RECESSION PROOF YOUR MIND
“A sure way for one to lift himself up
is by helping to lift someone else.”
-Booker T. Washington,
American educator and author
Would you trade your spouse for a job? How about your children, relatives or friends? If the answer is “yes”, I give you full permission to stop reading this article – now.
While the question may seem ludicrous, many, many individuals are reacting to the present economic climate with overriding fear. They feel alone, isolated, helpless and worry constantly about their own survival. As a result of their thinking, their stress level mushrooms and they unconsciously begin to emotionally separate themselves from family and friends and, by doing so, make the bad times worse than they are.
If you are not careful, creeping negativity can warp your perceptions. If you allow that to happen, chances are that the impact of the recession will affect your marriage and skew your perception of what is required at work and – thereby making your work more important than your primary relationships. Fear can not only blind us to the truth of a situation, it can make us just plain – stupid.
Make no mistake. There is an emotional toll that comes along with financial problems. Everyone is a bit stressed. People are not only watching their portfolios shrink and concerned about their job security, they are also bombarded by the media with the emotionally draining news of bankruptcies, foreclosures and, literally, thousands of layoffs every day.
So, the real question is, “How has the present recession affected you?”
Have you, as a reaction, changed your behavior and, if so, how has your behavior affected those closest to you?
The other day I overhead my physician telling an intern that he is witnessing, first-hand, how reactions to this recession are affecting many of his patients. Their stress levels have shot up to the danger zone. They are plagued with sleeplessness, finding it harder to cope and reacting to innocent conversations and the normal bumps of life with sudden outbursts of anger.
Stress and anxiety deplete emotional resources of every kind. Everyone, right now, has a little less resilience that they did when prosperity reigned and – everyone – needs just a little more support.
So, what can you do to keep your fear in check and your negative stress level down? You can do a lot and it all starts by getting outside yourself, shifting your focus and as I’ve often said, “Control what you can control and let go of the rest.
The 17th Century mathematician and philosopher, Blaise Pascal put it most succinctly when he said, “A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.”
The bottom line is that when you make the decision to be of more service at work and more loving at home, you benefit others as well as yourself.
Here are three strategies to get outside yourself:
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
Plato, Greek philosopher
Expand your mindset about “Wealth:” It will help you cope with bad financial times by expanding your meaning of “wealth” and “security” to include your good health, talents, freedom and, most importantly your friends, family and spouse. It is vitally important to realize, both as an individual and as a couple, what’s really important – besides money – and to express it to those closet to you. Shifting your focus to being “grateful” for what you do have does take the pain out of what you don’t have – what you have given up or what you have sacrificed due to financial limitations. The bottom line is that relationships are much more important than money.
Focus on relationships and resist the urge to work more: This is easier said than done because when things go wrong, the tendency is to do more of what you have been doing to bring yourself back to what you consider “normal”. The problem is that by doing more, focusing more on your work, you often separate yourself from those closest to you. You have probably heard this before but the definition of insanity is to keep doing what you are doing with even more energy and expect different results. So, what should you do? Get outside of yourself and shift your focus to others.
At work it means asking, “What can I do to be of more service?” Look for opportunities to serve the customer as well as to help out and be of service to your co-workers – without expecting a payback.
In your community, it may propel you to get involved in church groups, neighborhood gatherings and/or volunteer work. Consider donating your time, food, money or extra items to the less fortunate. My bet is that there are a lot more people out there in worse shape than you.
At home, it means spending more quality time with your family and being more loving, gentle and compassionate with everyone. It means doing the little things that show you care without, again, expecting a payoff.
It has been said that kindness is never wasted. If it has no effect on the recipient, at least it benefits the bestower. My wife Susan is a master at this. She constantly and consistently performs “random acts of kindness” without expecting anything. Practice random acts of kindness through words and actions.
Choose to keep the lines of communication open: There is nothing more destructive than feeling you have to face a psychological problem alone or feeling you have to take on the entire responsibility of dealing with a financial crisis. That creates more worry – and the problem with worry is that it’s not only time-waster but it also often gives some people the false perception that by worrying, you are actually doing something.
When it comes to keeping a relationship healthy in tough times, positive, open communication is a must. It is the only way I know to keep the imagination in check, challenge false assumptions and blow apart unrealistic fearful disaster scenarios that can make the bad times even worse than they are, causing you feel to guilty about having some fun. Communicating openly and with love is the best way I know to do “reality check” and provide emotional support.
You may have to be the courageous one and take the initiative to communicate. Make a commitment with yourself to be compassionate and have a conversation without being defensive. Communicate with the mindset that you are going to do and say everything in your power to make the other person feel safe. If you meet resistance, try and try again. Change your timing. Change the environment. Keep in mind that you are doing this for the other person so, be gentle, be flexible, be giving, challenge your assumptions about what the other person is feeling and be persistent. It will come back to you many fold.
Be willing and take action: None of these strategies mean anything unless you are willing to shift your thinking, get outside of yourself and take action today to be of more service in your work and more loving in your life.
Being a child of the 60’s, I can vividly hear the echo of the Beatles sing, “Oh I get by with a little help from my friends. So, redefine your definition of wealth, focus on relationships and keep your communication open. Get outside yourself and help others “get by” giving a “little more help” and recession proof your mind.