Understatement: involuntary unemployment can cast a pall over things. Even if a sense of relief accompanied the loss of a job that had felt like a daily root canal, confronting a dried up revenue stream and a wilted economy is no walk in the park either. The bills find your mailbox, the refrigerator needs reloading, and the hard work of job-hunting is not cost-free. It is a time when one’s sense of control over one’s life takes a major hit; if you don’t at times feel really stressed, check your pulse.
When caught in the throes of high-stress, high-anxiety events such as unemployment, our thoughts can become our enemies; fear, self-doubt, worry, despair, and anger can get the upper hand. Although it’s necessary to embrace the realities of one’s situation, managing one’s thoughts to stay positive and proactive becomes essential. Hence, the relevance of the fourth meeting of the Managing Your Work Search series: Mental Self-management, or how to make that reciprocal relationship between thought and emotional state work for you, and not against you.
As anyone who’s tried to keep their thoughts on a positive track during hard times can tell you, it’s not easy; mental patterns are as resistant to change as any other habit, but staying positive keeps the energy and creative juices flowing. It can and is being done by increasing numbers of people through the practice of mindfulness meditation, one of the most effective ways to take charge of your mind. The field of mindfulness has gained great traction of late, its benefits extensively researched, measured and documented by neuroscientific, medical, and psychiatric researchers, with books abounding on the subject.
Given the many emotional (reduces symptoms of depression, anxiety, enhances well-being and calmness), mental (improves memory, mental clarity, productivity, decision-making, perspective, creativity, intuition, insight), and physical (strengthens the immune system, reduces blood pressure, may help reduce cholesterol) benefits, it is no wonder that the use of mindfulness is promoted in medicine, mental health, the professions (e.g., Google “mindfulness and lawyers”), business, education, the military, and even corrections.
Mindfulness is a very simple (but not easy) practice of intentional mental and physical stillness that will begin to produce these self-reinforcing benefits within the first week of daily practice. And you will likely find that it supports other valuable disciplines of self-care, e.g., good nutrition, adequate exercise, volunteer work, social contacts, and the enjoyment of nature, music or other favorite leisure activities.
It’s hard to argue with any activity that offers so many payoffs, although some take issue with its “religious” origins. Various forms of contemplation and meditation did, in fact, originate in the context of religious practice. While it is not religious, per se, it is spiritual in that it offers personal foundational support (Talbot & Love call it spiritual development) that involves:
(1) an internal process of seeking personal authenticity, genuineness, and wholeness as an aspect of identity development;
(2) the process of continually transcending one’s current locus of centricity;
(3) developing a greater connectedness to self and others through relationships and union with community;
(4) deriving meaning, purpose, and direction in one’s life;
(5) an increasing openness to exploring a relationship with an intangible and pervasive power or essence that exists beyond human knowing. (See Talbot & Love, Defining Spiritual Development, 1999, NASPA Journal, pp. 364-367.)
The use of mindfulness meditation helps you remember that your life doesn’t end when the paychecks stop. It changes. And when you roll with it, staying mentally strong, committed, positive, and determined, you will ultimately create the best possible outcome.