Top 10 ideas for coping emotionally as a family when times are tough in your industry

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By psychologist Jane Dodding

Let’s face it, job insecurity is a tough place to be. It threatens our sense of safety – the security for ourselves, our family and kids, our life goals, dreams, hopes and even our self-concept.

We can feel powerless, like we have little control of the outcome and unsure what to do. It is uncomfortable and it feels like we are on heightened alert most of the time. Our minds start working overtime, worrying, we don’t sleep as well, we become grumpy.

Next thing we know our concern about losing our job has grown, it’s taken on a life of its own and everyone is grumpy, tempers are short, everyone is worried and life isn’t so much fun.

 Knowing how this can play out, we all have a choice of how we want to deal with this uncertainty. We can either allow it to keep growing, or we can accept we are in a tough place right now and manage how it affects us and our family.

 This is where we all have control. How will you allow this situation to affect you and your family right now?

 Actually, this tough situation also provides a good opportunity for you and your kids! It gives a real life opportunity to model and teach your kids constructive coping strategies while strengthening your own. I suggest you to try some or all of the ideas below to enhance and build your resilience against life’s inevitable ups and downs.

1. Take responsibility for your grumpiness.

If you notice yourself being irritable, it is a good sign that you need to look after yourself. Do what you know works for you. So, what calms you down? Go for a run, read a novel, write, go fishing, watch a funny movie, bake. It is worth noting if you have a tendency to fall back on bad habits that you know might seem to help in the short term, but long term only make things worse (e.g. alcohol, drugs, shopping, gambling). Pick constructive strategies and look after yourself.

2. Notice what is good now.

Think about, write or have family conversations about what is going well, what you are grateful for and pleased about. 

3. Write a worry diary.

Sometimes writing out your thoughts and worries gets them out your head and helps bring perspective, particularly when re-read later. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say "surprisingly, some of my thoughts and worries just didn’t seem so big or so important when I read them back". 

4. Develop a plan.

What will do if your worst fear comes true? What opportunities might this create? It is a funny thing, but uncertainty and threats to our way of life can be positive. It can force us to look at life differently, think differently, and explore other possibilities. Think big and think outside the square. If there were no impediments, how would you like your life to be? Once you have that picture, work backwards – how can we make that happen?

5. Conversations.

It is a good idea to have an in-depth adult conversation away from the kids. Be aware that little people have ears and very good hearing! Depending on the age of your kids, and if you think it is appropriate, you may want to talk to your kids about possible changes and what needs to happen, such as spending less. Also be aware of how you are behaving around the kids, they are very astute – they will pick up that something isn’t right very easily. If they have questions, answer in enough detail to satisfy their concerns with an optimistic tone, maybe share some of your plan to reassure them. You might want to look at what they can do too? 

6. Be there for each other.

Listen to each other’s worries, concerns and fears with empathy, and an understanding that uncertainty affects everyone. Tough times provide a good opportunity to show we band together, can rely on each other, are there for each other. This is a time for kindness, compassion and support.

7. Help others.

This is a fantastic way to boost your level of happiness, feel good about yourself and take the focus off yourself and your worries for a while. We get more from giving than receiving and is a good lesson for kids too. If you are helping someone less fortunate, it also helps to highlight what you have to be grateful for and put life and your concerns into perspective. Reading to elderly in a nursing home, helping at a soup kitchen or mowing the neighbour’s lawn are just a couple of ideas.

8. Stay connected.

Be social and involved with family, friends and your community. Being social creatures, us humans need a sense of belonging, so it is important to spend time with people you have things in common with. 

9. Be active.

Exercise is one of the best things we can do for our emotional wellbeing. Go for bike rides together, hit the basketball court, go ice-skating, canoeing, walk the dog etc.

10. Down time.

Snuggle up with a good book, watch your favourite movies or listen to music together. Opt for relaxing, feel-good things to do.

Remember, ultimately worrying is pointless...

“If the problem has a solution, worrying is pointless, in the end the problem will be solved. If the problem has no solution, there is no reason to worry, because it can’t be solved.” – Zen saying.

And finally, Be Happy Cards will guide you and your child to develop emotional resilience skills and habits.


To read other columns written by our psychologists, please click here. And remember that we offer a free email Q&A service with our psychologists, so just click here to ask a question about relationships, parenting or your career.

All advice on Mining Family Matters is for general information only and should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. To talk with a trained volunteer telephone counsellor at any time of the day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. To contact the info line at beyondblue: national depression initiative, phone 1300 22 4636.


Jane Dodding is a psychologist and director with MindsPlus, a group of psychologists and other mental health workers who came together in 2007 to provide support to people living and working in rural and remote regions of Australia. For further information about MindsPlus, contact 1300 312 202 or visit www.mindsplus.com.au