I have been a federal employee for 25 years (March 2013), and most of that time has been good for me.
But I must admit, lately it’s been a little dicey.
Working for the Internal Revenue Service has not always won me friends, but I’ve worked hard while some assume I’m extremely well-paid, don’t pay taxes, have a cushy office, and a host of other things I wish were true.
Right now, I have some time off. But it’s not exactly a vacation. The government shut down, as with any other crisis in life, has truly hit folks where they live.
I have a lot of friends in the federal world who are now struggling. Rent and bills must be paid, groceries and fuel need to be bought, and many of my co-workers are living hand-to-mouth all the time under the best of circumstances.
So with the Federal workplace facing dwindling resources, higher stress rates, and the future being less secure than we had hoped, how does one cope?
Mindfully facing forward
- Accept: I can’t stop the furlough, nor can I solve the government’s issues. Therefore it is all out of my hands and I can choose to let go of that anxiety. I can only change things within my control, and in this case the only thing I can control is me.
- Keep busy: I have taken the downtime as an opportunity to hone my writing. Since I don’t want to bottle up the anxiety and I don’t want to dwell on it, I find the things I enjoy and engage in them instead of worry.
- Rest: My sleep schedule has changed a bit without the morning alarm. However, I am careful not to let it get away from me. Keeping to a routine helps now and will help when I go back to work. Sometimes just sitting and listening to myself breathe does wonders.
- Don’t get isolated: It’s hard, because I can’t just go see folks since my car got repossessed. But by remaining in touch with them by phone, text, the two-edged sword of social media, and occasional visits, I resist falling victim to negative internal monologues.
- Help others: One way I feel better about life is when I help other folks. Whether it’s by listening, giving them a couple of dollars if I can, or just remaining upbeat, I can help others feel a little less burdened by what life is throwing at them.
- Have faith: I will be okay, even if things aren’t okay. Somehow things have a way of working out, even if we don’t realize it at the time. This crisis will be no exception.
- Do what I can: Changing spending habits, working with bill collectors, applying for unemployment, looking into local programs to assist struggling families — there are many options we might benefit from during times of need, if we’ll just reach out to them.
- Stay present: It’s also hard, but the less I focus on what I don’t have or can’t do, the more I’m able to face these challenges.
- Avoid the negative: If the news or personal views cause me to sink, then I can choose not to be ensnared by them. Whether by reducing or eliminating my exposure to the negative, I strengthen my positive.
This crisis has hit me and the majority of my Federal co-workers hard. But by mindfully facing forward, I will make it through this, and I encourage others to do the same.