Ten Ways to Gain Control of Downsizing Anxiety

How to get a grip on anxiety in an uncertain world.

Downsized. Laid off. Let go. No matter how company officials phrase it, the situation is among the top life stressors any of us could face. In any economic climate, job loss can lead to anxiety symptoms such as obsessive worry, shallow breathing, heart palpitations, blushing, sweating, and gastrointestinal upset.

The stress of downsizing often begins long before you yourself receive your pink slip. Has the company’s stock price dropped? Have you observed layoffs in other departments or the closing of regional offices elsewhere? Has your company been sold? Do executives seem to be huddling together behind closed doors? When these observations start to keep you up at night, or make it hard to focus on your work during the day, then stress has become anxiety.

Stress is a part of life—even in good economic times. But anxiety doesn’t have to be. No matter how much you’d like to, you can’t change the circumstances when you’ve lost your job. What you can—and must—gain control of is the anxiety this situation can cause.

A shift in thinking can help you transform the “negative” energy that feeds anxiety into positive energy to fuel success. That energy is called “adrenaline” and it’s present whenever a stressor appears—whether it’s good stress, such as a surprise bonus, or bad stress, such as a layoff.

Instead of interpreting that adrenaline as -- “Oh, no! Not again!” --begin to see it as, “Ready, set, go!”

People who are able to access adrenaline energy productively are operating with what we call a High Performance Mind. Here are 10 tips to try when you need to put your best self forward after downsizing:

Nurture Yourself: It’s natural to feel bad about yourself when you lose a job. But don’t let such thoughts dominate your brainwaves. Replace those negative thoughts with more positive messages such as: Your skills got you this job, and they will get you your next one; You have a network to reach out to that will be glad to help you; and Downsizing is a part of life, not a reflection on your value as a person.

Take Action: If you need a day or two to sit around in your pajamas and socks and feel sorry for yourself, so be it. But that’s all you get. Take action toward your goal of new employment—look for opportunities to network, review and update your resume, and consider your finances. If part-time work is necessary to tide you over financially during your job search, it’s better to know right away so you can line it up.

Be Objective: You don’t need us to tell you layoffs are occurring in the millions. That may not be much consolation, but there’s something to learn from this fact: This wasn’t personal. People everywhere, from entry-level employees to senior-level managers making six figures, are suffering the same fate during these difficult economic times.

Play “If...Then...”: A little voice in your head may be nagging you with thoughts like “If you don’t get another job immediately, then life is over.” “If you tell people you’ve been downsized, they won’t want to help you network.” When you notice those thoughts, interrupt them. Play your version of the “If...Then...” game. “If I arrange part-time work now, then I can stay on top of monthly expenses while I look for something permanent.” “If I reach out honestly to my contacts, then they will understand and offer help.”

Try a New Outlook: Consider this idea--Success is not what you do, how much you make, what car you drive or where you live. Success is being in a good mood. What is “being in a good mood”? Knowing what you want and being in action toward achieving that goal. Dwelling on a negative circumstance such as job loss prevents action. Refusing to assess your financial picture realistically prevents you from setting a goal. Decide what you want (e.g., a new job, part-time work while you look for that job, the chance to live and work in a different area of the country, etc.) and take action toward that goal.

Get Out There: It’s time to play “quarterback” of your life. Only you can put the word out that you are open to new opportunities. Leverage both traditional networking (business and trade association events) with social media outlets such as Linked In and Facebook. E-mail your friends with messages suitable for forwarding to their business contacts.

Embrace Adrenaline as a Source of Power: Remember, the surge of energy you feel when you worry about your circumstances is not a bad thing! It is simply your mind’s way of saying, “Ready, set, go!” Use that adrenaline energy to propel you forward and your obsessive worry and other symptoms will recede.

Stay Healthy and Avoid Inappropriate Relaxants Such as Alcohol: Maintain regular exercise, diet, and sleep patterns. Resist the temptation to use alcohol or other substances to calm down; they depress overall brain functioning and impede high performance.

Face What You’re Avoiding: Step into “Logic” mode and make a list. At the top, write the following three categories: “Who or what are you avoiding?” “Why?” “What action should you take?” “By when will you take this action?”

Invest Your Most Valuable Asset—Time: Of all your assets, time is the only one that is truly limited. It’s not elastic. It does not stretch. Do not give in to procrastination, which can become addictive and lead to avoidance.
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