Financial depression can create opportunity for self-improvement

Monday, February 23, 2009 | 10:00 a.m. CST

The fact that we seem to be drowning in our current financial woes is enough of an excuse for some of us to start wasting time by doing nothing. That’s not a good thing. People who are out of work can use the time to pump up their resumes and find ways to add new skills. Because some have more leisure time to spend in cafes and bars, people are attending bartender school in an effort to address their unemployment problems, I saw on a television report. Those who don’t need a job but are suffering from all the depressing news can look around their communities and find interesting causes for which they can volunteer their time to serve. For instance, with so many out of work, some food pantries are in dire need of help and supplies.

And finally, if people have no bad personal habits to overcome they can join in an effort to stamp out certain addictive social habits that seem to afflict many Americans. For example, we all can help find ways to eradicate this horrible need for people to enjoy their five minutes of fame on television. Of course, I realize these silly reality shows and other kinds of ridiculous programming are somewhat responsible for this egregious trend, but it needs to stop. A single, unemployed woman who gave birth to 14 children by using fertility drugs — and the physician who assisted her in doing so — are guilty of irresponsible behavior, and the less time they are given national recognition the better it is for all of us.

These television newscasters who encourage the public to share their stories and photographs with the rest of us, in my opinion, are also contributors to this madness. I tune into news to hear a professional broadcast report of what is going on in the world. If I wanted to hear my neighbor’s opinion on issues, I’d go next door and ask him. I realize that filling a 24-hour news cycle on cable television is sometimes a difficult proposition, so they obviously need to hire more creative programmers.

In this time of financial crisis a lot of individuals can use all the help they can get. Networks could have more programming on ways people can trim their budgets, they could have experts on the air to help people tune up their resumes or they could encourage people who have large homes to cut expenses by sharing space with others. And the public could certainly use more educational programming. The last items we need to hear about are celebrities whose lives are out of control. Most people struggling to keep a roof over the heads of their families have little interest in what celebrities are doing.

It seems that we use so much of our advanced technology in wasteful ways. For some reason, we fail to realize how to use this technology to benefit society. As a consequence many have become so accustomed to being constantly entertained by one gadget or another that they automatically resist any effort to spend time doing anything constructive.

Some people never turn off their television sets because they can’t stand being alone. If television networks would spend two or three hours a day presenting programs on self-improvement at least these people could gain something from the experience.

Experts tell us that it is just as important to practice mental exercise as it is to engage in physical exercise. I think this is especially important in stressful times. Sometimes, just working jigsaw or crossword puzzles can keep the mind active.

One thing is for certain — many people will find it difficult to adjust to their changed lifestyle. People who are accustomed to being in the workforce daily can easily suffer from anxiety when they find themselves with a lot of idle time on their hands. Some people find setting definite goals for themselves a good way to handle this situation. They spend so many hours on job searches and so many hours acquiring additional skills. At the end of the day they assess their accomplishments and set goals for the following day.

Because we are probably going to be bogged down in crisis for a long stretch, we need to make plans for how to get through with the least damage. I have a friend who keeps to her budget by doing monthly menus for family meals. That way she knows in advance what groceries she’ll need to purchase. She’s also an avid coupon collector, and her children assist her in clipping for her monthly shopping sprees. She posts the menus on the kitchen blackboard, so family members know what to look for. As in this woman’s case, occasionally hard times brings out our hidden talents.

If we play it smart, the good news is that when things ultimately turn around we’ll feel good about the way we handled ourselves, and we will have proved that we can indeed take the bitter with the sweet. We can chalk it all up as another life lesson learned.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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