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May 26, 2009

Simple Ways to Deal with the Recession

Recession I hate watching or reading the news these days.

The constant pounding about how bad the economy is depresses me. It makes me feel hopeless. Powerless. And worse, guilty. I’m a stay-at-home mom, out of the workforce by choice, so every time I hear about families suffering because the parents can’t find work, I feel horrible, as if, somehow, my returning to the workforce would change their plight.

It is so easy to feel overwhelmed and then paralyzed.

After participating in a conference call with CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric about her Children of the Recession series, several Silicon Valley Moms bloggers about the topic that most hit home.I was particularly touched by the increase in the number of child abuse cases and the severity of these cases, which were attributed to the stress of the recession. What surprised me was how few people commented on what I thought was a pretty powerful story. So I asked a few of my friends behind the scenes what their response was – and it was simple, “I just don’t know what *I* can do.”

The “r-word” and all of its associated social problems is so vast, so all-encompassing, we just don’t’ know what to do. So here are a few ideas to help us ALL get started. They aren’t the complete solutions or the only solutions; they are simply some ways to get started in facing the recession and in helping yourself and/or others during this time.

  • Re-brand yourself. If you’ve been seeing yourself as a victim of the recession, cast yourself in a new role. The term recessionista originally meant someone who could still live stylishly in this economic time, I choose to define it as someone who gets through the recession with determination AND grace – someone who is not going to let the recession get the best of her, no way. Cue Gloria Gaynor and I Will Survive.  It may sound silly, but picturing yourself as a survivor rather than a victim makes a difference in many circumstances (as and cancer survivor will tell you) and this is one of them.
  • Plant a garden. WWII Victory Gardens are making a comeback with some rebranding of their own – “Recession Gardens.” The W. Atlee Burpee & Co. is reporting a spike in vegetable seed and plant sales of 25-30%. There are many reasons to plant a garden. First, economic – planting a garden (and yes, you can plant a garden in pots even on a tiny apartment patio) from seeds can be an inexpensive way to get healthy food on your table. Second, if you have children, it’s a terrific way to teach them where food actually comes from – many children today don’t understand that food doesn’t originate in the grocery store. And third, there is just something innately soothing about getting your hands in the soil and nurturing something yourself – it really is stress-relieving. If you have a yard and can plant a large garden and yield an abundant harvest, in addition to canning or freezing extras, give away extras to neighbors or your local food bank. This is part of the spirit of gardening.  Don’t forget about giving away extra seeds, seedlings or plants so that others may share. If you don’t know whom to give them to, try freecycle.org.
  • If you are unemployed, make sure you take advantage of your state’s unemployment agency’s seminars. Often they will have seminars about retooling your resume.Resume styles change every few years, it is well worth it to go and learn what is the current style and retool your resume so HR recruiters and head hunters will bring your resume to the top of the heap. If you know someone has lost their job, don’t just say, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” Say, “What kind of work are you looking for?” Then give them your contact information and ask them to send you their resume and offer to circulate it for them!  Most jobs are found through a friend of a friend rather than through a direct contact.
  • Find a cause you believe in and educate yourself about it – even if you are in need yourself, nothing makes your feel better than helping someone else.  If you are at a total loss, I’ll give you two to start with – childhood obesity is alarmingly high in our nation and ironically, although children may have less to eat, ”recession obesity” may make the situation worse – eating inexpensive high-fat, low-quality food.  Louie’s Kids is one charity I am watching and they have a guest post on my blog – the founder lost his father to obesity and vowed not to let children fall victim to obesity, his programs help kids change their lives from the inside out. Additionally most chapters of the Junior League support a childhood obesity-/good nutrition-initiative called Kids in the Kitchen and they are always looking for new members, sponsors and donors.Look up the chapter in your area.
  • Look around your child’s school. Does someone need your help? Is there a kid who looks like he could use a little extra TLC? Would it be such a burden to invite him home one afternoon a week? One afternoon a week could be a lesson in compassion for your child, a needed break for a stressed-out household, and just the amount of love and security a child impacted by the recession in ways you can’t imagine needs. You may be the light at the end of the tunnel for someone.
  • De-clutter. Very few households in the US are without excess.  Declutter as a family and either sell or donate the items. The benefits are many. First, as a family you re-emphasize that “things” are not important – people are – should you later have to get rid of things, you will thank yourself for having gone through this exercise. Second, by selling the items or donating them, you make items you are not using available to someone who WILL use them at a lower cost. If you sell them, make a plan to use that money in a wise manner – putting it in savings, putting it towards something specific or meaningful, etc. When I sold clothes and toys at a children’s consignment sale (something I do each season), I explained to JavaBoy that this year, instead of getting more toys with the money, we would put it towards summer soccer and swimming, and he was onboard with that. As I went through clothing that had small stains – not bad, but would not be allowed at a consignment sale – I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Then I found out our church was sending a team to do mission work in Paraguay and needed children’s clothing.  I took two bags of clothing to them and asked if it would be too stained for their needs.  They wept with joy at the clothes and accepted all but two outfits.  Decluttering can bring joy on both sides.  Who doesn’t want to spread joy?
  • Get to know your neighbor. Do you know your next-door neighbor? By name? If you don’t now is a good time to do so. Make a point to look him or her in the eye and say hello. If you’ve planted something in the garden, bring something over. Make an attempt. Maybe your neighbor will rebuff your attempt, or maybe you will make a new lifelong friend, but make the attempt. In the coming months, you may end up helping them, or they may end up helping you.

I have to remind myself often that instead of curling up into a shell, the recession is a time for counting my blessings, and reaching out to others. I think the urge to disconnect is so strong, and yet this is a time when, more than ever, we need to remain connected and engaged with each other, and really put those personal and cyber-bonds to work to help each other through these times.

Photo credit: istockphoto.com Steve Van Horn

This is an original post to DC Metro Moms Blog. J.J. writes about life, family, and technology at Caffeine and a Prayer

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