Accountability Day 2: 5 Ways to Be Responsible for Your Own Mood While The Country Collapses

As I mentioned yesterday, this is going to be Accountability week, where we all follow the lead of the incredibly mature bankers and start taking responsibility for our ourselves and our behavior. I know…I know…the whole bankers taking accountability thing seems kind of “too little, too late.” I just wrote a story today about how all the companies getting funding are canceling lavish retreats, and it seems like someone should have nipped this in the bud earlier.

(If you want to really get pissed off, check out the $440,000 AIG retreat invoice…yes…the one they went on after the government loaned them 85 billion dollars.)

But actually, the point of this post is not to make people pissed off at AIG. Because, frankly, the climate of hysteria and unhappiness is rampant enough. Am I going to say, “Hey, the entire economy is crashing, why don’t you be productive by getting really angry at some bankers?” No, definitely not. Personally, I love bankers. Only a year ago, it was my goal in life to marry one. (Now it’s my goal to get into a support-group for women who can’t maintain their manicures.)

But I am saying that even if you can’t log onto to your Twitter page without being hit with news about another book publisher flailing, your day-to-day experience is still in your hands. In other words, Wells Fargo doesn’t deserve applause for cutting back on spending, but the disaster they left behind can’t be entirely blamed for your state of mind.

So here we have:

5 Ways to Be Responsible for Your Own Mood While The Country Collapses

1) Sense of humor. I just read this Bankrate article from 2001 (the last big round of layoffs this country has seen) in which the author describes daily jokes employees made about a visit from HR. When HR finally arrived, at least all the smiling had injected some serotonin into the blood stream. Another thing I like to put the expression “economic crisis” in finger quotes whenever I say it, or referring to the “so-called” economic crisis. This confirms that: yes, the media really did invent it.

2) Stay Hungry, Not Starving. I read somewhere that in this market, in these times, everyone is a hustler. As someone who has been a freelancer, worked in theater, etc. I can testify that this often means that you never never never stop thinking about where your next gig is coming from. Now, even people who have jobs are frantically figuring out how to keep them. If you thought about how to keep your job 25 hours a day, you’d definitely be ok, right? Wrong. If you think about work for 25 hours a day, you are guaranteed to lose touch with the reason you are working, to provide for YOU.) Unless you have a life worth working for, you will get very depressed very fast. So my advice is to think about work for 24 hours a day, but reserve that 25th hour for “me time.” Stay hungry, but don’t lose your mind.

3) Stay Hungry, Not Starving, part deux. Times are tough! You don’t need to take a cab! You don’t need wine with dinner! Hell, you don’t need to go out to dinner. You ate peanut butter every day for lunch as a kid and got most of it on your shirt. That means that you can still eat peanut butter for lunch every day, and wear the same old crappy shirt no matter how good the sales are. After all, there’s only a sale because the Gap is as terrified of going broke as you are. But, as demonstrated in 2), if you cannot be a little good to yourself, you will be end up opting for ascetic life anyway, and what will you do with your savings–donate to charity??? (No! That’s gross.) I was at Piano’s seeing Ferraby Lionheart last night and somewhere in the back of my I was thinking, did I need to spend $8 on the ticket for this? The answer is definitely: yes. But I didn’t need to buy a drink, though I was more than happy to chip in for a cab ride so I could get decent sleep. They invented the term “Recessionista” for a reason. Being a little hungry for luxury is livable, denying yourself everything is not.

4) Keep the Virtue of Selfishness in Check. There is no doubt that Ayn Rand was a very compelling lady. I tip my hat off to any 50-year-old woman who can seduce a 25 year old man and then get him to write a book about her. But the fact is, thinking only of yourself during times when everyone is scared is a) isolating and b) useless. Competing with, disliking, and negating other people will only make you feel worse about yourself. And I don’t mean that you should be generously giving away money or your job to other people. But give compliments, give support. Find things to like about other people. If everything is going to Sh*t, wouldn’t it be nice to be in good company? (Think: violins on the Titanic!) And if you’re really having trouble breaking the cycle of interpersonal intensity, one way to get your benevolent side in gear is to start volunteering. Get in the habit of giving, and in the habit of thinking of yourself as nice person.

5) Learn. Times of general change mean time for you to change. Nobody’s business/life is going to be the same anymore, so you can either mourn for the past, or see what new skill you can acquire. New, and foreign things are being asked of us all every day. We’re all in the same boat, and nobody has an advantage. This can either be terrifying or totally thrilling. It’s up to you to decide. (If you love Roller Coasters, take an advantage and let it be terrifying and thrilling!!)

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