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Monday, February 22, 2021

NEUROTICISM

 


Neuroticism is classified as one of the big five personality traits, or the OCEAN model (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism) psychologists look at to define personality, account for individual differences, and predict wellbeing. Neuroticism has to do with the ways people experience negative emotion in response to stress.

Two people could be faced with the same situation and the neurotic one will put a negative spin on the experience and produce a stronger reaction to stress - with feelings like sadness, anxiety, fear, hostility, irritability, and anger. Often, their level of worry or sadness is not commensurate with what is actually happening.

The Upside to Being Neurotic.

A little neuroticism can be good for the soul. These personality types tend to be intelligent, humorous, have more realistic (if cynical) expectations, a greater self-awareness, drive and conscientiousness, they take fewer risks, and have a strong need to provide for others. And, according to research, neurotic people are more likely to be creative thinkers.

Neurotics also possess more emotional depth. They have more experience handling negative emotions, which, though difficult, can also make them deeper, and facilitate empathy and understanding for other people’s struggles.

Then there is the evolutionary standpoint, which explains why neurotic people tend to think ahead and are more likely to be prepared for possible negative outcomes. The reason we pay attention to negative emotions is because they are informative of the environment or perceived danger.

When Neuroticism Goes South.

While some neuroticism is healthy, because it is associated with heightened self-criticism. It can become a ‘crash and burn’ dynamic, where negative beliefs about yourself lead to ineffective social functioning, which then confirms those negative beliefs, and further re-enforces neurotic tendencies.

For example, take the coworker who is a superstar at work but tends to worry a lot about his performance. Then all of a sudden, he gets a little negative feedback from his boss, which feels like a huge criticism. He responds by worrying more to the point that he is so consumed with self-evaluation and anxiety, he cannot focus anymore and calls in sick. In the end, he creates his own self-fulfilling prophesy.

While extreme, this type of maladaptive response can lead to difficulty in relationships, problems keeping jobs, an overall decreased satisfaction with life, depression and anxiety disorders, and a decreased life expectancy.

How to be Less Neurotic

To keep your levels of perceived threats from reaching apocalyptic-level preparedness, learning some simple techniques to shift your mindset can go a long way towards saving your sanity.

·         Be mindful. Instead of approaching neurotic patterns of thinking, well, neurotically, take a step back as an observer and think about what is causing the angst. Studies show mindfulness can reduce how often you have negative thoughts and increase your ability to let go of them. Learning to observe yourself at times of intense emotion more objectively and asking questions like, ‘What am I thinking? How am I feeling? How am I responding?’ makes it easier to take a broader perspective.

·         Take some deep breaths. It may sound totally trite but pausing to take a few deep breaths can actually help you create some distance from the intensity of the experience, and you might realize that your reaction is out of whack with the situation itself.

·         Practice self-acceptance. Self-acceptance prevents us from getting stuck on negative points, allowing healthy grief, and limiting the vicious cycles of self-recrimination. Ultimately, self-acceptance translates into optimism, self-appreciation, and an increased sense of self-efficacy. Go ahead and give yourself a little loving kindness and compassion; you are doing the best you can.

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