Sorry to begin the title of this post with a sort of “non-word”. However, with all the talk about the troubled economic state of our nation I have been hearing the term “recession-proofing” in relation to many things: recession-proofing your relationship, your business, your budget, your IRA/401K, and the list goes on and on. I am sure that there are several more articles and pieces of advice out there about recession-proofing your happiness, so here is my take on the matter.
I thought that this would be a very important topic to address due to the sheer magnitude of the effect that this recession has had on people in every sector of our society. As a therapist, I have seen the emotional toll that this challenging time has taken on my patients from all walks of life. It seems that individuals from all socioeconomic levels have been affected in some way, be it in loss of savings or employment, increased stress in marriages and relationships, loss of role identification in relation to being the “breadwinner”, and multiple other ways. So, no matter who you are or where you are in your life or your career, it is likely that this recession has affected you in some way too. In my opinion, a major contributor to this atmosphere of (seeming) hopelessness and limitation has been the extremely negative focus that seems to be present in most of the media coverage related to this topic. Of course, I am not advocating that we all “put our heads in the sand” and pretend that this situation is not serious and challenging, because it is. But I think that there must be a way to achieve a balance between realistically appraising the situation so that we can all take steps to ensure the protection of our families and futures, and identifying how this difficult time may facilitate our personal growth and looking towards a more optimistic and hopeful future. Because the problem is that when all you hear from the media is negative feedback about how horrible the world is, and how it will continue to get even more horrible before it gets any better, it is very difficult to hold on to a positive attitude. And, having an optimistic outlook not only improves the quality of our lives (i.e., increasing life satisfaction and happiness, contributing to better health and more effective management of stress), but the absence of optimism can make it more difficult to navigate some of the disastrous effects of this recession. In my experience, having a negative or hopeless attitude makes it more difficult to obtain employment, communicate effectively in relationships, be supportive of others, and make choices in life that will result in positive outcomes. Also, I have observed that being hopeless about life increases stress and causes other physical health problems, which can exacerbate financial or other issues that are already existent.
In light of all of this, I have come up with a few simple suggestions that may assist you in maintaining a positive attitude despite the hopeless atmosphere that is present all around us at this time.
- Surround yourself with positive people as much as possible. Attitudes are usually “contagious”, so if you are spending most of your time with individuals who have a persistently negative attitude it will be much more difficult for you to maintain a hopeful outlook.
- Don’t be afraid to change the subject when you are having a conversation with someone who is bringing you down. Of course we all need to vent from time to time, especially during these troubled times, and being a “shoulder to cry on” for loved ones is usually appreciated and reciprocated. But if you find yourself having discussions with a particular person that always seem to deteriorate into negativity, exercise your freedom to change the topic to something that is more conducive to your own well-being. Each person has the right to choose what information they would like to take in, and to limit conversational topics that make them feel bad or uncomfortable.
- Meditation, exercise, and yoga have helped many people to relieve stress and achieve a more balanced and calm state of mind. However, since each person is different choose an activity that is helpful to you in reducing stress and increasing peace; the most important thing is that you take some time, no matter how little, to do something exclusively for and about yourself. It may not seem easy to take time out of your extremely busy day for the luxury of self-focused time. Try to do this as much as possible, and of course do not beat yourself up for not doing it as much as you think you should because this defeats the whole purpose!
- Acknowledge the real difficulties that this time in history has caused you. Pretending that our problems do not exist usually makes it even more difficult to stop thinking about them, and makes it impossible to gather our internal resources to effectively find solutions. You can think about your problems as things that you would like to see change in your life, and focus on how you can use your personal strengths to accomplish this. It is also important to remember that there are many things in our lives that are not under our control, and sometimes all we can do is “weather the storm” until the next inspiration or solution comes along. But focusing on how our personal talents and assets can assist us in taking an active role in shaping our lives, and appreciating the aspects of our lives that we are happy with and grateful for, can provide an increased sense of control and self-efficacy.