Thursday, February 29, 2024

FAMILY FUSION: Surviving stress


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You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf. – Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Last week I looked at stress that is associated with personality clashes, and today I will examine non-personality stress-related issues.

I will give specific attention to job loss as one of those non-personality stressors that can seriously place much pressure on the family’s ability to cope mentally, emotionally and socially, among other things.

Interestingly, the American Psychological Association reported on January 11, 2012, that “money, work and the economy continue to be the most frequently cited causes of stress for Americans, as they have [been] every year for the past five years”.  

I encountered some friends who told me that they were very happy to have been laid off because their place of employment was sending them crazy. On the other hand, others I know tell me that if they were to lose their jobs, it would send them crazy. The reality is that job loss can create different reactions from different people, depending on their outlook and inner resources to cope with that loss.  

The notion that loss of employment will bring with it a great degree of stress for the average individual is a grand understatement. Some individuals go into panic mode initially, become fearful, develop suicidal thoughts, anger, hatred, hopelessness, and even become physically and emotionally sick. The question is, how can the newly unemployed stressed individual turn that stressful situation into a strengthening opportunity?

My formula may not be 100 per cent foolproof. However, it may assist in giving some pointers in helping you to take an optimistic look beyond your reality.  

Here is my formula:

1. Face it.

2. Fight it.

3. Frustrate it.

First, facing the fact that you have lost your job is the first step toward your conquering the stressor of job loss. You cannot change the reality that the job loss has occurred and worrying will not reverse that fact.

I can recall providing counsel for a single parent who received a termination letter. She had outstanding debts and was managing her home single-handedly. She was distraught at the news and initially could not process clearly what had hit her.

Later when she accepted that she could not change what had happened, she began to change her attitude toward the termination and assertively turned her attention toward legitimate means of moving forward. This woman was not prepared to moan her life away, but arose from the ashes, mustered up the courage to face the challenge, and gradually got back on her feet financially and otherwise. I am not saying that all situations will work out the same way similar to this woman, but facing the loss will arm you with a better chance of getting back on your feet.  

Secondly, you should never stand up and allow a situation to knock you out. Fight it! Losing your job has the ability to knock you down, but never let it knock you out. Keep on getting up and throw some powerful punches at that intimidating monster, because stress should never be a winner. Fight the stress associated with your job loss by strengthening yourself with the following:

a. A positive attitude. Pessimism will create major blockages for you on your road to success.

b. A determination to win. Do not wait for something to happen, make it happen by pursuing every appropriate avenue to get back on your feet financially. If one door closes, look for another to enter.  

c. A desire to unearth other gifts and acquired skills that you may possess. Sometimes loss of job may awaken a set of hidden skills that you have, which can be sharpened to equip you for the world of work.

Years ago, a very good friend was dismissed from his substantive job. I saw how the stress floored him and his family with blows of depression, frustration, anger, hopelessness, fear and the like, but I also saw him fight back with every ounce of energy he had in him. His attitude was positive; his determination was strong and he dug up some hidden skills and used them to climb out of his predicament.  

Thirdly, arm yourself with enough ammunition to frustrate or defeat any future stressful attack of a similar kind should it arise. This can be done by completing the following tasks:  

1. Set goals for yourself and family. Systematically and wisely, plan ahead, especially in important family matters like your future career, finances, retirement, health and children. These steps may help you better absorb the vicious attacks of job loss stress. If you are unable to do the planning yourself, seek help to do so. Goals will give you a sense of direction and destiny and help you test progress in your life as well as your family’s.     

2. Give God, the designer of the family, an opportunity to help you work through some of the challenges that you will face you from time to time. He has an endless resource of wisdom that He releases to anyone who asks for it and power to assist in stressful situations (James 1:5).

Results of a study revealed in the August 2000 edition of the American Psychological Association report that trust and confidence in God works. The study showed that “higher religious faith and spirituality are associated with increased coping, greater resilience to stress, an optimistic life orientation, greater perceived social support and lower levels of anxiety”.  

I encounter people who are severely stressed because of job loss. I came across a married woman who panicked when she was forced to leave her job. She was full of fear and lacked drive to do anything. Outstanding debts stared her in the face and her husband was in no position to carry the financial burden alone. She told me she put her trust in God and also improved her current skills and developed some others. She opened her own home business and is now a successful entrepreneur.  

Become a stress survivor. Don’t lose the battle!  

Next week I will examine traumatic stress.

• Reverend Haynesley Griffith is a marriage and family life consultant.


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