Archive for the ‘Physical Health’ Category

BookCover_v1Unemployment has more than just an economic impact on our lives. M. Harvey Brenner (1973, 1999) in Mental Illness and the Economy estimates that every 1% gain in unemployment over 3 years is accompanied by 20,240 cardio failures, 495 alcohol deaths, 920 suicides, 628 homicides and 4,227 admissions to psychiatric hospitals. Yet, little attention is paid to the psychological impact of unemployment.

In my new Kindle book, How to Stay Up in a Down Job Market: Survival Skills for the Unemployed, I address 9 strategies you can begin implementing immediately to start fighting the emotional storm that often accompanies unemployment. This concise book is not meant to be a panacea; I can’t give you a 30-day money back guarantee. However, I can assure you that there are psychological strategies you can learn to employ that will prove helpful. Because unemployment is such a threat to our well being, it is critical that you reduce the psychological impact of job loss. While it is hoped this book will be helpful, it cannot replace the help a physician or mental health professional can provide when needed.

The research clearly indicates that unemployment creates a level of prolonged stress which can be debilitating in terms of one’s physical and mental wellbeing. There are a number of simple strategies presented in the book that focus on reducing the stress you are experiencing.

Central to my approach is that if we want to change how we feel there are two buttons we can push. We can change our thinking and/or change our actions. When an event occurs, we immediately begin to evaluate it. Our evaluations might be rational and helpful. Unfortunately, sometimes they are irrational and lead to emotional upset and self-defeating behavior. This can especially occur when confronted with adversity. The book addresses how you can challenge irrational thoughts and the necessity to replace them with positive thinking. A simple example would go something like this: “I lost my job, I’ll never find another in this economy.” A more helpful and rational thought would be: “It will be tough to find another job and might take awhile. I better work on it everyday.”

If we want to change how we feel, we also need to focus on our actions. Of course, we need to engage in job search activities, but the book emphasizes the need to also engage in activities that improve our mood and motivation. In my opinion, it is critical to include activities such as reading, gardening, walking, exercise, or anything else you enjoy.

We can use such activities to reinforce the completion of less inherently interesting chores like searching job boards each day. It has been my experience with clients who find themselves really stuck, that focusing on activities proves more useful at first than attacking irrational thinking. For one of my unemployed clients, taking the time some mornings to drive her children to school gave her a sense of satisfaction and helped start her day. When she was working, she never had been able to drop them off or pick them up. Another client, an unemployed father for the first time could help his children with homework. It helped him feel he was contributing to the family’s welfare even though he was out of work.

While we know that finding a new position takes hard work, we often ignore our physical and mental health. Just reading this book will not change how you feel. If you want to limit the potential damage of unemployment to you and your family’s well being, you will have to work just as hard everyday to sustain your physical and emotional health. The book is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.


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If the thought of weight lifting as a way to improve your overall health doesn’t appeal to you don’t despair, there are many options.

First, here’s a quick definition of physical fitness to determine if your chosen activity is sufficient for achieving your health and fitness goals.  Physical fitness encompasses six components; cardio-vascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, body composition, and core strength. Any activity that contributes to the enhancement of one or more of these areas is acceptable.

Conditioning the body can also be based solely on specific activities. For instance, if you’re a marathoner your conditioning would predominately be centered around cardio-vascular and muscular endurance.

Unemployment can produce higher than normal stress levels. Engaging in a physical activity to help reduce stress while also receiving health benefits is advantageous. Yoga is just such an activity. As human beings, it is our birthright to be happy, healthy, and vibrant. Unfortunately, the world we live in today can make unhappiness, sickness, depression, and frustration seem to be the norm.

Yoga, developed thousands of years ago by highly evolved humanists and sages, is a scientific method designed to help us develop physically, mentally and psychologically into more complete human beings. The word yoga implies harmony and balance between all aspects of creation, and helps connect us to our higher self. There are many different forms of yoga, all providing physical, mental, and psychological benefits to the practitioner.

Yoga stimulates endocrine activity, which is a major component in the regulation and stabilization of emotions. When practiced regularly, yoga uplifts the mind as well as the emotions.  Practiced regularly, it can elevate consciousness while creating a sense of harmony with all of nature. Yoga has been shown to create balance of body, mind and emotions, and is an excellent way to bring tranquility at a time when life can seem daunting.

Consider yoga for your health and fitness. It’s a tool you can use for the rest of your life. When your energies are balanced they result in perfect health. The postures and breath control involved in yoga also help the body eliminate toxins while energizing and strengthening the entire body, including the nervous system. As a result you begin to feel more energetic yet relaxed, free from tension and more easily able to meet the demands of everyday living.

“Happiness is not a destination. It is a method of life.” Burton Hill

Chris Christian is a certified personal trainer who instructs on fitness and nutrition for the City Colleges of Chicago.  He has been pursuing his passion for over 30 years and enjoys helping others enhance their lives.  Chris’s articles on fitness can be found at fitness.suite101.com.

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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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For some of us, resuming our career during these turbulent economic times may seem challenging, for now. However, equipped with a strong mental attitude, perseverance, and patience, we have to believe our new career opportunity is right around the corner. In the mean time, this is the perfect chance to allocate some of our down time to enriching ourselves physically as well as mentally.

Let’s face it unemployment is going to produce some level of stress for everyone facing it – for some more so than others. Developing and following a basic exercise plan, something many people “intended” to do but never had the time, is a great way to release stress. Exercise helps the body to feel better by releasing hormones called endorphins that make you feel good.  Ever hear of runner’s high?  Endorphins are the reason.  Additionally, there are numerous health related benefits associated with exercise such as improved cardiac strength, and greater endurance.

Your exercise regimen does not have to be hours long and so intense you have to crawl into bed afterwards. It can be as simple as a brisk walk in the park, as productive as an hour doing yard work, or as entertaining as a game of tennis with a friend. The psychological benefits of exercise include a sense of well being and accomplishment.  This positive attitude and vitality can boost your spirits and come through during interviews.

Take this time to establish a new habit that will benefit you for the rest of your life, you’ll be glad you did! Of course, it is always recommended to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

Chris Christian is a certified personal trainer who instructs on fitness and nutrition for the City Colleges of Chicago.  He has been pursuing his passion for over 30 years and enjoys helping others enhance their lives.  Chris’s articles on fitness can be found at fitness.suite101.com.

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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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