The mindset to make it through
As the recession rolls along, it is taking an emotional toll on a lot of folks. So I asked Celeste Owens, a licensed psychologist and former faculty member at the University of Maryland, to help answer questions from people struggling to survive in this economy.
As the recession rolls along, it is taking an emotional toll on a lot of folks. So I asked Celeste Owens, a licensed psychologist and former faculty member at the University of Maryland, to help answer questions from people struggling to survive in this economy. The following is an edited transcript of our chat, which was held recently on washingtonpost.com:
Q I am stressed by the fragile economy, my job security, tremendous loss in my 401(k) and the fact that I am nearly 60 years old. Instead of being angry and sick to my stomach every day, how can I weather this turbulent environment without jeopardizing my sanity?
A Owens: Open your eyes and find what is good about right now, this moment. Push past the fear. Concentrate on what really matters. What a waste of time to worry about something that may never be. There is a season for everything. This may feel like winter, but what follows winter? Spring - a time for new beginnings.
It's getting more and more difficult to listen to my significant other talk about being unemployed (since October 2008) and all of the jobs for which he has applied. It burdens and pains my heart to see him struggle. What more can I do besides continue to encourage him? I provide some financial assistance and offer to do anything to help him (not just financially). We plan to marry. This situation hasn't affected our relationship, but I fear that it may.
Owens: I have discovered (through my own life challenges) that we learn the most about ourselves and the strength of our character from adversity. Although you are feeling burdened by his struggle, it's not yours to fix. Your words of encouragement are all that you can give, and that is enough.
Michelle Singletary: Also watch how he handles this financial crisis. I mean really, really watch. Too few couples pay attention to how the other person handles money issues that come up. If you have a problem with what's going on and how he's handling this situation, don't ignore that red flag.
My husband has been unemployed for a year. It's so hard to stay positive and to keep encouraging him. (He's trying to find work, but our profession got hit hard.) My husband gets depressed frequently, so I feel like I need to lift him up. But his lack of contribution is really wearing on me. Every time I bring it up, he just lowers his head, says I'm right and acts defeated for the rest of the day/week. Help!
Owens: This just might be the time to reevaluate and consider a career move. I know, I know, what will he do? Ask him. Has he had a dream that he put on the back burner because he had to bring home the bacon? Well, this might be the time to dust it off and move forward. What does he stand to lose?
On another note, if his depressive episodes are frequent, he might consider seeing a therapist, psychiatrist or other trained professional. Those who are depressed often feel unmotivated.
I had to lay off an employee. His job functions were redundant with another employee's. Some of the "survivors" (about 20) are understandably chatting around the water cooler and in the break room: "Am I next?"
What can I do to reassure them that, while I cannot promise anything, my very last resort would be to lay off anyone else?
Owens: That must have been pretty tough, to say the least, and understandably others are fearful of their own fate. Have a brief meeting with the "survivors" to share just what you have said - to your knowledge no one else's job is at jeopardy. This type of candid discussion allows you to build trust as well as empathize with them and acknowledge their concerns.
I'm trying to figure out how to make do with less. I live alone so I don't have anyone to share bills with. I know many people have more obligations than I do, but at the same time, I find myself angry whenever I write a check to pay a bill. I'm just searching for a way to feel okay while cutting things out.
Owens: The key is gratitude. It's that simple. Your sacrifices now will make for a remarkable reward later. And what do you have to be grateful for? You live alone (you can do what you like, when you like). You are writing checks for bills (you have the money to pay the bills). You have bills (that means you have a roof over your head, electricity, etc.). I think you get the picture.
Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Reader can also follow her on Twitter at: SingletaryM. Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.
(c) 2009, Washington Post Writers Group