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Employment and Mental Health

Updated on January 29, 2014

To Work or Not to Work

All Things in Moderation

It seems that people are either being overworked or under-worked. The young are rushing off to jobs while the elderly or unemployed sit home bored.

No country on earth works as hard as Americans do. Many immigrants have told me they can't believe how hard we work.

Finding work is a slow process when we are out of work. It takes patience to wait for a little luck in the job market. Meanwhile we have to do more than just wait. Every day a job seeker must try to think of some approach that's slightly different from what's been tried already.

The most obvious reason to seek work is the need for money to survive. But there is another motivation that's a close second--it's the need to feel important to others.

The earning of a paycheck itself can satisfy both of these financial and psychological reasons for work. Not only will it be income, but also payment gives the ability to use one's money to make others happy, whether it's by buying lunch for a friend, taking care of family bills, or hiring someone to do domestic chores. These are examples of the many things we can do with the money we earn, which all make us truly important to other people.

When we cannot find work, we might spend a lot of time exercising or pursuing respectable hobbies that are both pastimes as well as activities that are enriching us in some way. These pursuits will keep spirits strong so that when a job interview occurs, we will be able to make a good impression.

The struggle against boredom and depression while unemployed is very severe for everyone. It should not be ignored or underestimated. It is one of the times in life that presents problems without any specific answers from experts, friends, or family.

Once people find their jobs they can look back and analyze how they did it, but the chance of the same road leading to success again the next time a future jobless period might occur, or the same tactics solving a job-search dilemma for a different person facing an unemployment situation, is very remote.

Specific answers are impossible to find. But one step that might help is to realize that besides the money issue, the need to feel that we've contributed significantly to someone else's life is very strong. If, while unemployed, we can find little ways to keep doing this non-financial giving to others, then we definitely can see that we are doing the same kind of thing that will lead to success on a job.

It is important to maintain a level of spirit and emotional energy that can enable us to be givers in the sense of providing something of value to others, while waiting for a real job to come along. Maintaining that level of emotional strength requires the discipline to eat properly, maintain good physical health, exercise, keep our clothing and homes clean, stay organized financially, try to conserve what we have, and avoid dangerous or self-destructive activities.

If we can do that, we should have the self-esteem to be of assistance in some tangible or emotional way to other people.

Once a person lands a job, the same motivation to help others will carry forward into the new job and tend to make that person successful at work as well.

The psychology of working ties in with our greatest wisdom, which teaches appreciation, not only for what skills we have but also for an ability to make others content by working. But many now say that we are coming into a new era of working at home through our computers, rather than interacting with people on the job.

If that is so, then we need to socialize more, not only through our computers on the Internet, but out on the sidewalk when we greet our neighbors. The pent up socialization that is on hold during the jobless recession will spill over into the family at home, the friends on the phone, and people we meet and discuss the small talk on our minds.

But still we need work, not only for being congratulated on a job well done, but also for the real reason that motivates us most of all--money. We may never return to a primitive barter system, so always there will be the need to pay for housing, transportation, and food. Only work, Internet work or traditional work, can provide that.


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