We’re living through a very difficult economic time and we’re constantly reminded about it. Every day, more news reports that tell us people are losing their jobs and it’s very hard to see a silver lining. But research shows that the very last thing you need to survive a crisis is to be negative and pessimistic. It actually factors considerably against your success in overcoming the challenge you face.

Glass half empty, glass half full

Optimists with a resilient nature bounce back from disaster and believe that things will improve. They see light, not dark, and that makes them more likely to spot an opportunity and go for it in a positive way. After this prolonged period of doom and gloom, the only people left in good health will probably be these sunny ‘keep smiling’ type people who always see how it ‘could be worse.’

Negative thoughts become self-fulfilled prophesies if they perpetuate and have nothing to break them. You soon become down about your lot and this leads those of us with a ‘cup ½ empty’ persona to get caught in a downward spiral of negative thoughts. You fail to notice anything that’s good and lose any hope that things will ever get better. And this often leads to depression.

Effects of stress

Two glasses of milk, one is half-empty the other is half-full

The danger that the current situation presents is stress. It’s the silent stalker we must all be aware of. The work-related effects of people facing uncertainty within their teams and work puts them at greater risk. This is a dangerous time. Not only for our mental health, as we deal with lack of control in our jobs, but also our ability to concentrate is affected. That causes us to be more distracted and more likely to have ‘slip, trip and fall’ type injuries.

Whether or not your company has laid people off, the length of time we’ve all been affected by this creeping sense of doom with no end in sight has an impact on everyone. We need to look out for symptoms of stress in our coworkers, because they’re often the last to see it in themselves.

When we feel stressed for a prolonged period it has a very serious effect on our physical health. The adrenaline hormones released to help us deal with the stressful event don’t get used as intended and continue to react in our systems. Our immune system is compromised and we succumb to coughs and cold viruses more often.

So look out for people you work with having more short absences. Or the more dangerous opposite: when people feel they can’t take a day off because their ‘card will be marked’ should the company start to look at redundancies.

How to look on the bright side

Especially if you’re working with people who you know are finding it tough personally. Or maybe that’s you? Discussing our problems can be helpful in looking for a way through and taking control is an excellent defence against the negative spiral.

If you have debt, formulate a plan to deal with it for example. It’s is a positive step forward, not an easy one to deliver on, but a plan out of trouble often focuses us in the right direction. Sitting moping is not. Your company may have an employee assistance programme of some sort that offers advice on debt and legal matters. Make sure you know all about it so you can point others to it if that’s what they need.

Research shows the very things people want to do when they’re down is ‘stay in and sit tight’. And although a period of this is fine, it must be followed by a plan for the future. Getting out and keeping busy are seen to be a very important part of peoples’ recovery from this type of depressive episode. A supportive network of friends and family who can offer advice and keep a sense of perspective on the situation is also known to be important in recovery.

So whilst organising a ‘keep smiling through’ sing-song in the canteen may be a step to far, rallying round to offer support, finding out what support is available are useful, practical ways to help others.