The current economic recession has left many American workers feeling chronically fearful, anxious and stressed about their jobs and financial futures. Constant stress, however, can wear you down, leaving you prone to depression. According to University of Alabama at Birmingham Associate Professor Josh Klapow, Ph.D., however, you can take some concrete steps to reduce your recession-related stress and ward off depression.
Worry, according to Klapow, falls into two categories: "unproductive" and "productive." Unproductive worry is worry about things that you cannot control. Productive worry, on the other hand, is worry about what you can control. Klapow suggests that you use productive worry to motivate you to take action to improve your situation rather than dwelling on what you can't change.
Be realistic about your fears surrounding your job security. If you still have your job, how likely is it really that you'll be laid off? If you're not working, how likely is that you'll be able to get another job? Be aware that by giving into your worst fears you may create a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think you're going to lose your job anyway, you may give less than your best to your job. If you think you can't get another job, you may not try as hard to find another one. By staying grounded in reality, you can continue to be productive and increase your chances of keeping or gaining employment.
Set Limits on Your Media Intake
The media thrives on bad news. It keeps eyes on the TV screen and boosts ratings. It also contributes to your stress level and affects your outlook on the world. If you find your pulse quickening and your body becoming more tense when you watch a particular program, change channels -- especially as it gets closer to your bedtime. A good night's sleep is important in keeping you depression-free and functioning at your best. Instead, watch something positive and uplifting.
Think you have nothing to be thankful for? If you look for it, there is always something to give thanks for, even when it seems like the world is falling apart around you. Do you still have a roof over your head? Your health? Enough food to eat? Look for something, no matter how small, that you can express your gratitude for. Feelings of gratitude can have a powerful effect on your mood.
Take Care of Yourself
Take time to take care of yourself, in all aspects, mind, body and soul. You need it now more than ever. Some way you can practice good self-care and relieve your stress:
- Do a relaxing breathing exercise.
- Don't be afraid to ask for emotional support from friends and family. If you are not ready to take this step, however, Internet forums are a great way get support anonymously.
- Practice good sleep habits. Adequate rest is important in controlling stress and preventing depression.
- Be kind to yourself. Rather than beating yourself up over your perceived shortcomings, acknowledge that you are doing the best you can and forgive yourself.
- Avoid dwelling on the negative. Our thoughts are powerful. We can actually talk ourselves into feeling depressed, simply by choosing to focus on the negative. Become aware of your negative thoughts and redirect your thinking in a more positive direction.
- Thank yourself for taking steps to improve your situation, no matter big or small those steps may be. As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu famously said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
Klapow, Ph.D., Joshua C. Dr. Josh's Blog. Natalie Levy, ed. Accessed July 27, 2009.