Friday, September 25, 2009

Coping Mechanisms for Managing or Relieving Stress in the Wake, or in Fear, of Job Loss (4-Part Series) -- Part III: Using The Time to Your Advantage

While you certainly did not want, and probably did not expect, to be laid off or between jobs, there are certain things that you can and should do now that you have the time. Not only will doing these things help you to present for your next career opportunity at your best, but there is the added bonus of helping you to feel better about yourself, thereby decreasing your levels of stress. The following are some examples of actions that should be taken during this period:

· USE THE TIME WISELY. Think about all the people, places, and things you may have neglected or overlooked in recent years, and use this time to reconnect with people and to tackle some of those projects. You will feel better for having done so, will feel a sense of connectedness which is important at this time when many are tempted to isolate themselves. This will also give you a sense of accomplishment whenever you complete a task. As an added benefit, you never know from where your next opportunity will come. One of those people you reconnect with may prove useful in helping you to determine next steps, to come up with contacts that you may not have thought of, or may have some great ideas or avenues for you to pursue or incorporate in your job search. You never know.

· WORK TOWARDS A NEW AND IMPROVED (AND MORE MARKETABLE) YOU. Take courses, learn new skills, update and hone old skills, in an effort to reevaluate what it is you want to do next (i.e., do you want to continue what you’ve been doing, or have you been secretly yearning, but putting off, doing something else). In the same way that the ABA Recession Recovery Teleconference series is offered free of charge, there have been numerous other offerings in recent months advertising free online courses aimed at helping people to produce better resumes and cover letters, state and local bar association programs designed to assist in assessing one’s marketability and putting together a career development plan, committees dealing with transition issues for lawyers, etc. Check out the ABA website, but also the websites of your state and local bar associations, as well as running a web search for webinars, and other free teleconferences and podcasts.

· KEEP TO A ROUTINE. No matter what, get up and do something aimed at helping you in your job search every day. At the end of every day, make a list or schedule of things to accomplish the next day, and tell someone what it is you intend to do. Somehow saying it aloud helps to give you a sense of accountability. You want to keep up a routine so you don’t feel as if you are aimlessly wandering from day to day, but instead have purpose.

· COMMIT IT TO PAPER. Identify and write down the largest sources of your stress. For many, this is financial. If this is the case, as an initial step, review the spending habits of yourself and your family and think of ways in which you can begin to cut costs. Once written, investigate ways in which to alleviate some of the financial stress and begin to look into them (i.e., with respect to mortgage issues, there are a number of repayment and other programs now available to assist in this effort, and a host of nonprofit entities ready to talk to you about them. With respect to credit card payments, some companies will entertain lowering your interest rates, so it’s worth it to call and ask. There are also reputable credit counseling companies out there to assist you.)

· EAT HEALTHY, EXERCISE MORE, AND LAUGH MUCH! It sounds basic, but it’s important to remember to take care of yourself. You need all your synapses firing at full throttle, and they won’t be able to if you aren’t getting enough rest or exercise, and are eating junk. It is especially important to avoid turning to self-destructive attempts at relieving stress, such as: drinking, drugging, gambling, smoking, and emotional eating, to name a few. Also, it’s been said that the mere act of laughing in and of itself has stress relieving properties. So, read a funny book, go to the movies and opt for a comedy, hang out with your friends who are the most upbeat and funny (and thus, less likely to bring you down).

Even with these coping mechanisms, you may still need professional help with getting through your stressful situation, which may seem overwhelming and all encompassing. THERE IS NO SHAME IN GETTING OR SEEKING HELP, SO PLEASE DO SEEK PROFESSIONAL ASSISTANCE WHEN SUCH STRESS, OR ISSUES SUCH AS ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, SUBSTANCE ABUSE, OR OTHER TROUBLING BEHAVIORS PERSIST. For assistance, please contact us at Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, Inc. (31 Milk Street, Suite 810, Boston, MA , (617) 482-9600, email@lclma.org, or visit our website at http://www.lclma.org/). Help can also be accessed through your: healthcare provider; local hospital; psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, clinician or other mental health professional; or community healthcare center.See our web site Resource Page for a list of relevant stress resources.

Ms. Walcott presented this and other material in a program entitled, “Staying Positive in a Down Economy: Beyond The Group Hug” (June 30, 2009), which was part of the ABA’s Recession Recovery Teleconference Series. A download and course materials for this program are available online at http://www.abanet.org/cle/programs/nosearch/tspdmo.html.

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