Right now, if you googled “Government shutdown” on the Internet, the search engine Google would bring up about 129,000,000 news results. Without a doubt, the Government shutdown is one of the top primary news stories, if not the top, being reported. And of the countless news stories out there right now about the Government shutdown, particularly how it’s having an adverse financial impact on federal employees, contractors, and families, there are some organizations describing the damaging effects on the mental health of federal employees and contractors, including their families.
As a federal employee with Stage IV cancer, as well as currently furloughed, I know all too well of how life’s hardships can cause emotional, physical, and financial challenges. Despite the difficulties of fighting cancer since 2013, while at the same time being furloughed today, I’ve learned to accept any fate that befalls me with uncommon stoicism, genuine peace and unquestionable faith.
I know this is a difficult time for many federal employees. And with this in mind, I hope the following suggestions help you get through this difficult time of being furloughed.
- First, I encourage you to give time to others. When you help someone, who is experiencing a similar or worse life trial, it places your situation in perspective. Viktor Frankl, an author, psychiatrist, and survivor of the Holocaust, persuaded his unemployed patients to volunteer their time to unpaid but meaningful activity. Those patients who took Frankl’s advice, experienced an abatement of their depression, although their job situation had not changed. Likewise, akin to a tornado ripping through a home, tearing apart its walls and structures, one would think that the jagged edges of an affliction might do the same to a person’s life. On the contrary, the storm itself creates a deeper well of wisdom and knowledge of the one afflicted. They are not torn down, but instead, they become a comforter and nourishment for others facing similar afflictions. So, during this time of being furloughed, give time to others and find new meaning in your life.
- Second, learn to live with your trial, but don’t stop living. You have the ability to look beyond life’s transitory hardships, like being furloughed. One way is to develop meaningful life goals. But you may be incredulously thinking, “Alex, you don’t know my situation! I have credit card bills … kids to feed … mortgages to pay! This sounds like one of those dumb job tips reported in the media.” I understand completely. When faced with a financial hardship, how can one think of their future when they have bills to pay in the present. But, as someone with Stage IV cancer, I’ve learned to live life in spite of the incurable malignancy inside me. In fact, one positive aspect of being furloughed myself was that I finally had time to revise my personal and professional life goals. Before, my position as a senior special assistant kept me extremely busy. After being furloughed, however, I took advantage of the time off to assess my achievements, strengths, and aspirations, as well as future meaningful opportunities. Moreover, I believe that by setting and going after life goals have had a positive impact on my cancer treatment, and there are other clinical cases and evidence that highlights the benefits of goal setting. So, I encourage you to do the same. And to help you come up with and organize your life goals, try using the following (my personal categories): Spiritual Goals, Marital Goals, Professional Goals, Financial Goals, Health Goals, Project Goals, Familial Goals, Intellectual Goals, Emotional Goals, Social Goals, and Recreational Goals.
- Last, engage in a community job support program. While you are waiting for the Government shutdown to end and be able to go back to work, you could benefit from joining other unemployed workers in a community job support program. And there are many benefits of joining one. For instance, you can enhance your individual marketability by learning the latest trends in résumé writing, interviewing and professional branding. Also, community job support programs can provide valuable support during this time of being furloughed. Not only are you receiving genuine care and career related resources, but you’re also around people in similar situations. I do have a caveat: if you did join a community job support program and learn about some opportunities in your industry, I strongly recommend that you review your agency’s respective policies on outside employment, as well as consult your agency’s ethics office, especially those furloughed employees with security clearances.
To learn ways to give back to others, check out Idealist, a hub to learn about volunteer opportunities.
About the author:
Alex Harrington serves as a senior special assistant for the Talent Management Directorate, Office of Human Resources Management, U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Alex is also a credentialed Global Career Development Facilitator through the Center for Credentialing and Education, and a member with the National Career Development Association. He served honorably in the U.S. Marine Corps and is a veteran of the Persian Gulf War. Alex is also a published author and avid blogger for cancer patients, caregivers, and survivors.
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