Archive for the ‘Frustration’ Category

Many years ago I tried to start a new business.  It had many moving parts and included a large group of people.  It failed to get off the ground.  I spent the next year and half ruminating over my failure.  During that time, a colleague was attempting to entice me to join him in a new venture.  Still hurting from the failed experience, I kept refusing to get involved.

Eventually, my colleague and I sat down and began to map out a plan.  We started a company that proved financially successful and lasted for twenty years.  The lesson I learned from that experience was that it is not failure that defines you but how fast you recover.  When I took the time to analyze the failure of the first project, I began to see why it didn’t succeed.  Essentially we had not developed back up plans for the roadblocks that inevitably developed.

Because of my personal experience, I have often counseled clients and participants in my workshops to reframe how they view failure.  I have urged them to review what went wrong and then to move forward with new endeavors.  Unfortunately, many of today’s unemployed hold themselves responsible for their situation. They dwell on past decisions or what they consider missed opportunities.  A more realistic assessment would lead to the understanding that the present economy has had a tremendous impact on the availability of jobs.   It is important to take a look back and not get caught up in self-blame, but to discover if there are clues that can lead to one’s next job or career.

Resilience refers to the process of recovering from adversity.  Psychologists have examined how people deal with setbacks. In fact, the American Psychological Association has developed a pamphlet entitled The Road To Resilience that can be found at http://www.apahelpcenter.org.  I recently came across another great resource that examines resilience.  Rick Newman has written a book entitled Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success.  Both of these resources present the major characteristics associated with resilient people.

There are some common traits among individuals who quickly move past failure and indeed benefit from it.  They are able to step back and evaluate their failure.   Their evaluation helps them pinpoint the factors that contributed to the setback.  They learn to plan for failure in the future.  More simply stated: they always have a plan A and a plan B.  In this way, they use failure to adjust their approach to new ventures or projects.  Essentially, they extract positive information from their failed experience.   Profiles of individuals who have recovered from failure always point to their persistence and confidence.  Unlike me, they do not become paralyzed by their failed experience.

You can strengthen your ability to deal with larger setbacks by keeping small adversities in perspective.  Begin by avoiding catastrophizing them.   Try to learn from small setbacks and move forward incorporating what you have learned.  It is also important to maintain social support in your life.  Many times after a failure, such as loss of a job, people tend to withdraw from family and friends.  Social support is critical if you are to move forward.

As Rick Newman points out, some of the most successful people have met failure.  They ultimately succeeded because they learned what they could from the experience and continued to take on new challenges.


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True, you shouldn’t worry about stress; you should do something about it. Medical science has shown that physical and emotional health cannot be separated.  Being stressed over a long period of time has been linked to problems like depression, heart disease, diabetes, hair loss, sexual dysfunction, and many others. Stress can even make existing medical conditions worse. And no one has to tell you that being unemployed is highly stressful.

We strongly suggest you work on controlling stress every day. There are a number of proven techniques to lower stress quickly and effectively. They include, but are limited to: exercise, yoga, relaxation tapes, seeking social support, and even the simple act of laughing. (If you can’t reduce stress on your own, it is important to seek professional help.) Did you notice we mentioned laughter? While on the computer go to you favorite search engine and type in “laughter yoga.” You will discover why science has shown that laughter is great medicine. Why not try it today? Watch a funny movie and let us know how you feel afterward.

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You’re not alone. Current studies of people who are out of work show that a sense of isolation is very common. People report less contact with friends and former coworkers. Work plays such a large role in our lives, not only financially but also socially, that job loss presents a real threat to our emotional wellbeing. As a result, the unemployed become more withdrawn over time. In reality, we are responsible for creating that sense of isolation by not reaching out. It is important to recognize this threat and work on maintaining social connections. Friends are a wonderful source of emotional support.

Another way to guard against social isolation is to join a support group for people who are unemployed. Local faith communities and civic organizations are a frequent source. These groups often invite guess speakers who offer helpful information on a variety of topics. Members help each other by sharing personal experiences. If a group does not exist in your community, try starting one. Lots of organizations will gladly offer space for you to meet. We think you’d be surprised how well such an effort is received. Let us know if you belong to such a group and how it formed.

Today, the Internet provides lots of ways to stay connected though social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Social networking makes it easy to stay in touch. It also provides the ability to share job leads and other important information.

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I placed a question mark at the end of the title in anticipation that you might wonder how in the world you will be able to “count blessings” when you have just suffered an overwhelming blow. It seems cliché and almost unsympathetic to suggest that you should simply focus on the positive when it probably feels like the cons of your life far outweigh the pros at the moment. I know it seems like a contradiction, but research suggests that the positive emotions brought on by counting your blessings can be helpful in multiple ways, so I hope you read on anyway!
Research has shown that experiencing positive emotions can broaden your perspective, helping you think creatively and see alternatives or solutions that you may not otherwise have been able to see (Frederickson, 2001). Other research suggests that happiness may actually precede success in multiple areas of your life (i.e., relationships, career, income, health), and not the other way around (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005). If positive emotions stimulate successful outcomes, it makes sense to devote time to increasing your positive feelings during this difficult time. Research suggests that counting your blessings can do just that.
On a practical level, taking note of the good things in your life can help you utilize your time off in a meaningful and productive way. For example, you may now have the latitude to reevaluate your career path, spend more time with friends and family, or consider other options such as exploring additional education or training. You may not have this kind of free time again until retirement, so use it to make sure the next steps in your career and life are the right ones. In addition, your positive affect may shine during interviews, causing employers to be impressed by your resilience and demeanor.
So how do you count these blessings? A typical prompt goes like this: “There are many things in our lives, both large and small, that we might be grateful about. Think back over the events of the past week and write down up to five things that happened for which you are grateful or thankful.” An alternative is to write down three things you have been able to do as a result of being unemployed that you would not have been able to do otherwise. Counting blessings just once a week increased self-reported happiness over a six-week period (Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, Schkade, 2005), and, simply thinking gratefully (without writing it down), also increased positive emotions (Watkins, Woodward, Stone, & Kolts, 2003). The point is to start realizing the blessings in your life. The resulting positive emotions will help motivate, energize, and fuel your job search. Given that this will only take 5-10 minutes of your time, it is definitely worth a try!

The Author:
Kristin Layous is a former career counselor who is pursuing a Ph.D. in Social and Personality Psychology at the University of California, Riverside under the direction of Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky.

Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56, 218-226.
Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success? Psychological Bulletin, 131(6), 803-855.
Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable Change. Review of General Psychology, Positive Psychology, 9, 111-131.
Watkins, P. C., Woodward, K., Stone, T., & Kolts, R. L. (2003). Gratitude and happiness: Development of a measure of gratitude and relationships with subjective well-being. Social Behavior and Personality, 31, 431-452.

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While you might dread telling your children you are out of work, it probably will go better than you think. From a psychological perspective, it is most likely that their emotional response will parallel yours and your spouse’s. A positive attitude does not only affect your chances of getting another job, but is also critically important for the mental health of your family.

Start by discussing the approach you intend to take with your spouse. Be sure to take your children’s ages into account. Kids are not “little adults.” Their thinking skills do not completely develop until adolescence. The younger the child the more concrete is their thinking. Be clear and specific with young ones. “Mom will be working at home looking for a new job.” “Dad wants to find a better job.” You may want to set house rules for when you are on the computer or having a phone interview.

Teenagers can be egocentric. They are likely to question how your unemployment will affect them. Be truthful, but avoid being too dramatic. If cutting back expenses will alter their lifestyle, let them know ahead of time. Ask for their input. You might be surprised at how well they step up to the plate.

If your youngster expresses concerns, acknowledge her feelings as well as the issue. This a good time to use what is called “active listening”. If asked, “Will this interfere with my going to college?” before responding, label the feeling your child is expressing. “You’re worried about paying for college, aren’t you? Let’s talk about ways we can make it work.”

When all is said and done, it will be your attitude that prevails. If you stay positive, the children most likely will.

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If you’re overwhelmed by a growing pile of unpaid bills, you’re suffocated by fear of not finding work, you dread spending even a dollar on something you need, you shudder at the prospect of anyone asking, “How’s the job hunt going,” you wake up at 4am, worried, worried, worried… you need to let go of this crushing anxiety before it crushes you! But how? Letting go is easier said than done. Let’s look at what research says about controlling anxiety, and then we’ll present three suggestions you can use.

The Research
Studies show that the use of daily relaxation strategies can help people reduce excessive anxiety. Anxiety and relaxation are opposites. It’s hard—perhaps impossible—to feel anxious when relaxed. A recent review of the literature confirms the effectiveness of relaxation training in reducing anxiety literature. (Manzoni et al., 2008)

Three Suggestions
Here are three relaxation strategies that might help you. (If, however, you have a history of psychological trauma, susceptibility to panic attacks, or any other psychological or physical difficulties, consult with a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other licensed mental health or medical professional before using one of these approaches.)
Meditation: You may find that meditation is easy to employ and an enjoyable technique to help you relax. It becomes increasingly easier to employ with daily practice. Although it can be used at almost any time, it is best practiced in the same place, at the same time for 20 minutes a day. Meditation works best if not practiced immediately after eating or strenuous exercise.

There are four basic keys to successful meditation: (a) a quiet environment free from external distraction; (b) silent or whispered repetition of a particular word or phrase; (c) elimination of all thoughts and distractions from the mind by adopting a passive attitude; (d) sitting in a comfortable position. Meditation is often facilitated by keeping the eyes closed. (Casey, A., & Benson, H. 2006)

Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is based on two of Edmund Jacobson’s (1938) well-respected premises: (a) people cannot be relaxed and stressed at the same time, and (b) physical relaxation leads to mental relaxation. We often go through the day without realizing how tense our muscles are. By sitting and alternately tensing and relaxing major muscle groups for 5 to 8 seconds then relaxing for 15 seconds, you will reach a state of relaxation. You can unobtrusively use PMR throughout the day at almost any time. Edward Charlesworth and Ronald Nathan (1984) provide excellent step‑by‑step procedures and scripts to initiate progressive relaxation. For a little more than a dollar, you can download PMR audio programs from Amazon.com and similar sites.

Diaphragmatic Breathing. This technique takes only a few minutes and can help you learn to relax when faced with an anxiety-provoking situation. Here’s how Aggie Casey and Herbert Benson (2006) described it:
· Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit or lie down.
· Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen, just below your belly button. Take a slow, deep breath. Your lower hand should move more than the hand on your chest.
· Concentrate on letting your abdomen expand fully, drawing air down into your lungs. Notice your belly rising and falling with each breath.
· Now practice this breathing for several minutes.
Of course, in an anxiety-provoking situation, you need not lie down. Just breathe slowly from your diaphragm when sitting or standing.

Try all three. Find the one that works for you and stick with it. It might take a little while before you get the hang of it, but then again, patience and relaxation go hand in hand.
Although life offers no quick fixes, it offers opportunities to learn how to change. Relaxation can be one daily opportunity for overcoming or minimizing the destructive impact of anxiety on our body and mind. These strategies are simple, inexpensive, and known to work. If you’re relaxed, and anxiety no longer dominates your thinking and sleeping, you’ll probably make better decisions; decisions that might help you get the job you want.

Casey, A., & Benson, H. (2006). Harvard Medical School Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure (Harvard Medical School Guides). NY: : McGraw-Hill.
Charlesworth, E. A. and Nathan, R. G. (1984). Stress Management: A Comprehensive Guide to Wellness. NY: Ballantine Books.
Hanson, R., & Mendius, R. (2009). The Practical Neuroscience of Budda’s Brain. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
Jacobson, E. (1938). Progressive Relaxation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Manzoni, G., Pagnini, F., Castelnuovo, G., & Molinari, E. (2008). Relaxation training for anxiety: a ten-years systematic review with meta-analysis. BMC Psychiatry, 8(1), 41. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-8-41

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