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Education > Recession To Recovery

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” These famous words open A Tale of Two Cities, a classic novel about the French Revolution. Can the same be said about recent times? Although no guillotine loomed over our heads, we were faced with an equally daunting foe: the economic recession. We saw it all around us. Cherished local businesses shuttered their doors. Co-workers were here one day and gone the next. Savings and retirements funds shrank over night. But in spite of it all, might there be a silver lining?

The good news is that the experts have declared the recession officially over. Business is picking up, houses are starting to sell, stocks are on the upswing, and a true depression was averted. Whew! The tougher news is that individuals and families will be the last to experience the recovery and won’t be breathing a sigh of relief anytime soon.
While those still struggling or out of work would never call these the best of times, is it possible to keep stress from getting worse?

These seven tips may help you find some calm in the midst of the chaos.

1) Slow down:
Just because life is spiraling at a frantic pace around you doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. Stop what you’re doing. Breathe. Goals will be accomplished more efficiently and effectively with concentration and focus than with panic and hurt. In his bestseller, In Praise of Slow, Carl Honore argues that simply slowing down is the easiest way to focus your life on quality, not quantity. This idea started an international movement, aptly named The Slow Movement, which prides itself on building connections in an unpredictable world.

2) Focus on the present moment:
Set your five-year plan aside and focus on improving your current situation. What can you do that will make you happier today? What will reduce your stress this week? According to Leah Forster, a licensed clinical social worker at Primary Children’s Medical Center, the best way to cope with stress is to “live very in the moment.” Rather than letting anxiety snowball, she encourages her young cancer patients and their families to take one day at a time.

3) Choose your battles:

What you do today will have little affect on Wall Street but can have a major impact on your health. Instead of dwelling on the big picture, tackle the obstacles in your path you can control. Writer Jonathan Kozol offers a helpful rule of thumb, “Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win.” If your struggle intimidates you, don’t be afraid to start small. A few little steps in the right direction will soon move you out of a rut.

4) Rally the troops:

This time of economic stress is hard on everyone. Now is the perfect time to build lasting friendships, reestablish old bonds, and surround yourself with a caring, positive circle of friends. The journal, Cancer, recently reported that women with advanced ovarian cancer who had an active support system produced less 
interleukin 6 (a protein linked to aggressive cancers) and fared better during chemotherapy treatments than their less-connected counterparts. Friends are literally good for your health! Make sure you are contributing as much to relationships as you are receiving for a win-win situation.

5) Be grateful:
The unemployment rate is terribly high. Homes are being foreclosed in every big city and small town. Take a few moments each day to celebrate what you do have. Rejoice in the simple successes of life: an improved report card or employee evaluation, a friendly compliment, or a tender moment with a loved one—all can be like patches of blue beginning to peak through a gray sky. Richard Carlson, of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff fame, offered the following advice, “The trick is to be grateful when your mood is high and graceful when it is low.”

6) Go back to basics:

Cuts of every kind are forcing people to spend their money and time more wisely. Don’t throw caution (or your savings) to the wind, but try to set your financial worries aside now and then. Ask yourself what you would be doing if money were no object. Is there a scaled-down version that you can be doing on the cheap? For example, if you’ve always longed to travel, explore an unfamiliar neighborhood in your own town first. Find a new R&R retreat, nightspot, or people-watching perch. An old-fashioned potluck dinner is more cost-effective than eating out and you’ll have the added perk of some “togetherness time” with family and friends. In an economy obsessed with “trimming the fat,” follow suit. This is the ideal opportunity to leave costly habits behind and get a fresh, simpler start.

7) Be brave: 

Lost your job? Seek prospective occupations that might be more in touch with your passions. You might find a much better fit. Tom Ulbrich, the executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University of Buffalo School of Management, is actually encouraging people to launch small businesses in this economy. “Everybody else is waiting,” he says. “If you go now, you’re going to be ahead of the curve.” Imagine the possibilities of how a positive new direction might affect your feelings and your finances.

Tough times don’t last forever and we need to remember the famous old words, “This too shall pass.” Don’t sit idly by waiting for things to improve. And don’t waste precious time worrying over things you can’t control. Focus on those things you can do that will keep you moving forward. Put your energy into activities that lighten your load and add some joy to the moment. Remember, it may not be the best of times, but it doesn’t have to be the worst.

2010 New Perspectives. Permission to copy this article is granted provided the author is notified and the following bio information is included:

Kathleen Passanisi, PT, CSP, CPAE is an internationally recognized professional speaker, therapeutic humor expert, healthcare professional, and author. A proud member of the NSA Speaker Hall of Fame, she has spoken to bazillions of people about life balance, wellness, the power of perception, women’s issues, and the link that exists between humor and health. For more information on Kathleen’s presentations, books, SPARK magazine and products, please visit the New Perspectives website at www.kathleenpassanisi.com.

Annie Passanisi, co-creator of SPARK magazine, is a Chicago-based actor, singer, writer, marketer, and polka dot enthusiast. Her passion for applied positive psychology has led her to join her award-winning professional speaking mother on the platform. For more information, please visit www.TheAnniePassanisi.com.

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