They don’t need more problems. They certainly don’t need excuses. They need solutions. You will win in this season if you are able to communicate the challenges that this season presents and then share how you plan to overcome them. More than that, you need to look for the opportunities that your clients can take advantage of. They exist, but you’ll never see them if your thinking is clouded by negativity.

You need to be everything to your clients that your trusted advisors are to you. You need to perform the same complicated dance between optimism and realism. Your clients need to be heard, and you need to show them empathy, but you can’t just sulk with them. Move forward with confidence that you can help them get to their desired outcome.