Anxiety’s Antidote

Surveys show that more than eight in 10 employed Americans are stressed out by at least one thing about their jobs. Poor pay and increasing workloads were top sources of concern reported by American workers (Huffington Post, 2013). Workers are still weary and stressed out from years of a troubled economy that has brought about longer hours, layoffs and budget cuts.


There is a clear indication that high levels of stress are associated with job uncertainty. This isn’t news for many of you reading this, is it? It’s interesting to me to note that there can be a similar anxiety in those who are uncertain of their employment future to those who are currently unemployed. Many people who fear that their jobs are insecure want to quit – but feel trapped or obligated with no employment options, and this elevates their anxiety.

There is much to be uncertain about these days. That said, how do we cope with this uncertainty? Statistically speaking (and I would argue logically), strategies such as dwelling on the negative aspects and potential outcomes, ignoring them all together, or trying to find someone to blame, are not helpful. It would seem that we have two routes: healthy and unhealthy. An unhealthy coping strategy is anything that seeks to numb our anxiety through an emotional distraction, while actually serving to compound the level of anxiety. These distractions can be the obvious addictions of drugs, alcohol and/or other self-medicating behaviors, but also the not-so-obvious of escaping reality through fantasy. Do we really want to escape reality at all costs and/or settle in life with merely coping, or would we be willing to risk or stretch more to experience a greater fullness?

For a healthy strategy, world-renowned psychiatrist and Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl has some insight for us: “…I published a study devoted to a specific type of depression I had diagnosed in cases of young patients suffering from what I called ‘unemployment neurosis.’ And I could show that this neurosis really originated in a twofold erroneous identification: Being jobless was being equated with being useless, and being useless was equated with having a meaningless life…As soon as they could fill their abundant free time with some sort of unpaid but meaningful activity–their depression disappeared.”

Every person has the capacity and opportunity to engage in meaningful activity. “Meaningfulness” may be defined differently by each of us, depending on how we are created, crafted and positioned.

  • Created. By created, I am referring to our DNA, personality and preferences, and how they facilitate our capacity to engage certain activities.
  • Crafted. Our life experiences, education and skills shape us, facilitating our competency to engage in certain activities and the values we use in decision-making.
  • Positioned. Our geographic and sociological environments place each of us into positions for particular opportunities to engage.

If you are interested in more on this, stay tuned! I’ll be drilling down into each of these more over the coming weeks!

“Embrace relational uncertainty. It’s called romance. Embrace spiritual uncertainty. It’s called mystery. Embrace occupational uncertainty. It’s called destiny. Embrace emotional uncertainty. It’s called joy. Embrace intellectual uncertainty. It’s called revelation.” —Mark Batterson