From Jane Van Der Voort, Toronto Star...
"I had one day to sulk about it," says Steve Zolis, of his downsized job, "before I had to get off my duff."
Zolis, 33, was laid off last summer from his job as marketing manager for a large camera retailer. "When I talk about stress, I mean it. I had just begun an eight-week renovation on a new house, and we were two weeks away from having our second child."
Zolis's experience is shared by recession-endangered employees across Canada, and around the world. Layoffs and corporate change are the new professional stressors, trumping workload and staff conflict.
Once let go, Zolis immediately turned to his "outside" professional community and contacts, including LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com and also www.zoominfo.com) and the online and in-person networking group Happen (www.happen.ca).
Good fortune, and good timing, came to his aid; he got a short job contract through someone he'd met days before at a party. Yet it was only when he began working again that he felt the slap of self-doubt and stress. "I really had feelings of inadequacy as I started to reflect on what had happened."
Networking helped. "It was really cathartic to tell my story." But, Zolis says, "it's not Facebook." Career web resources really are all about work.
Job stress, before he was laid off, was a fact of Zolis's professional life in the marketing field. Over the years he learned: "Don't try to do everything alone. If people offer help, take it."
But when it's your mountain of work, "My old manager said, 'How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.' Break it into manageable tasks and, as something gets done, you gain momentum," says Zolis.
And then there's humour. Zolis and workmates once decorated a vacationing colleague's cubicle with '70s panelling, shag rug and a lava lamp, and called it The Basement. The guy liked it, and kept it.
"You can totally hit the reset button for yourself and your colleagues just by having a bit of fun." (www.cartoonstock.com/directory/j/job_stress.asp or, for those with a truly dark sense of humour, The Layoff Game at www.tiltfactor.org/layoff/play.html)
When the chuckling stops, don't get caught up in the drama, advises Toronto career coach Alan Kearns. "You can't hibernate and pretend bad news isn't happening. But you can listen and then respond, 'That's interesting. I've got to get back to my project.' "
Change is the new workplace status quo and to deal with that, Kearns says, "It's never been more important to have a professional community outside of the workplace."
And that includes friends and relationships. "Find things in your life that aren't work!", says the founder of CareerJoy (www.careerjoy.com, check out Kearns' podcasts, his free 15-minute career test and free one-hour teleworkshops; Kearns also writes for job site www.workopolis.ca).
Workplace advisor Dick O'Brien, based in Grimsby, says surviving our turbulent work and economic times means not just coping, but becoming resilient. And that, too, is a thought process. "We're so caught up with the idea that 'My day should go well.' That's a bad idea. Your day will just go not good, not bad; it's just going to go."
O'Brien, who also works with The Wellness Counselling Group (try the free stress test at www.wellnesscounselling.com) says stress is not inherent in a lost piece of luggage, a stack of assignments or a blown tire en route to a meeting, but is, rather, something we do to ourselves.
"Interrupt the snowball effect of your own thinking," he says, and step back to recognize negative thinking! Then redirect it with go-to thoughts, such as "It just is" (not "it just is a disaster"), "I can deal with this," and "I will find a way!" "With stress management, you are event-based. With resiliency, you are compass-based
"Stepping back and checking your compass tends to defeat stress," adds O'Brien (www.theresilientjourney.com).