James S. Gordon
Psychiatrist

James S. Gordon

Founder and Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in D.C.; author of "Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression," and an expert in using mind-body medicine to heal depression, anxiety and psychological trauma.

 ALL POSTS

Dealing with stress

Q: As summer vacations end and fall approaches, many of us refocus our efforts on the workplace. How have the economic doldrums affected you, and how have you adapted to the new realities of your job and lifestyle? In these times, have the meanings of success changed?

Labor Day is traditionally a time of rest before the renewed activity of fall. For tens of millions of Americans who are unemployed or underemployed, it is a time of high stress, a time when anxiety caused by economic insecurity and foreclosures unsettles, agitates, and casts a shadow over the unemployed and their families.

For those of us in this situation, success means dealing with the stress with greater skill, experiencing a sense of personal control in a situation we cannot now alter, and finding a calm, sheltered place in a time of storms.

Over the years, I have worked with thousands of people who have been made anxious and depressed by economic hardship. Here are five steps drawn from my most recent book, "Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression," that people can take to address the pain and insecurity that may come with today's economic uncertainty. All of them are free and all can be easily learned and done at home.

1. Begin a simple nondenominational meditation practice: Slow, deep breathing -- in through the nose, out through the mouth, with the belly soft and relaxed and the eyes closed -- is a sure antidote to the stress response that uncertainty provokes. To encourage relaxation you can say, "soft" as you breathe in and "belly" as you breathe out. Begin with five minutes, two to three times a day.

2. Move your body: Physical exercise may be the single best therapy for depression. It's very good for anxiety as well. Find any kind of movement that suits you, jog, dance, swim, or walk, it all works. You'll see and feel some benefits after 15-20 minutes.

3. Reach out to others: Human connection -- to family, friends, co-workers in the same boat -- is an antidote to the sense of aimlessness and isolation that may come from job loss or unexpected economic insecurity.

4. Find someone who will listen and help you take a realistic look at your situation: Allow a trusted friend or adviser to help you look for possible solutions for any stressful situations you may be experiencing. In addition to helping you unburden your mind, body and spirit, a trusted friend or advisor can often see solutions more clearly than you and can help you find ways to put these solutions to work.

5. Let your imagination help you find healing and new meaning and purpose: After breathing deeply and relaxing for a few minutes, imagine someplace safe and comfortable, it could be a place you know and love or one that comes to you. Make yourself at home there, notice what's around you, breathe deeply and relax. My colleagues and I at the Center for Mind-Body Medicine have used this safe place imagery successfully with New York City fire fighters after 9/11, with U.S. troops going to or returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and with families in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We teach it every day in our offices and like the other four steps, we use it ourselves.

By James S. Gordon  |  September 6, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Adapting to change Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Progressive poverty | Next: Negative thinking = success

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company