Dealing with financial insecurity
We live in uncertain times, with one economic crisis following another. As if that wasn’t unsettling enough, the media seems determined to crank up our anxiety. Open a newspaper or watch the TV news on any given day and you’ll encounter a barrage of bad-news stories.
If you’re prone to worry, stress or anxiety, this makes it hard to maintain your mental equilibrium. But the key to facing tough times with strength and resilience is to separate the genuine challenges – especially those that directly affect you or your loved ones – from the melodramatic and made-up. Even if redundancy is a very real prospect, or your business looks set to struggle, the way you face up to those challenges will determine the way they affect you.
Have you ever wondered why, when two people are facing exactly the same life stressor – redundancy, divorce, family conflict – one takes it in their stride while the other struggles? It’s because the way these major stressors affect you is all down to the way you perceive them. My clients are always telling me, ‘My boss really stresses me out,’ or ‘My relationship makes me miserable.’
In fact, nothing can ‘make’ us stressed or miserable – only we have the power to do that. Coming back to our current economic travails, if you know your department has to make redundancies this year and you want to stress yourself out about it, think things like this: ‘They are bound to get rid of me – I just know it,’ or ‘If I lose this job, my life will be ruined!’
As you read those statements, you may well have felt a little shiver of anxiety – that’s because these ‘hot thoughts’, as they are known in cognitive therapy, cause an instant jolt of emotion. If I were your coach, I would help you identify these unhelpful thoughts and replace them with more realistic and constructive ones.
If you often think this way, write the thoughts down and then challenge them. Ask yourself, where is the evidence for this? Do you know with 100 per cent certainty your job will go, or are you just ‘fortune telling’ (predicting the future based on guesswork) or focusing on the negative (focusing on one negative fact and ignoring nine positive ones)?
Or try the ‘best friend test’. Would you tell your friend their life faced ruin? Of course not, so why be that harsh with yourself?
Not to belittle the very real fear and anxiety that losing your job can cause, even if you do get made redundant, it’s unlikely to ruin your life. Think about it: do you really love your job? Very few people can honestly answer yes. So why not use some of your redundancy settlement to change your life? Start that business you’ve always dreamed of. Or retrain to do something that genuinely feeds your soul.
Downsize to take the financial pressure off and work part-time or for a charity. Ask your partner to shoulder more of the burden while you spend time with the kids – at least until the economy picks up again.
Look for growth areas (there are plenty right now, despite what you read in the papers). Green technology, for example, is a huge growth area in the UK. Start planning now: taking control of your life, being optimistic and seeing yourself as strong and resilient are some of the most powerful stress-busting tools at your disposal.
Life is miraculous, but short. Do you want to waste precious years feeling stressed, anxious or unhappy? Or live a life you love, thriving despite the challenges we all must face? It really is up to you.
I run workshops through my company, Calm Self Workshops, for people struggling with stress. The Overcoming Stress workshops take place one Saturday a month at my East Finchley office and cost £150 for a full day.