BECOMING PERSONALLY RECESSION PROOF
In the past few weeks I have heard several disturbing stories of people who have lost friends and business associates to suicide, and this upsetting trend appears to be caused by the considerable stress brought on by the current serious economic recession. Many people who followed the advice of financial pundits and thought they were on sound financial ground now find themselves in real difficulty. Many of us face tough choices that we could not possibly have imagined only a short time ago.
Remember that this too shall pass—the current financial recession will lessen over time. Meanwhile, please consider the following 12 techniques to help make you personally depression proof and recession proof. This advice won’t take the place of a good therapist (tip #11), but hopefully should be worth far more than you paid for it.
Technique #1: Eat healthy, exercise, and get plenty of rest. Listen to your mother. Food fuels your physical body which is the foundation of the rest of your life; poor fuel equals low energy and bad feelings. Exercise makes you feel good, gives you a break from mental fatigue, and strengthens your body for future challenges. The bad feelings and poor performance associated with insufficient rest are well documented; pay attention to how much rest you need and give it to yourself.
Technique #2: Count your blessings. This is sometimes called “saying gratitudes.” All of us have people and things to be grateful for. Review these morning and night to lift your spirits and to keep things in perspective.
Technique #3: Think positively. While the power of positive thinking has been overplayed in the popular press, it still works. It doesn’t take away the need for a realistic plan, but it can surely help you accomplish that plan a lot more effectively than negative thinking. Imagine how good you will feel when you achieve your goals, and think about how all your many positive (and wonderful) attributes will help you to accomplish these goals. While things almost never turn out exactly as we’ve planned, even in a worst case scenario there’s no advantage to living through all those bad feelings over and over.
Technique #4: Set realistic goals and expectations. We live in a society which tends to place a high value on secondary pleasures like money, power, and status. Ironically, the things that truly make us happy are primary pleasures like good health, good relationships, and making a positive difference in the world. Revisit and adjust your definition of success so that you don’t inaccurately think of yourself as a “failure.” That kind of thinking will send you into a predictable downward spiral of bad feelings. Don’t “should” on yourself or let others “should” on you either. Those who try to fly like Superman or Superwoman inevitably fall down and hurt themselves.
Technique #5: Create a good plan. Get whatever expert help you need to create a good plan; this will give you the confidence and peace of mind that comes with having the best approach possible given your circumstances. Have a good back-up plan, too.
Technique #6: Schedule fun activities. Never underestimate the power of fun. It can renew your spirit and energize your creativity. Nobody can be effective working all the time, and you need distraction from your problems. Spend time with fun and nurturing people who lift your spirits, and don’t forget your hobbies.
Technique #7: Create your own personal support group. We all need people we can talk with honestly about our true thoughts and feelings, especially when we are feeling down. This may include your significant other, other family members, close friends, or a group that you have joined for this purpose. These are the people you can reach out to for help when you are feeling overwhelmed and sinking into really bad feelings.
Technique #8: Be your own mentor. This can take different forms. You can keep a feelings journal, note when you feel bad, and then create a plan to improve your mood. One technique is to ask yourself, “How do I feel?” and then “What do I need?” Another approach is to create an imaginary mentor who is very wise (who, of course, is the very wise part of yourself) who can counsel the part of you that is feeling afraid, angry, sad, or hopeless. Another wrinkle is to use your own death as your advisor; this really helps you put first things first. This technique can be used through writing or talking.
Technique #9: Use relaxation, breathing, and meditation techniques. Books abound on these subjects. At the most basic level, all of these techniques are designed to break the stress cycle and restore good feelings and clear thinking. Clear thinking is your ticket out of your stressful situation.
Technique #10: Engage your spiritual self. We are healthier and happier when we feel connected to some power or force in the universe that is greater than ourselves. It’s one of the ways we can acknowledge that we cannot control everything; for example, the current economy. This technique can take many forms, such as meditation, prayer, mindfulness, etc. Taking the time to engage your spiritual self can be a great source of comfort, especially in difficult times.
Technique #11: Find a good therapist. The benefits of working with a good therapist are well documented. Sometimes you need someone who understands the human psyche better than your friends, family, or your support group. Most of us have blind spots in our thinking that lead to unnecessary bad feelings, and these can become even more of a liability during times of high stress. Therapists vary in style and quality like any other profession. Get several referrals and interview each therapist as you would a dating partner—keep looking until you find one with whom you have the right chemistry.
Technique #12: Use prescribed medication with proper supervision. Research generally has not supported “the medical model” for all feeling problems. In brief, this model maintains that almost all bad feelings have a medical basis and can be cured only with the right pill from a pharmaceutical company. Nonetheless, properly prescribed and supervised medication sometimes can be a very effective tool when used in conjunction with therapy. We are fortunate to live in a time when we have some very good medications available to us that can help people through particularly difficult times. Needless suffering serves no good purpose, and medication used wisely can be an important part of a sound plan to create clear thinking and effective problem solving.
In summary, the overarching theme here is to take good care of yourself physically, rationally, emotionally, and spiritually; especially during this stressful time. In this way you can prepare yourself to use your full intellect and creativity in addressing whatever challenges you may be facing, and you can care for those you love better. Remember that you are not alone, and that your real worth far exceeds the balance in your checking account, the car you drive, or where you go on vacation.
Copyright Terry "Doc" Dockery, Ph.D. All rights reserved.