After the initial shock of September 11 had passed, many of us hoped to help our loved ones, clients, and ourselves heal. But as succeeding events showed clearly, this situation is far from over.
Can we live in an ongoing atmosphere of threat without becoming distraught, panicky, or numb? If you are continuing to experience stress-related problems in your work life, these suggestions may help you handle them.
Although I’ve tried hard to manage my stress levels lately, none of the usual remedies work. Walking and jogging leave me as tense as ever. When I try to talk things over with my spouse, it just stresses us both. Do I need professional help? The stress we’ve been experiencing is truly unprecedented in this country. At the best of times, most of us struggle to cope with worries about health, children, spouses, jobs, finances, and so on. This everyday tension has been increased exponentially by the feeling of living in a country under siege.
So even though all your tried-and-true methods are good, don’t expect them to have an effect overnight. It will take time to stoke the fires of your formerly centered self.
In the meanwhile, don’t make the mistake of isolating yourself. Continue to talk about the way you feel. In fact, you should reach out even more to loved ones and friends around you–perhaps even to a spiritual advisor. Consider joining community volunteers who are helping in some way to improve the situation.
There truly is strength in numbers. Whether you connect in person or via the Internet, keep trying to return to reassuring routines, worthwhile work, and meaningful relationships on all levels. If your stress still doesn’t improve, professional counseling may help. But don’t jump to the conclusion that this is necessary before patiently exploring alternatives in your own backyard.
A client of mine is so upset about our country’s military response to terrorism that he wants to move all his assets into a few stocks focusing on peaceful values. I have no problem with his desire to express his beliefs, but abandoning his well-diversified portfolio could prove disastrous in the long run. What should I do? It’s perfectly natural for this tense world situation to inspire a reevaluation of our life course, including the causes we support financially. But action should come after careful thought, not on impulse.
I would address this client’s request by empathizing with his desire to make a difference in the world. Ask him to share his values and ideals with you in more detail. Once you have respectfully explored these avenues, you may be able to suggest more focused ways to achieve his goals. For example, giving directly to causes he believes in, or volunteering his own time and abilities, could be personally fulfilling as well as effective.
If he remains firm in wanting to invest in these chosen stocks, be sure he’s clear on the risks they present. Investors with survivor guilt, or guilt at our society’s affluence, may even choose certain stocks purposely to lose money. If you suspect that this may be the case, you’ll need to address the issue with great sensitivity so he doesn’t feel judged or attacked.
After some discussion, he may be willing to keep at least some of his portfolio in more broadly diversified investments. This would assist you in protecting his longer-term financial security, while helping him feel that he is expressing his values in a forceful way.
Lately, the productivity of the financial planners on my staff is way down. They seem listless and unable to concentrate. I’ve thought about having a strategy session to discuss new ideas and get them more excited about the future. What do you think? This may not be the time to push for new strategic concepts or organizational change. Routine and structure can help the healing process by allowing people to build on what feels normal and familiar.
Start by letting your staff know that you believe in the importance of coming to grips with troubling thoughts, fears, and other feelings. Establish a weekly get-together expressly for emotional sharing and healing.
In addition, consider hiring an outside facilitator for a staff retreat. By taking your colleagues out of their normal work environment to a peaceful place, you’ll make it possible for them to dedicate more time to support each other. Eventually, you can add future business planning to the agenda.
I’m training a colleague to take over my practice as I move toward retirement. She has a son in the Army who is now serving in some unknown location. In recent weeks, she has become increasingly forgetful and irritable at work, so much so that I’m having second thoughts about leaving my clients in her charge. What should I do? Consider inviting your colleague for a quiet dinner where she may feel more comfortable airing her needs and anxieties. Once you hear her concerns, see if you and she can strategize ways to provide her with more support at work. Encourage her to stay balanced by making time for personal activities that help her feel more serene.