Bruzzese: To stave off anxiety, focus on what’s workingby Anita Bruzzese on Mar. 19, 2009, under Edge
While some may be struggling in this economy, Judith Orloff has never been busier.
Of course, Orloff isn’t necessarily happy about that turn of events. As a psychiatrist, her busy practice is a result of a population that is anxious, depressed and worried about the economy and their jobs. “I’m seeing more people than I have in 20 years,” Orloff says. “My practice is booming.”
Orloff says this “onslaught of people” represents a population unprepared to handle job loss, financial hits to investments and threats of losing their homes. “They’re having their security taken away, and it’s rattling them on a deep level,” she says.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA) annual Stress in America survey, almost half of American workers say they’re stressed about their ability to provide for their families’ basic needs, and eight out of 10 say the economy is a major stressor.
“For a lot of people who have things in their past like an insecure childhood, all the old patterns are being triggered by this crisis,” Orloff says. “People are really worried about what might happen.”
That worry is causing a host of physical problems, as well. A recent Adecco USA survey found that one in five Americans report the recession has had a negative impact on their mental health. Insomnia, back and neck pain, headaches and growing irritability and depression have prompted many to seek professional help from people such as Orloff.
Orloff says, however, that those who are anxious or depressed have a number of ways to help themselves, and should look at this crisis as a chance to be grateful for “what is working in your life.”
In her new book, “Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life,” (Harmony Books, $24.95) Orloff says that those who want strategies to handle the stress being felt today should:
- Focus on the moment. “What’s killing people is focusing on what may or may not happen. Do what you can in the moment. If you lose a job, pick up the classified ads and start looking. Give yourself lots of affirmation. But stop thinking of the ‘what if’ and focus on the ‘now.”‘
- Battle back the fear. It’s OK to admit you have insecurities or are afraid. Be specific about what scares you. By identifying your fears, then you can be better prepared to handle a situation that upsets you. Then, think about times you showed courage, even if it was simply getting out of bed when you felt bad. Let the courage infuse you, and not the fear. “It’s time for people to be heroes in their own lives,” Orloff says. “Believe in yourself and move forward.”
- Hang around positive people. Orloff says “emotional vampires” can suck the spirit out of you with their negative and demoralizing talk. It’s better to engage people who are upbeat and who have positive things to say. Focus on how good you feel when you’re with good friends and a loving family and do things that relax you and make you feel better such as yoga, meditation, taking a walk or relaxing in a warm bath. Avoid things that add to your tension such as violent news stories, arguments or too much caffeine.
- Keep rejection in perspective. Job hunting can be stressful, especially if you’re rejected for a position. “Remember that you’re not being personally rejected. In these cases, it’s more important than ever that you have people around you who are your cheerleaders, who support you.”
- Attract hope. Even if you haven’t lost your job, chances are you know someone who has. When you start feeling depressed, connect with words, songs or art that have hopeful messages. Call a friend who has a hopeful outlook on life. Orloff says that hope is contagious – exposing yourself to hopeful situations will help lift your mood.
Finally, as dismal as the situation is for many people, Orloff says that she believes that our current crisis is really an “opportunity.”
“People are going to learn that no matter what is happening, they’re going to be OK,” she says. “I think many people will come out of this situation more empowered because of how they dealt with their problems.”
Anita Bruzzese is author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy…and How to Avoid Them” (www.45things.com). Write to her c/o: Gannett ContentOne, 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, VA 22107. For a reply, include a SASE.