Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Vicarious stress

Wednesday, 28 January

Yesterday afternoon I attended a meeting in my department about budget cuts. The size of the cuts won't be known until the legislature adopts a budget, but fear of the unknown is great. People express this fear differently. Some are angry, mainly with those "at the top" who are pretty sure to be secure in their jobs. Some are critical, because without specifics management cannot take concrete action and seems ineffectual. Some are nearly desperate, throwing out un-thought-through suggestions as if grasping at straws. Discussion went on for nearly 90 minutes. It didn't bring any results or tell us anything new.

My job is probably not in jeopardy, so my fears are mainly for my colleagues, my department, and morale in the workplace. But when I got on my bike to ride home, I felt exhausted and had no energy. Maybe the emotions of others at that meeting were so strong that the stress transferred to me? Maybe fear took a physical toll on my well-being? If so, this does not bode well, either for my workplace in the months ahead or for our society where so many are under similar stresses.

I keep thinking of the man in LA who murdered his wife and five children and then committed suicide because of his debts and job worries. We all need support networks, which means we all need to be someone else's support. We need to check in with people we know who face uncertainty and stress. We need to help each other find ways to relieve that stress, even if it's only listening.

Sorry to be sappy. Maybe the physical manifestation of others' fears was more tangible for me because I could feel it in my performance on the bike, but how will it play out for others in terms of road rage, domestic violence, and so many other ways we humans have devised to "vent"?

1 comment:

Juicey said...

Scary thought. But at the same time - that's why it's so important to live each day, and each moment to the fullest.

A friend of a friend recently shared a Mongolian Peace Prayer. My translation is rough at best - but the gist:
Do you have joy in your life? Are you happy? Are you open to happiness tomorrow?