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Want to DO something about the economy?

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Agency – from Latin, agere, to do, act.

Some people have “aha” moments and I occasionally have them as well. I have to admit, though, that I had a “duh . . .” moment the other day. Driving home from my office, the radio tuned to NPR (as always), I was listening to Marketplace. Kai Ryssdal was running down the numbers from the stock market which were all over the place that day, the Dow finally ending 600 points below where it began.

My mind started wandering. What is the deal with this economy? This is just like 2008 again. I wish people wouldn’t panic about the stock market, it will settle down. But it makes me anxious about the economy to hear this news. And it must be affecting my clients, too, because some of them have cancelled this week saying they are concerned about money.

Vaguely, I heard Kai say, “Commentator Robert Reich says the problem isn’t just a failure to compromise. It’s that it takes our eye way off the ball.”

I returned to my mental meandering.

What can I say about resiliency now when this sure looks like it’s a double-dip in our recession? Some of my friends’ spouses have lost their jobs . . . what happens if Andrea loses hers? I guess it’s just a matter of taking a breath, accepting what’s going on, and being grateful that we both still have jobs. But I wish there was something I could do . . .

My line of thinking was beginning to make me feel a wisp of panic in my stomach so I brought myself back into the present. Robert Reich was wrapping up his commentary. “We’re slouching toward a double dip because we’re getting the problem wrong. We’re not in a debt crisis. Our current crisis is jobs, wages and growth . . . The only hope now is voters will tell their members of Congress, who are on recess back home, to enact a bold jobs plan to jumpstart the economy.”

Duh . . .

I smirked at myself lightheartedly. Hello? You can do something. It’s as easy as writing to my Congresspeople and Senators. And telling them to do something and do it differently.

I had zeroed in on one of the tools in my resiliency toolkit that is most apt to get rusty: Doing something! My default reaction is to calm myself by breathing, accepting reality, and trying to find the gifts in a crisis or during adversity. Those are all great skills and have helped me immeasurably over the years, but a key component of resiliency is to have a sense of agency, to take action when possible to resolve the crisis.

So, this morning, I emailed both of my Senators and my Congresswoman with my thoughts about the economy and suggestions as to what they should concentrate on to get our country back on track. Will my emails resolve the crisis? Not by themselves, but maybe united with the voices of other citizens they will get the attention of our elected officials.

And, I feel a little more powerful, less like a victim of what’s happening “out there” because I chose to do something “in here,” something within my control.

I hope your sense of agency isn’t as rusty as mine, but if it is, get out there and do something about it!

By the way, if you would like to contact your elected officials, this is a great site to find out who they are and learn how to contact them directly.

Takeaway points: While other resiliency skills such as acceptance, getting social support, and finding the gifts in the moment are terrific and necessary, sometimes it helps to actually become an agent of change and do something.

What are some things that you can do about tough stuff in your life right now?


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Bobbi Emel is a therapist who helps people in Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mountain View and the greater Bay Area manage their stress and develop their strengths.
She is effective in helping people dealing with anxiety, worry and grief; and also those who want to improve their effectiveness and performance.