Psychologists and therapists nationwide, especially those who specialize in work-related counseling, report employee stress levels that are higher than any time in the past several decades. The mental health consequences of a fragile economy are significant. Often, those whose jobs have been cut are the focus of the recession-mental health discussion, and for good reason. The financial stress of living without income, especially with a family, can be both psychologically overwhelming and even physically harmful. But those who have retained employment are not immune to the recession-related mental health struggles. Seeing long-time coworkers lose their jobs can give survivors a sense of guilt and also of fear that their own employment is equally precarious.
In an interview with Forbes.com, Manhattan psychologist Joan Kane, a veteran therapist of 23 years, raised a particularly interesting point. “In therapy, we try to help patients discover who they really are, (but) in this environment, it’s more helpful” to show that you can adapt than to “be your authentic self,” she said. Before the recession, employment-related reflection revolved around finding a job that would be both financially and personally rewarding. But with job cuts looming, people are forced to shift their attentions: looking for a dream job seems a forgotten luxury; now, we’re striving to become dream employees, and thus indispensible to the higher-ups.
Still, many people have used the recession as an opportunity to switch direction and pursue careers they’d always dreamt of. It’s not rocking to boat to enter a new career if the boat is already rocking, this choice seems to say. But for people who find themselves stuck in less-than-satisfying jobs, the stress of the environment can be emotionally defeating. Often, employees who would otherwise voice concerns or complaints keep silent for fear of dispensation, said Kane. It’s important, then, for people determined to ‘stick it out’ to do so with their own mental and physical health in mind. From periodic visits to a therapist to regular exercise and relaxation activities, playing an active role in your mental health is essential, especially when work isn’t making that health any easier for you.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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