With the economic recession upon us, perhaps there is another place you can find promising returns on the investment of your precious time and money: emotional capital. In the face of this economic storm we are in, you may be worried about many things: keep our job, surviving a layoff, paying your mortgage. If these thoughts are on your mind more and more, you may be unwittingly priming your mind and your body into constant anxiety and worry. Without the balance of self care, inner reflection and stress reduction, this anxiety and worry can erode your ability to utilize effectively deal with the many challenges you are facing. But you can change that! How? By building your emotional capital.
What is emotional capital?
Emotional capital is the means by which we excellerate our ability to cope, problem solve and adjust to change, while staying focused on the larger picture. One theorist described it as :
emotional competencies which gives individuals and organizations the ability to use emotions to help individuals at solving problems and living a more effective life and the organization at facing economics and social changes and being successful and surviving in the new economics world. ..it is the head working with the heart and the hands. (Gendron, p. 31.)
Emotional capital is the energy and positive emotional health that is yours to invest and spend in your pursuit of your dreams. This capital is characterized by positive regard for self and others, consciousness in how you live your life, and the ability to endure uncertainty and ambiguity in the face of change and transition. When your emotional capital is high- you can stay focused on the forest, not the trees.
So in a time of recession, can you afford to invest in yourself to build emotional capital? You can’t afford not to!
Why? Because self care, whether its hitting the gym, taking a nap, spending time at the park with the kids, or taking a yoga class- are essential ingredients to maintaining balance in our lives. We can’t stop living, just because the economy is taking a nose dive. In fact, this is the perfect time for self reflection and investment in personal growth: these are investments that pay dividends for your life time. These dividends can be called “emotional capital”.
So let’s say you are struggling with a fear of failure in your business. Sales are down. You are worried about the future. Perhaps even paralyzed. When humans are afraid, they go into a mode for self protection: fight or flight or freeze.
FIGHT MODE: means you prepare to fight by becoming hypervigilant, charged with adrenalin and prone to aggression.
FLIGHT MODE: means you become anxious, charged with adrenalin, and look for escape
FREEZE MODE: means you become hypervigilant, charged with adrenalin and paralyzed with fear.
Notice the theme? Adrenalin and fear pump up the body to prepare to protect itself. The problem is that the part of the brain, activated during fear arousal states, is not your best source of THINKING or DEALING with threats other than say saber tooth tigers. It actually works against us. So what does work?
Strategy: Calm the Body
First of all, stress reduction and release is important to help us shift gears out of fear. Activities that can help us with this are regular exercise, deep breathing, yoga. Avoiding excessive alcohol, caffeine and sugar also help.These help calm the body, which prepares the mind.
Strategy: Calm the Mind
With the body calm, the mind can also be calmed. I have found that many people can utilize audio CDs such as Jon Kabat-Zinn to develop a regular practice of calming the mind through ”Mindfulness Meditation”. His work is well researched and documented to demonstrate the benefits of calming the mind for reducing disease and strengthening the immune system. Hey, Google even invited him to their corporate training!
How can Therapy Build Emotional Capital?
In my practice, I incorporate the strategies of calming the body, calming the mind, as I assist clients who are seeking a more balanced life.
Let me tell you about a client I’ll call Sharon. Sharon is a busy executive and single mother. She was immersed in her fear about her business surviving the economic downturn. When I saw her for her first session, she reported that she had spent the last two weeks working long days. She’d lost value in her retirement funds, and she was having her worst month in five years of business. Her attempts to control her fear through overwork had meant that she had spent enormous time on ineffective and tangential strategies which didn’t truly solve the problems. This fight/flight mode also increased her anxiety level and left her feeling too exhausted to enjoy her family. By the time she came to see me, she was beginning to use alcohol to sleep, and was concerned that she might be developing a habit. She’d become so activated by her worry- she had no control over her day. She merely went from one fire to the next.
Sharon made a commitment to change this. She worked with me for 10 sessions learning calming and grounding strategies, which enabled her to deal more effectively with the problems she faced. She now had tools which enabled her to calm her fears and think more clearly. In addition, she set aside time for rest and play.
Sharon made a remarkable change: not in her circumstances, but in her perception of them. Sharon was able to gain skills to manage her stress, reduce her anxiety provoking thoughts and move into the future from a more grounded place. The circumstances of a recession and her lowered income haven’t changed, yet. But her ability to deal effectively with her situation has. Now, Sharon is more rested, more grounded and projects a more positive energy to her colleagues and customers.
What’s really amazing is that through the work, we were able to help her focus on what was really important to her: her family. So from this place of gratitude for her family, she is enjoying what life has to offer as well as implementing more effective strategies to deal with the unique challenges of her business. Rather than having her time and energy stolen by fear and anxiety, she is enjoying her life more. She has increased his emotional capital!
Lisa Maurel, MFT Professional Therapy in Orange County
Resources for this article
Gendron Bénédicte. (2004) Why Emotional Capital Matters in Education and in Labour? Toward an Optimal Exploitation of Human Capital and Knowledge Management, in Les Cahiers de la Maison des Sciences Economiques, série rouge, n° 113, Paris : Université Panthéon-Sorbonne
Guided Mindfulness Meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn : Audio book
You can watch Kabat-Zinn conduct mindfulness meditatation with Google here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nwwKbM_vJc.