It's Not Life or Death. It's Business.

Unemployment has hit 8.1 percent. The Dow has fallen from a high of 14,700 to below 7,000. Some are near panic. Yes, we are experiencing a reality that none of us has witnessed in our lifetime. Is it serious? Yes. Might it be life changing? Yes. Is it life threatening? No. The reality is that whenever business is down or big money is involved, the workplace hunkers down as if it’s under siege by terrorists. But it isn’t. No lives are at stake here.

The problem with a disproportionate reaction to business and economic issues is that it increases the anxiety level for everyone involved. When too much weight is placed on matters that are not life or death issues, an inappropriate level of stress is created, and stress affects our performance and health.

In her book, A Complete Idiot’s Guide to Difficult Conversations, Gretchen Hirsch writes that our time-pressured, competitive, unpredictable environment “activates our fight or flight mechanism far too often. Our bodies are overloaded with stress chemicals that keep us hyper-alert and on edge.” Not surprisingly, that’s not good for us. And when we are constantly concerned with survival, our thought processes grind to a halt. We don’t make as many good decisions or, in some cases, any decisions at all.

So, in this time of economic stress and uncertainty, take a deep breath and try to keep things in perspective. While I don’t want to minimize the seriousness of people losing jobs and 401K’s dwindling, I urge us to not to let fear dominate. How? Focus on positive steps you can take to make the best of the current situation. If you’re unhappy with your job but afraid to quit for fear of not finding another soon, look for aspects of your personal life that make you happy. If you’ve been laid off, get involved with a not-for-profit that piques your interest while doing your job search. It will help keep you from panic-motivated obsessing by keeping you busy – and it can be great networking. No matter what your circumstances, this is a great time to keep up your contacts and also to renew relationships that you have let lapse. The “we’re all in this together” mentality is alive and well!

Yes, times are tough. But until they get better, we can’t let fear rule our lives. We will live through this… bet on it!

By Erin Wolf

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