Too many people take personal responsibility for losing their job, even if entire divisions were closed or the firm moved overseas. Sure it’s a blow to the ego, but employees are not to blame if the company goes out of business, sells out, or down sizes. Yet so many people take it personally, and some take it to extremes. “I’m the one who lost the job. Why should my family suffer?”
One gentleman who participated in my workshops said, “My family went to the beach Saturday. It was hot and my wife and daughter wanted ice cream. I was happy to get it for them, but I felt awful getting it for myself. I should be home looking for work.”
My response to him was, you can’t be looking for work 24 X 7. If you’re doing everything within reason to get re-employed, that’s plenty. As human beings we need to recharge our batteries, and we need to do it often. Taking time to enjoy yourself is important to reduce stress. Having fun provides mental refreshment and can make it easier to do the less pleasurable tasks of looking for a job.
I recommend that clients plan for pleasurable activities every day. What you do doesn’t have to be a big deal. Call a friend, take a short walk, play a couple games of solitaire, anything enjoyable that creates a mental diversion. Personally, I use fun activities as a reward for completing tasks. For example, I really enjoy reading mysteries. On days when I have to spend time with household chores and office bookkeeping, I promise myself that I’ll pick up a book once those tasks have been completed.
Concentrate on things you can do for free, but don’t beat yourself up for spending a couple bucks on something enjoyable. Your family recognizes the stress you’re under, and I’ll bet they enjoy seeing you relax and having fun.
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I often hear this from clients and people who attend my workshops. Many will say things like, “They counton me for everything,” “We can’t afford to do the things I’d promised,” “I’m a failure if I can’t give my family everything they need.”
Before you bury yourself in blame and guilt, it is important to evaluate your thinking. Today there are approximately 14 million unemployed. Are they all failures? If you want to help your family, you will have to start by getting your thinking on the right track. It is more accurate to realize you are caught up in tough times beyond your control. Think realistically. “This will be tough, but not impossible.” “As a family we can survive.” If you take a look at other posts in our blog you will find lots of tips that can help with your negative feelings. Most importantly, remember a family is a system. What affects one member will affect the others. The adjustment of family members will, to some extent, depend on your how well you adjust.
Start by discussing the situation with your spouse. Your feelings should be part of the discussion. Honesty is the best policy. Trying to hide your feelings will not work and will color your attempts to communicate. Share with your wife/husband your job search strategy. She/he may have good suggestions. Make a plan to deal with finances and set up a time to talk to your children. An important part of your discussion should also include what your family can do for fun. Make a list of activities that are free or relatively inexpensive. Activities might include hiking, renting a movie, visiting state parks, etc. Remember, whatever you do need not cost a lot of money. The quality of time spent together is what counts.
When approaching children, tailor what you say to their age. Yhe younger the child, the simpler you should mak the explanation. It is not necessary to get into all the nuts and bolts, even for teenagers. Simply stating the facts is best. Of course, answer their questions honestly.
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In today’s economy, finding a job may seem like a journey of a thousand miles. Unfortunately, estimates range from 6 to 9 months. For some, the search has exceeded a year. It is at such times that following the advice of the 4th century Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tzo, may help keep your head above water. It is a good way to remind yourself that it will take perseverance to land your next job and the journey will be accomplished one step at a time.
Why is it so difficult to keep at the job search? One reason is that we are wired, so to speak, to receive reinforcement such as a salary or positive feedback on a regular basis. While searching for a job, weeks can go by without anything happening to boost your morale. It therefore becomes critical that you begin to reinforce yourself. Positive reinforcement means more than praise or recognition from others, it can be giving yourself a reward for doing something constructive. Promise yourself that you’ll pick up your favorite mystery novel or take a walk after spending time on your computer or making phone calls. Pick activities that are simple but pleasant.
Objectively evaluating your progress is also helpful. Keep track of both your job search activities and pleasurable activities. Review your notes each day and use them to set goals for the next day. Remember to pat yourself on the back after an active day. Congratulate yourself based on your efforts. It may take months to get the next job, but it is the day-in-day-out steps you take that will lead to the big pay off.
When working on a book for over three years, I found it critical to start each day pushing myself to take the first step. In this case I asked myself to write one paragraph. Inevitably, one step led to working for hours.
While looking for a job, you are your own boss. It is up to you to set goals, set up your daily schedule, monitor your progress and reward yourself for efforts made.
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Being unemployed clearly takes its toll on one’s mood. In previous articles we’ve talked about the importance of engaging in pleasurable activities to help create a positive frame of mind and reinforce your job search activities. Frankly, looking for another position is hard work with long periods of little or no reward. Having fun can be your reward on days when you’ve spent “thankless” time on the computer and phone following up on leads. (See our other articles: “Have Fun for Little or No Money,” “Unemployed and Feeling Down? Try Laughter.”) First of all, everyone deserves to have fun without feeling guilty. Secondly, an improved mood gives you the energy and enthusiasm to do all the tasks involved in finding a new job or career.
The great outdoors is a wonderful place to find enjoyment, often without spending a lot or anything at all. The phrase “great outdoors” is generally reserved for places such as national parks or exotic locales that provide high adventure, but we’d like to expand the definition to include any place that’s not indoors. Why? Because there’s so much to observe and enjoy in our own neighborhoods and backyards that frequently goes undiscovered.
The next time you take a walk, do it with a purpose. Notice the different styles of architecture in the houses and buildings. Think about what and why you like or dislike what you see. Notice how appearances have changed in the time you’ve been in an area. Make note of color schemes you might like to use some day. Do some research on trees and birds native to your state. See how many you can identify in your neighborhood or nearby park.
Instead of driving or taking public transportation for errands, go by foot or bicycle. If you don’t already have a bike, look for one at a yard sale. Adult bicycles can readily be found for $25 or less. Maybe you have a neighbor who wouldn’t mind, or might actually appreciate, your taking their dog for a walk from time to time. Use some of your free time to take care of easy things around the house like weeding flowerbeds, making simple repairs, or painting a fence. Find less expensive ways to enjoy hobbies. Going to a driving range or playing on a public course can be a good alternative to a more expensive country club.
Chances are you know some other folks who are unemployed. Why not suggest getting together for group walks or team sports? If necessary you can modify rules to play softball or basketball with less than a full complement of players.
Whatever you do, you’ll find the mental and physical benefits of enjoying the great outdoors can have positive effect on how you think and feel.
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Being unemployed almost surely means cutting back on expenses. That doesn’t mean you have cut back on enjoying life. Engaging in pleasurable activities is a key factor in keeping one’s mood elevated. The better your mood, the more effective you will be in pursuing job search activities. Not to mention that you’ll relate better to family and friends.
We don’t know why, but people always seem to equate having a good time with going some place with a price tag. Movies, concerts, sports events, restaurants, amusement parks come immediately to mind. However there are scores of things to do that won’t make a dent in your budget.
Let’s start with activities that can be enjoyed at home. Some of these might seem a little corny, but remember our objective is to save money. Box games like Scrabble and Monopoly come readily to mind. You probably have half a dozen hidden away in a closet. While not as elegant as their electronic cousins, these games can be played by several people at once and are appropriate for kids, as well as adults. Games such as these can be played at a leisurely pace, are sociable even though they are competitive, and allow for conversation even while being played.
Let’s not forget about good old reliable board games like chess, checkers, Chinese checkers and backgammon. How about simple pencil and paper games like Hangman and Tic-Tac-Toe? When was the last time you played parlor games? ”Fictionary” is an all time favorite among adults. Charades is another classic that youngsters get a kick out of, too.
If you’re not familiar with any of these, do a quick Google search. If you strike out, write to us and we’ll send you instructions. No doubt you have other ideas about having a good time on the cheap. Be sure to share them in the comments section below.
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Unemployment can sap our joy for life. Research tells us, over time, it can have a negative impact on our emotional lives, marriages, children and physical health. Because the emotional impact of unemployment is so pervasive, we have devoted our blog to promoting research based strategies you can use to maintain your emotional wellbeing. Perhaps one of the simplest approaches is to make sure you include laughter in your daily life. Does this sound strange, maybe even ludicrous? Let me give you some background.
Over 30 years ago Norman Cousins published “An Anatomy of an Illness.” Mr. Cousins, a writer who spent close to 40 years as editor of the Saturday Review, contracted a life threatening illness. After being told he had little chance of surviving, to cheer himself up he began watching Marx Brothers’ films that made him laugh deeply and often. He recovered, and inspired by his experience, he began researching the biochemistry of human emotions. We now know that stress stimulates complex biochemical responses. Our bodies respond to stress by producing chemical agents, such as cortisol, which have a negative affect on our health and wellbeing. Prolonged stress is particularly damaging to our bodies and immune systems. Laughter is a great way to decrease stress hormones and increase other hormones such as endorphins, which are associated with relaxation.
Let’s jump to a more current story. Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician in India, has become so convinced of the power of laughter that he has started laughter groups that meet each day. The groups participate in 15 to 20 minutes of laughter. Initially, deep belly laughter is forced. After a short period of time, the group inevitably starts to laugh spontaneously. Dr. Kataria contends that deep belly laughter, even if faked, helps discharge stress and elevates your immune system. An excellent video describing Laughter Yoga has been produced by the Discovery Channel and can be found on YouTube: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahhN3Ryw4O4
). The video also presents research, which supports the benefits of laughter.
Laughter groups have spread to many countries including the U.S. While you might not be able to find a group, you can certainly give laughter a try. Watch a funny movie or go to YouTube and watch some funny videos. I’m betting you will feel more relaxed after some old fashion belly laughter.
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