Monday, September 27, 2010

Hard Times

Hard times have hit us big time! People have lost retirements, houses, jobs, and careers. Investments have plummeted and, depending on who you listen to, there is no end in sight.

While many of us will agree that "money isn't everything" and that "you can't take it with you," we would probably agree also that these kinds of financial hits put stress on our lives in other areas.

People get depressed or feel anxious. Sometimes they play the Blame Game. There is a feeling of confusion, not knowing what to do next.

The thing is this: We will all hit hard times in one way or another all along our life path. The trick is to not let it destroy our lives. Here are some thoughts about that:

1) Keep talking. I find that when people can talk with their loved ones about how they are feeling, it creates a climate of openness and support that can help them through it. Also, in a healthy talking relationship, there may be less likelihood of turning to addictions or maladaptive behaviors.

2) Regularly assess what you DO have. It is easy to get so focused on the loss of a job or a pension that we lose sight of what we do have. "I still have my family." or "I still have my faith." or "We still have our love." Remember, that people have weathered things like the Great Depression of the '30s and come out of it with their families still intact. It is a matter of keeping focused on the positives in your life so that you don't lose hope.

3) Keep busy. If you are out of work, make looking for a job your full time job. Volunteer at a community helps agency, the library, or a hospital. Don't allow yourself to just sit around and do nothing. It isn't good for you emotionally or physically.

4) Accept what is. That doesn't mean accept your situation in a way that is unhealthy and leads to depression and hopelessness. Accept that what has happened has happened and that nothing will change that. Instead of staying stuck in the "it's not fair" mode, tell yourself "It is what it is" and move on.

5) To accomplish acceptance (#4 above) it probably will involve some grieving. Allow yourself to go through the stages of grief in a way that will produce a healthy outcome for you. Do you know the stages? If you were going through a job loss or loss of investment money, it might look like this:
  • Denial -
"I think they made a mistake when they laid me off. They'll probably
call back soon and rehire me."
"The investment guy doesn't have his facts straight. We didn't lose
that much money."
  • Anger -
"It is not fair for them to lay me off after all these years. I hope my
boss gets fired too."
"My investment guy is an idiot. This loss is his fault."
  • Bargaining -
"If only I would have gone to college. They wouldn't have laid me
"I should never have invested in that high risk stock."
  • Depression -
"That job was the best one I've ever had, and I'll never find one as
good as that again."
"I'll never be able to make up the money I lost."
  • Acceptance -
"That was a good job, but it is gone. I will move on and find another
"I have no control over the stock market. All I can do is the best I

Finally, as I've said in previous posts, it is extremely important to take good care of yourself during hard times. Exercise, eat right, and get good sleep. Without those three things, your body and mind will be depleted and you will not be able to function well or make healthy choices.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lies We Believe

Often, in my work with clients, we begin to uncover some of the lies that they believe that are adding to their distress.

"I will never be good enough."
"I must have a great job in order to be happy."
"I have done terrible things, and God can't possibly love me."
"I can't trust anyone."
"I must please people in order to be accepted."
"I can never say no, or people won't love me."

The list of lies could go on forever, it would seem.

Lies are sometimes very subtle. They are packed in under layers of life experiences and are sometimes rooted way back in childhood.

You had a critical mom? You probably have some lies you believe that are related to that.

You had an angry father? Your dad probably planted some lies in your head when you were little.

You had a teacher or a coach who made you feel bad about yourself? You probably believe some lies related to your relationship with him or her.

Lies are subtle, but once we discover what they are we can begin to tell ourselves the truth. Once we believe the truth, we will notice that we begin to feel less distressed in many cases.

So here's a place to start: The next time you feel anxious or depressed or stressed, notice what is buzzing around in your head. Write down some of those negative things that you are telling yourself.

Then take that list and see if they line up with truth from God's word. Remember that sometimes lies are partly true, so you have to look carefully.

If you are having trouble discerning if they are lies, then maybe a trusted friend or your pastor could help you pull it apart and separate lies from truth.

Finally, remember that you have believed the lies for so long, that they may very well feel like truth to you. So when you begin to tell yourself the truth, it may feel so foreign that it may feel like a lie. That can be a difficult place to be, but keep going. See if you can't turn it around.

You'll be glad you did!