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Job Losses Carry High 'Stress Tag'
Date:2/12/2009

e lost their jobs in January, bringing the nation's unemployment rate to 7.6 percent.

Those numbers have stressed out many Americans, even those who still have jobs, according to a recent USA Today story. The demand for therapists increased 40 percent from June to December, and most of that was driven by money-related fears, said Richard Chaifetz, chairman and CEO of ComPsych, the nation's largest employee-assistance mental health program. And surveys from the American Psychological Association released last fall showed nearly half of Americans said they were more stressed than a year ago, with one-third rating their stress level as "extreme."

If you're lucky enough to only experience a short-term job loss, the effect on your mind and body will likely be minimal, said stress expert, Dr. Jeff Brantley, director of the mindfulness-based stress reduction program at Duke Integrative Medicine in North Carolina.

"It's when stress becomes chronic that all systems of the body are affected," he said.

But, he added, if you're mindful of your reactions, you can go a long way toward controlling them. He explained that when you hear a fire alarm, your body tenses and your mind races, trying to figure out how to escape the danger. But, then, if someone says, "Don't worry; there's no fire; it was a false alarm," your body will begin to restore its natural balance and ease.

If you've lost your job, there are several ways you can react. One is with calm, thinking, "I can find another job, and I have money saved, so it will be all right." Or, Brantley said, you might react with "catastrophic thoughts," such as you'll never find a job again, or you'll lose your house, and that will cause a reaction within the body.

"An important element is the perception of the situation and the narrative a person assigns to it," Brantley said.

Both McKee and Brantley pointed out that the Chinese symbol for crisis contains
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