Developing resilience during a recession

by Anna Luckyj, MSW, RSW

Jim has enjoyed a thriving sole practice for the past 25 years. Always an optimistic “boomer,” Jim is now faced with a dramatic decline in business due to the economic downturn. He sees his own investments and financial security failing for the first time in his career. The thoughts of retirement now seem impossible. He isolates himself from his family and colleagues as he struggles to cope with his worry and anxiety.

Woman under stressSusan, a successful family lawyer, has enjoyed the balance of part-time work and raising her two young children. Recently, her husband was laid off from his job and suddenly the family’s financial load is resting on her shoulders. Susan finds herself lying awake at night with anxiety and worry. Aware that her husband is depressed, she keeps her thoughts to herself.

Chris is the managing partner of a mid-sized firm who enjoys his role and the ability to resolve staff concerns and issues. His firm’s recent focus on cost containment will result in some employees losing their jobs. Chris finds himself dreading the process of meeting with these staff, many of whom he has known for several years. Worry pervades his thoughts, and he finds himself avoiding co-workers.

These stories are not unusual or unfamiliar. Perhaps you too are living a parallel experience. The sudden drop from boom and prosperity to — dare I say it — recession, impacts us all and tests our ability to deal with adversity.

The state of the economy, falling real estate prices and debt are increasing our levels of worry and stress about the future. We find ourselves unable to plan or move forward. Research shows that uncertainty can actually take a greater toll than bad news. Chronic stress can damage our health. There are, however, healthy strategies that can keep us resilient in these times.

Here are some ways to keep your focus and sanity when faced with uncertainty and financial unpredictability:

Avoid the drama. Television news focuses on drama and catastrophes. This daily reinforcement of economic disaster increases our anxieties and sense of doom. Monitor your own response and, if you find your chest tightening, avoid it. Media such as newspapers and the Internet allow you to control what you read.

Focus on what you can control and accept those things you can’t. Gather information regarding your finances and develop a plan. Focus on what you can do today rather than what might happen down the road.

Identify the unhealthy ways you respond to stress. For example:

  • smoking;
  • increased consumption of alcohol or use of other substances;
  • workaholism;
  • perfectionism and/or procrastination.

If you find that you are not able to stop or that these costly strategies are compulsive, seek professional help.

Keep things in perspective:

  • remember, these times are temporary;
  • focus on what you have, not on what you have lost;
  • stay in the moment. Learn the discipline of valuing each moment for what it has to offer;
  • do an inventory of your values and what is important in your life;
  • reconnect to the communities to which you belong — professional, business, family, neighbourhood, spiritual, recreational, etc. We need to belong and our communities help to give us a perspective in life.

Accept what you cannot control. Free up energy to improve your life. Don’t let anger and frustration take over.

Take care of yourself. The temptation might be to work harder to compensate in difficult times. Know your point of diminishing returns. We can all reach the point where more energy (working harder) can lead to a precipitous drop in efficiency, poor judgment, exhaustion and burnout. When this happens, you are no help to your business, your family or yourself.

Reflect and discover the opportunities for growth and change. There is a saying that we fail our way to success. It is the learnings we take from short-term setbacks, adversity and “failures” that determine our long-term success.

Reach out to those around you. Don’t isolate yourself.

Seek professional help. Contact Interlock, your member assistance program, at 604-431-8200 or toll-free in BC 1-800-663-9099.

How Interlock can help you
  • Financial planning: 60-minute telephone consultation
  • Debt management: 30-minute telephone consultation
  • Nutritional coaching: assessment and follow-up with a registered dietician
  • Work consultations and coaching services
  • Work/life advisory services: resource information (i.e. eldercare, childcare, parenting)
  • Health and wellness: on-line wellness and resource tools

Counselling is available In person, by telephone and online for lawyers, articled students and immediate family members.

Call Interlock at 604-431-8200 or toll-free in BC 1-800-663-9099.