Baby boomers have never seen a recession the likes of this one. All this uncertainty, dread and anxiety should be a goldmine for stress management coaches. The Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) recently released a white paper on how to manage work-related stress and summed up the current situation succinctly: “In this challenging economy, even those who are fortunate enough to keep their jobs can feel stressed by increased workloads and uncertainty at work.” You don’t say…

Toward greater self-advocacy

The disability coalition came up with a list of recommendations to deal with hard times “with greater self-advocacy.” For example:

“Identify community resources for financial counseling, childcare or eldercare issues, or other concerns that may impact your life before something happens.”

Before exactly what happens? Most of us are unlikely to be prowling the neighborhood proactively identifying self-help resources. Pass the chips and where’s the channel clicker?

Another recommendation: “Find an outside activity that involves positive, healthy interaction with others.”

Does hitting your local pub count?

Recommendation #3: “Acknowledge the reality of the situation. Rather than hope for a ‘miracle solution,’ begin with accepting things as they are and strive toward workable strategies.”

I don’t know that this has sunk in with the folks standing in lottery lines each night.

“Seek advice from a trusted or admired peer on how to manage work and life demands.” Give that person a MacArthur Genius Grant.

“Good nutrition and exercise are paramount.” Walking the floorboards at night when you can’t sleep should be sufficient exercise.

“Establish family mealtimes for better interaction. Families also are great reinforcements for better health, wellness, and self-care.” In a Hallmark Card or Norman Rockwell world, yes. But conversation over dinner can be hit or miss. If you’ve got teenagers, the conversation may be more an interrogation. If you’ve got infants, destress with a good food fight.

“Develop healthy sleep habits. If you’re working two jobs, try to find time for a ‘sleep break’in order to avoid physical and mental exhaustion.” With all respect to those humping away at two jobs, one job usually will suffice for inducing physical and mental burnout. Those of you who fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow should go into the stress management business.

And finally, “Observe and learn from your own signals when you feel close to ‘hitting the wall,’ and determine what you can do (take a break, avoid a tough conversation, or shift your focus) to minimize stress.” Agreed, the unexamined life is not worth living. But as Carl Gustav Jung, M.D., said, “People are afraid of becoming conscious of themselves. There is a secret fear of the unknown ‘perils of the soul.’” In other words, we do a damn good job scaring ourselves.

Real-life interventions

So what’s realistic in the way of self-advocating, stress-busting interventions? Take every day of your vacation time. Tie yourself to the sofa to stay away from the computer for an hour or two. Don’t answer the phone at dinnertime. Turn off your cell phone while driving. Avoid twittering or tweaking — it leaves one twitching. When your kids text message you, forget fumbling around with the keypad and just call them back. Keep work meetings to a minimum — use the H1N1 virus as an excuse. If possible, avoid air travel. If you are stuck in an airport, buy a magazine you’ve never once read before. Follow momma’s advice, if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say it at all. Watch your Red Bull intake. Stop reading the newspaper for a while (everyone else is). Realize it could be worse; just watch a Dr. Phil episode. Minimize all discussions on global warming, healthcare reform, military field operations, the clash of civilizations and immigration policy. Call your mother.

See, there’s more than one way to skin the stress monster.