Ask Michael: Managing in today's economy
|Ask Michael: Managing in today's economy|
by Michael Raitt -
SGN Contributing Writer
No news! We all know the economy sucks. We hear about it and read about it every day. Some of us have lost our jobs or worry that unemployment is just on the horizon. We've seen our investments and retirement plans plummet. Many of us have had to put travel or purchase plans on hold. How do we manage in this economy and wrap our brains around what is happening?
First, this bombardment of negative economic news is like the chronic rumble of the traffic in Seattle. It is there and we tune in and notice it from time to time while it has an unnerving effect on us.
In my practice, I've been seeing an increase in anxiety. People are just a little more on edge and bothered about day to day happenings. Friends and colleagues I am talking to are hearing or experiencing increased conflicts in relationships, subtle, yet, noticeable decreases in energy, enthusiasm, and motivation. Some people are reporting changes in eating, drinking, or sexual habits and all of these are influenced by worries about the national and international economic situation. What do we do?
For those of us who are fortunate enough to still have our jobs and have our businesses still afloat, there are a couple of things to think about. First, tune into your attitudes and outlook. Balance your attention to the current situation while strategizing for how your business is going to expand when the economy turns around. Use this time wisely and begin planning for your growth by assessing your strengths and weaknesses. Then begin the process of addressing those components so you will know how to make the necessary changes at the right time. Avoid getting bogged down in too much negativity and fear. Now is the time to get out of fire-fighting mode and the idea of deprivation and move towards the ideas of being pro-active and abundant.
In my opinion, a second important part of this is how we treat those who we serve - our customers, clients, patients. I am a businessman myself and understand the relationship between the need to generate revenue and how decreased earnings may impact how I run my business. I am also acutely aware of the impact that job loss and budget constraints have on the people I serve. I (and a couple of colleagues I know - and to my chagrin, its only a couple of colleagues I know) have made some sacrifices for people who are in need by reducing or temporarily suspending fees. This is how I turn my gratitude and appreciation for a successful business into supporting someone who has found him/herself in a tough economic situation. Obviously, I can't do this for everyone, but I do it when and where I can because I recognize how this is so much more than being about the bottom line. This is about how we support one another. Ultimately, how we get through this will be influenced by how we help each other. I'd ask you to reflect on your business practices and, if you are not already doing so, find ways to help someone who is in a tough situation. This calls for creativity and I know it can be done in most sectors of business.
For those who have lost their jobs (and possibly more), there are things you can do. There are basically two types of people in this situation: those who are pro-active and those who retreat. If you are one of those people who retreat, do what you need to do to turn that attitude around. You've got to dig up your confidence and re-engage by actively looking for work through networking and constant job searching. Yes, of course, when you feel like you are constantly being rejected, it is hard to maintain a positive attitude but you've got to pull a good attitude through. A good attitude is going to increase the probability of landing a job.
For both the pro-active people and the retreaters, use this time wisely as well. Make an honest assessment of yourself and begin to strategize how you want to enhance your strengths while you want to strengthen your weaknesses. No one likes to look at weaknesses, but we all have them. Identify a couple of areas that need improvement then think of ways to improve: read books, take a course, talk to others who have those strengths and ask for some coaching over a cup of coffee. Reach out and ask for help. Volunteer! Do something that gets you more experience and contributes to your confidence and marketability.
For all of us, remember balance! Through worrying, it is too easy to get out of balance and forget to eat right, exercise, make time for our partners, friends, and families. Whether you are looking for work or working to keep your business afloat, it is imperative that you attend to other important things in your life. Commit to re-engaging in a healthy, active sex life. Reconnect with friends and family and do activities that you enjoy. There are lots of things you can do that are inexpensive or of no cost at all. There is nothing like taking a couple of hours in a week and walking through the beautiful neighborhoods in the area or doing some gardening for an elderly neighbor. Take your friend's dog for a walk. You will manage your stress better by doing activities that are rewarding to you. When your stress and worry are down, your outlook is better. When your outlook is better, you have different energy to move ahead.
In my next column, I am going to talk more about the psychology of money and how psychology and our cultural norms influence how we see ourselves.
Michael Raitt, MA LMHC, is a therapist and a contributing writer for the SGN. He writes a bi-monthly column in the SGN. If you would like to comment on this column, ask a question you'd like him to write about, or suggest another topic of interest, please contact him at email@example.com.