Managing Job Uncertainty or Loss and the Anxiety and Endless Worry that Goes with it?
Will I lose my job? If I do, how will I pay my bills? How will I continue to live in my home? What if I can't get another job? These are just some of the questions on the minds of New Yorkers these days. The worry can be exhausting and time consuming. The answers feeling well beyond reach. In truth, there is no way to know exactly how you will deal with a circumstance such as job loss. Many New Yorkers who were convinced they could handle the let-down, have found themselves in shock and upset when fired. Others who doubted they could cope have surprised themselves with their strength.
We're In This Together
The anxiety associated with not knowing what lies ahead can be profound. Whether you are worrying about the possibility of losing a job, or about what to do now that you have, you are aware that there is no way to alleviate a question with an unknown conclusion. The faith we all had in the strength of the economy, the American dream of reaching any goal we set, has now been challenged. It has become apparent that there may be a long road to recovery for our economy. So what do we do now?
The Cycle of Rumination
Anxiety is a normal response to uncertainty. But ruminating, which is spending an inordinate amount of time problem solving, imagining and preparing for different outcomes, or simply spinning in your mind on a question is not a healthy, necessary response to our uncertain world. Ruminating can lead to a depressed mood, isolation, and more anxiety. Ruminating all day long may feel like the only way to keep your mind busy, to fully prepare for the tragedies of the future, but there are certainly better options. Keep in mind that while anxiety may cause a person to ruminate, ruminating will then lead to more anxiety, causing a seemingly never-ending, and often worsening cycle of worry.
Strategies for Coping
Ruminating can become a serious problem. Listed below are several strategies that can be helpful. This list is certainly not a full description of all the options for someone struggling with anxiety and worry, but they are a good place to start.
- Embracing Uncertainty - fully accepting NOT knowing, telling yourself to do so, avoiding figuring things out endlessly, avoid discussing it too much with others.
- Keeping Busy - schedule planned, structured activities centered around finding a new job if necessary, or simply engaging in enjoyable activities - the more we know what the day will entail, the less likely we are to get lost in our worries.
- Constructive Planning - consider and write down plan A, B and C and try to keep an "I'll cross that bridge when I get to it" strategy (e.g., If I can't afford my kid's school, I'll put him in public school. If he is very upset about it, I will have to deal with that at the time, but I don't need to know exactly how I will handle that right now). Planning endlessly will probably not leave you better prepared and will certainly not help you to feel better.
- Talk It Out with a Professional - sharing all your worries with your family and friends can actually make things worse. They can give you more to worry about and will become worrisome themselves. It is great to get support from your loved ones, but the full extent of all your concerns does not necessarily need to be shared.
- Worry Time - set aside time for worrying if you can't give it up entirely. Schedule it into your day for 15 minutes and try to put off worrying or problem solving during other times of the day, reminding yourself that you can simply figure it out or worry about it later.
- Keep in mind that when you are worrying, no answer or solution will feel totally correct. You cannot fully convince yourself that everything will be alright when you are ruminating. You will need to tolerate the feeling that goes with uncertainty. Not pleasant, but not necessarily painful.