By Jan Hittelman

Ushering in the New Year typically brings an optimistic and celebratory energy where all our resolutions seem potentially achievable. Because of the unfolding economic crisis that will continue to play out, it may be difficult for many of us to embrace a sense of optimism this year. The vast majority of us have never lived through an economic upheaval like this along with such significant unknowns.

In addition to the economic consequences that will impact each of us in a variety of ways, there will most certainly be resulting emotional consequences. These two variables, economic and emotional, have significant impacts on each other. For example: the worse the economic forecast the more stressed we will feel, the more emotionally devastated the laid off worker feels the bigger the challenge to effectively secure employment, the more creature comforts we must forego the lower our ability to tolerate our situation, etc.
Years ago I worked with a gentleman who discovered that he had a chronic, life-threatening illness. At first he was devastated by the news, but in time he was able to deal with his condition amazingly well. He introduced me to the phrase “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. As a result of his positive attitude, he didn’t need to meet with me for very long. This effort to adopt a positive attitude did more for him than any anti-depressant drug or treatment ever could. The individuals who effectively weather this financial storm will not only be those who are in a better financial state, but will also be those who minimize harmful negative thought patterns that only serve to dig us deeper into a hole of despair.

It is easy to feel powerless in relation to the overwhelming economic realities that we are facing as individuals and as a nation. What we do have tremendous potential control over is our thoughts, beliefs and attitudes regarding the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Thus, while most of us are likely to experience increased economic hardships in the New Year, some of us will also be fortunate and discover a new sense of resiliency and a reevaluation of what’s truly important in our lives.

As most of us can attest, negative experiences are often our greatest teachers if we have the time and insight to learn from them. In these challenging times lives an opportunity to learn and grow as individuals, as complacency shifts to endurance and economic comfort takes a second seat to emotional well-being.

You know that you’ve had a tough day when you say things like: “well at least I have my health”. Perhaps a good resolution is to remind ourselves what is truly important in our lives and spend more time being thankful for our blessings than bitter about our losses. Clarifying our priorities and trying to maintain an optimistic view, will help us to minimize the negative emotional effects of a challenging economy. Hopefully we can make it the year of lemonade and not just lemons.