OPINION: Ten Tips To Avoid Depression During Recession

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Everyday I am hit with more depressing news – furloughs, salary cuts, downsizing. The days of salary freezes and program cuts are over; the real impact of the recession, widespread unemployment throughout the economy, is hitting hard and fast.

If you, like me, are feeling the impact, after the initial grip of fear and panic, try the following tips:

  1. First, read a book.

Okay, hope you watched and had a great laugh. Now, a few other tips:

2.  Take delight in your family. I know this sounds corny, but take the time and enjoy being with the people who will love you regardless of whether you make $10,000 or $100,000. Typically during times of economic distress, domestic violence spikes as finance-related tensions tear at the fabric of our families. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Talk to your partner and your kids; let them know what is going on. Depending on their age, your kids can be a tremendous source of support, strength, and many jokes (mine turned me on to the above video).

3.  Cut entertainment expenses. Dinner, the movies, shopping — got to go. Obvious, I know. But theater owners report that their industry has held firm during the recession as people seek relief in the form escapist films, particularly comedies. I’m all for a good film, but save your money and wait for the films to hit cable, or borrow a video; they are free at the library.  In a previous life, I worked for a few months as a movie theater cashier and saw families and groups of friends come in to the theater and spend $50, $70, sometimes even $100 dollars for a night at the movies.  Crazy!

4.  Play more. Dust off the board games on the shelf. Release your closet capitalist and play a game of Monopoly. That will take at least two hours out of your Saturday evening! Find that deck of cards. There are lots of family oriented options to take your mind off the stresses of the moment.

5.  Yard sale! Walk through your living space. See things you haven’t used in the last six months? Stack them up and sell them. Even with limited income, we live in a consumer oriented society and most of us have far more stuff than we need. So, gather up your stuff, organize a yard sale and sell. Furniture, that second car, books, whatever you have someone else may want it.

6.  Cook. If my kids had their way we would stop at McDonald’s for breakfast every morning before school. This morning’s receipt was $8.23. If we did that every weekday morning I would be out $2,139 for the year! We all know that a home-cooked meal is usually cheaper and more nutritious. But, if your work hours are like mine, a 12 or 16 hour day is the norm as opposed to the exception. So cooking becomes an afterthought. But if you stock up on staples, go meatless more often, split the cooking responsibilities amongst family members, cooking will not only save money, but can be fun.

7.  Garden. I am still a novice, but I started a garden this year. I planted herbs and our favorite summer treats: strawberries, blueberries, kale, and tomatoes. So far, the bugs have eaten the kale. I discovered that strawberries grow in small quantities, so we have had three strawberries total for our family of five (might be doing something wrong). And, our tomatoes aren’t due for another month or so. But, my herbs are flourishing, which adds lots of new flavors to every meal.

8.  Change your career. If you are looking at a salary cut the standard advice is to pick up a second job, which may or may not be practical. In the non-profit world, cutbacks typically mean that you do the same amount of work for fewer dollars. So part time work or consultancies may be simply unrealistic. So, consider switching fields. If you are getting paid less, consider finding a job in another field that pays the same, but that demand less time. Hopefully, this may be a temporary switch, but who knows, you might like it!

9.  Give back. As bad as things get, if you live in the U.S. and have a college degree, statistics say you live better than 90% of the people on the planet. So, give back. Whether you tithe at church, or donate time at a local food bank, you will find that giving back to the community is good for the community and good for your spirit.

10.  Get politically active. Hey, you didn’t create this mess. According to Brazil’s president Lula, “This crisis was caused by no black man or woman or by no indigenous person or by no poor person,” rather “white, blue-eyed bankers are entirely to blame for the world financial crisis that has ended up hitting black and indigenous people disproportionately. So make sure that your elected officials hear from you and that you demand an end to the policies that have brought us this economic disarray and pain.

What has your family been doing to weather the storm? Share your stories in the comments!

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