Tuesday, December 28, 2010

10 Ways to Help You Stay Positive in Today’s Harsh Economic Climate

By Claudia M. Owens

It has been more than a year…what do you mean President Obama has NOT fixed the economy yet? Americans seem to have unrealistic hopes and have grown weary of the timeliness of our economy’s progress. Although Rome wasn’t built in a day, Atlanta didn’t rise from the Civil War ashes overnight, and New Orleans is still waiting to be rebuilt after Katrina, we seem to think it takes ONLY a few months and a few tax dollars to bring the economy back from the brink of disaster and the trench of “Bush-onomics.” There have been some jobs created, but job cuts continue throughout the economy. In this state of job instability and economic uncertainty in American households, what possibly is the cure or can at least help alleviate the stress of not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from, or knowing whether or not tomorrow you will be called into the boss’s office for that “I’m sorry” diatribe? In times of adversity it is easy to tell someone else to stay positive; however, it is a little more challenging to keep a positive outlook and keep one’s self motivated.

10 things that a person can do with his or her time to keep from over-stressing in stressful times.

1. Exercise. Exercise is medically proven to reduce stress and fight against depression. Many fitness centers have free 3–7 day introductory passes. Take advantage of their offer and treat yourself to a nice morning or afternoon at one of your local fitness centers. For those who have never set foot in a health club or cannot afford to pay the high price of membership fees, an alternative can be simple exercise in your home such as sit-ups, push-ups, and squats. Thanks to technology and Wal-Mart, it’s easy to purchase a home workout video or DVD for under $13.

2. Try Yoga. It might be difficult to imagine yourself twisting and turning into those funny-looking positions; however, once you try it, you will want to learn more and continue the classes. Yoga is accompanied by breathing techniques, which loosen the abdominal muscles and lung cage while you slowly stretch into each position. Many of the positions loosen the tight (knotted) muscles in your back while strengthening those same muscles. Yoga might seem foreign to many people, especially to those of the older generation, but we are now in the era of “change” thanks to the Obama campaign - and change, though hard to acclimate to, can be good.

3. Discover religion or spirituality (if you haven’t already). There’s nothing like prayer to help soothe heartache. Although I am not promoting any particular religion, the power of positive thought combined with pro-activity or exercise can double the positive effect on one’s mental state. Believing that everything and everyone has a purpose and that everything happens for a reason, in the end, this belief can inadvertently change a person’s path. Belief that your future is directed by God (or a deity of your choosing) and steered by you (free will), make you responsible for the actions you take in shaping your own destiny. The best thing to do when you find yourself in a negative situation is to believe that you have the power to effect change or the ability to control your response to the situation.

4. Start a new hobby. Hobbies need not be expensive. The last thing a responsible adult wants to do after losing their job is spend their down time playing computer games, building model cars, or putting together puzzles. Bills have to be paid, and food has to be paid for, and too much fun time will appear as if you’re having an extramarital affair on your responsibilities. However, building model cars, knitting, and games are not the types of hobbies I am suggesting. Writing, making jewelry, tutoring/teaching a class in a field of interest that is compatible with your skills and selling items on E-Bay can be good hobbies, many of which can be turned into a lucrative side job that earns you money. If there is something you love to do, find a way to market and sell it. It doesn’t hurt to try, and during these economic times, every attempt is a success rather than a failure.

5. Do charity or volunteer work. There is something to be said for those who give to the needy even when they are in need themselves. Spend a weekend registering with volunteer websites and local organizations and participate in available activities that fit your schedule. This can also be tied to finding spirituality, or it can at least take your mind off of your own problems and get you motivated to take action, even if it is not action towards your own situation. Giving is good for the soul.

6. Keep your brain simulated and your skills sharp. Dive into a new book. Visit your local library to peruse the latest self-improvement and motivation books or fiction and non-fiction novels. Join a book club for stimulating book discussions, while broadening your network of professionals and friends. If you would rather watch TV, watch shows that will make you laugh or educational channels like the Public Broadcasting Station (PBS), Discovery or the History channel. If you are out of school or out of work, never stop learning. Life should be a learning journey and can also be something worth laughing about. Try to find humor in every situation, even the dire ones.

7. Spend time with family. Who knows how to make you feel better, better than family? Family can relate to whatever pains you are experiencing, especially if it affects them directly as well. If you do not have close family, friends are the next best thing. Take a day trip to a national or local park, historical sites, educational exhibits, museums (children, sports, heritage, fine arts) zoo, festivals, county fairs, parades, and outdoor concerts. Use down time to check out attractions and events in your local area and state. Many are free or modestly priced.

8. Get plenty of sunshine. A nice brisk walk can help you get in your recommended 10,000 steps per day, help elevate your mood, and bump up your vitamin D level.

9. Pay attention to your nutrition. Improving regularity can help improve your mood. Eat fiber-rich foods. They work wonders in helping to regulate blood-sugar levels, reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and much more. Check our www.webmd.com for additional nutrition facts and healthy eating tips.

10. Develop a fitness regimen. A fitness regiment will increase your energy and improve your appearance, and that alone will make you feel better. For your ‘Spring fling’ try hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, participate in a walk-a-ton, or a host of other outdoor sports, depending on your age and stamina, like tennis and golf, to fire up the endorphins.

I do not claim to be an expert in any of areas that I listed. Like many, I am an average American wondering if I will have a job tomorrow; hopeful about the economy getting better; and annoyed that both political parties can’t stop sparring and volleying disagreements, and pass a bill or two.

But in times of adversity and when stress is an everyday factor in our life, it is important that we do whatever we can to keep a healthy mind, body, and spirit. All it takes is research and motivation to be audacious and learn something new, apply it to your life values and daily routine. “If you don't like something change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it.” ~Mary Engelbreit

Claudia M. Owens is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Liberal Arts, Journalism. Claudia has articles published in Classique magazine based in Albany New York, the Metro-Philadelphia newspaper and currently volunteers as a web newsletter writer/editor/proofreader for ArtReach Foundation on a per need basis. A former Junior League of Atlanta member and former part-time private viola instructor for elementary aged children, Claudia also had the opportunity to work during the Inauguration of President Barack Obama as a Program Logistics officer for Envision EMI’s “Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference”. She enjoys reading, traveling, writing, wine tasting and will be pursuing her master’s degree in Public Policy in the near future.

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