We live in times of rapid change in the world of work. Companies are merging, cutting costs, laying off employees, outsourcing and consolidating jobs. This results in more work, more stress, and less financial security. If you are an entrepreneur, you have to deal with raising money and staying afloat long enough to give your business a shot at success. Financial and work stress is a fact of life for many of us these days.
In my practice, I see many patients suffering from career and financial stress. Stress can arise from a difficult boss, unreasonable demands, job loss, lack of capital, or insufficient opportunities to advance. I see older patients and recent college graduates who have endure long periods of unemployment and lower wages. Chronic stressors of this type can lead to relationship difficulties, irritability, insomnia, weight gain, and alcohol consumption. For men, in particular, not being able to provide for their families leads to feelings of personal failure, depression, and low self-esteem. Unrelenting stress can also increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other serious illnesses.
Here are some tips to deal with work or economic stress without losing your health:
(1) Be patient and accept
Many of these stressors are out of your control and you can’t change them. Focus on learning to accept what is and put energy into parts of your life that you can control. If you can keep showing up, hanging in there, and working hard, you are more likely to find a new opportunity. Be patient – sometimes change is slow and you have to wait.
(2) Revise your priorities
In the economic boom period before 2008, we were more likely to spend frivolously and accumulate stuff we didn’t need. Now life requires us to be more careful. Instead of focusing on accumulating possessions and keeping up with the neighbors, you can learn to simplify and focus on relationships and family, enjoying nature, and participating in your community. Play with your children instead of taking them to the mall and they’ll be just as happy (unless they’re teenagers!).
Exercise will get you out of the house and into the fresh air and sunshine or into the gym with its social opportunities. Exercise can make your brain sharper, improve your mood, and make you more disease-resistant. If you can’t get off the couch, buy a dog, especially an active breed like an Aussie shepherd that will spend the day trying to herd you out the door!
(4) Give back to your community
Volunteering for your local PTA, in the classroom, or for a charity is not only meaningful, but offers new opportunities for friendships and engagement. Doing something concrete to help your community can distract you from your own problems and give you a sense of efficacy.
Breathing engages your parasympathetic nervous system which puts the brakes on your stress response and gets your body moving back towards calm and balance. Some forms of exercise, such as yoga or Pilates involve deep breathing, combined with stretching, which can engage your relaxation response. The air is free so take in as much of it as you want!
If your stress is ongoing, interfering with your mood, sleep, appetite, concetration, or relationships, you may want to consult a psychologist for a professional evaluation.