Slowly Sipping Coffee

So much background noise…

Offshore rig

Offshore rig

Recently, I’ve been a little out of sorts and it’s manifested itself everywhere in my life. Most recently I had a pseudo-sleepless night, where I couldn’t get my brain to turn off until well past 1am, and I get up at 5:20am everyday… From the blog, to home life, and even at work I’ve noticed a general heightened anxiety. It just occurred to me today that it is stress caused by background noise of everything going on in my industry. I work in Oil and Gas, and well, unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard about all of the job cuts, layoffs, and restructuring due to the low oil prices. Today oil is around $37/bbl which is ridiculously low, and low enough that most companies can’t make a profit with those prices. They are stuck in the model we all rally against, “spending more than you earn”.

Most companies realize this and are working to reign it in, but with prices staying this low, it seems like a chasing the tail exercise. We meet the criteria to profit at $60/bbl and then it drops to $50. We are close to profiting at $50/bbl and the price drops to $40. We restructure and cut even more chasing profitability at $40/bbl and the price keeps dropping. It’s been this kind of background noise that has caused a lot of anxiety in me, because most companies are still spending more than they are earning. When you hear your VP talking about negative profit on some assets, you can’t help but wonder when the breaking point will be reached. Until then, I’ve been trying to find a way to quiet the background noise and give myself a break.

While most companies have been restructuring and reducing man-power, my company has been fairly light on staff reductions but heavy on reorganization of assets. This alone keeps me on edge a little because unlike Mrs. SSC’s layoff situation, mine would go much quicker which would be less stressful and that’s fine with me. But lately, the stress is starting to build.  Now, I get daily oil price updates from almost all of my co-workers, which reflects their anxiety with this whole situation. There is so much anxiety being built up around the office, it almost feels palpable.

You all have read how Mrs. SSC’s company went through a large round of layoffs recently, but that was with $60/bbl oil, not $40/bbl oil, so now they’ve announced there will be more “tweaking of the manpower”. Rumors of layoffs are rampant around my office, and while I avoid gossiping, it’s all but impossible when someone shows up in your office and starts blabbing about the most recent rumor of layoffs, staff reductions, re-orgs, or the new low oil price. A lot of my co-workers are a lot younger than me, single income earners, and heavy on debt from school loans and/or lifestyle inflation and therefore are rightly worried about job stability. The running joke for 6 months now has been, “Well…. I wouldn’t go buying a new house/truck/car/vacation house/etc… just yet.” It’s just more background noise.  But, as you can tell – all that noise is creating a stress monster.


Ultimately I have to figure out how best to settle this anxiety for me, so this is what I did about it.

First, I admitted that the anxiety is there. Yep, it’s that easy of a start, even if it’s not easy to admit. By admitting I was anxious, nervous or whatever, it gave a face to the nebulous low level stress and anxiety that had crept into my life.

Secondly, I avoid most news sources that are not contributing positively to my anxiety level. Which means, I just quit going to news sites in general, lol. Not for a “bury the head in the sand” approach, but again, it just doesn’t add anything positive to my life currently, so why keep that habit around?

Third, I reminded myself how we’d be affected if either or both of us got let go. Actually, it was Mrs. SSC that reminded me of this, but tomato, tomahto. This was good in that it reminded me that the sky isn’t falling, we’re not living paycheck to paycheck, and things will be OK if we both got chopped. In fact they could get better.

Finally, I just accepted it and let it go. I accepted there are a lot of things I can’t control, and this is one of them. Worrying about it isn’t helping anything, and it’s now causing me to lose sleep. Ridiculous! So like Elsa from Frozen, Just, Let it go! (Can you tell we have toddlers in the house?)

This says it all

This says it all – courtesy of

For me this strategy will help, but it will be some time before the stressful background noise is totally gone. It is a lot lower though, and I immediately felt a lot better. In fact, I’ve slept like a rock most of this week so far. I’d added a big burden to myself that was unnecessary and not beneficial to anyone. After I addressed it and then let it go, it floated away like 99 red luftballoons and I felt that much lighter. (Link to the video if you’re feeling nostalgic)

Now, Mrs SSC would like me to wrap up with something about the awesome power of mindfulness and how knowing what makes you truly happy can help in these situations, but it can be even simpler than that. Just taking a step backward for a few minutes and doing a quick examination is much easier than continuing to burrow into the ground trying to avoid the problem.  I’m kind of bummed I’ve wasted so much time worrying about this situation that I can’t control, when honestly, even if there is a change, there is a high chance that it will ultimately make life better… Maybe it won’t be as easy as it is now, but I’m always up for a challenge, and we’ve positioned ourselves well for unexpected situations. Heck, we even have plans in place if those situations do occur.


Have you got anything going on in your life causing background stress? What steps do you take to deal with it?

26 thoughts on “So much background noise…

  1. Maggie @ Northern Expenditure

    Preparations can overcome fears. It is tough to be in a constant state of flux. I’m not in the oil and gas industry, but we live in Alaska… which means we feel that same anxiety among everyone up here as well. Our entire state’s economy currently hangs in the balance! But ultimately, there’s nothing we can do about the situation. I hate waiting for things. You just have to keep on keeping on and control what you can. You still have complete control over your family life and your blog. Use those as outlets of relief. And check into the industry only when necessary. Good luck. :)

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Thanks! Yeah, I am definitely staying more relaxed as far as reviewing our preparations and how things could go in a worst case scenario. Since it’s nothing I can do, I just need to leverage what I have control over and deal with that. It’s nice having outlets to help deal with these situations, and it was actually Mrs. SSC that kicked off the “what’s up with you lately? You seem more stressed than usual.” :)

  2. Rae

    YEP! Understanding what you can control is a big step in helping to calm down the fears.

    Such a timely share for us.

    While we are not in oil and gas.. we are a coal miner family and are being hit hard. Too young for our SS to kick in and the pension is now with the insurer and not looking like it should… And the 401K that we thought was so great is not so much. This is NOT the life I ordered!!!

    BUT we decided that if living in a shack and driving a clunker is what the future is for us that as long as we have “us” we will be just fine. Time to make lemonade….

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Man, mining seems like another industry that is entirely out of your control. I grew up in KY, and while I wasn’t part of coal mining, my mom’s side of the family came from Eastern KY and were involved with it and when it’s good, it’s good, but when things go south, it gets bad quick.

      I agree, there is a lot to be said for having health and family, and if that’s what comes of it, then that’s still a win in my book. Good luck to you!

  3. Our Next Life

    Thank you for mentioning 99 Luftballoons, because I was afraid I was going to have Let It Go in my head for days. (Okay, I still might… thanks a LOT!) 😉

    It’s totally normal to worry, given the circumstances, so don’t beat yourself up about that. And good for you for moving beyond that. Thank goodness you’ve been busy saving for so long, and will truly be fine if one or both of you get laid off, though of course you’ll have to adjust your plans. It would be the same for us — we’d have to do some big rethinking, but we’d be fine for years without working if need be. Just make sure, if a layoff does loom, that you make them vest your 401k early!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Haha! They can both be earworms though, but one is a little less annoying. :)

      Examining our plans, helped me realize we could do a mini retirement scenario until things pick up, heck, we might even find something different in the meantime. It seems like the most interesting things happen when you’re forced into a situation, and not when you’re on autopilot watching life go by.

      Fingers crossed that the 401k would get vested if it does happen though, but who knows?

  4. Tawcan

    Man that’s tough. It’s especially tough when both of you work in the same industry. Have you thought about jumping the ship and go to work in a different industry? Not sure if that’s possible or not though.

    The thing about stress and anxiety… we are stressed out on things because we think too much about the future. We think about what’s going to happen in the future because there are so many uncertainties. So we think and consider all the different scenarios. The best way to encounter this is to just live in the present. Enjoy what’s here right now right here and stop worrying about the future.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      That is true that it’s tough being in same industry, and I am SO glad we’re not at the same company any more as well. While there were a lot of perks from working at the same place, it’s nice to have some diversity, especially with the layoff situation.

      Mrs. SSC has been looking into different industries, mainly teaching, but once she’s out of this industry, I don’t see her going back. Time for me to focus on the present and deal with the future “minimally” in regard to worry and thinking about things out of my control.

  5. Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor

    I’ve gone through a number of periods of anxiety, sometimes not even realizing how intense it was until it led to sleeplessness and other bad symptoms. I agree that acknowledging it and your ultimate lack of control helps. The layoff hype rumor mill can really be overwhelming, even when you’re not participating.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Ugh, yeah it’s annoying when the rumor mill gets forced upon you. I haven’t found a good way to let people know I don’t care without sounding bad or snotty, so I just listen and don’t add any further speculation.

      It was amazing how quickly my anxiety ramped up to sleepless-ish nights. I’ll have to be more self aware and try to deal with any future episodes before they get to that point.

  6. TheMoneyMine

    I know how it feels, my company announced another round of layoffs this december and one of my managers was gone the next day.
    These days they are letting go 150 people a day. This is completely insane. Noise is everywhere.
    To get rid of stress, you can also try meditation, I found it to be extremely helpful.
    It may not sound like a very cool method, but give it a try. You sit in a lotus position with your eyes closed, in the dark can help, and take deep breaths in / out for about 7 minutes in the morning after you get up.
    This is the most powerful natural medicine I have found :)

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Mrs. SSC keeps suggesting the same thing. :) I guess I’ll have to give it a whirl and see how it goes.

      That is crazy with that many people getting let go. Here it’s been in batches of 40-80 and only about 3x so far… But, it went down like you mentioned, I got to work and heard they let 40, or 60 or 90 people go the day before. Whew….

      Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll let you know how meditating turns out.

  7. Elephant Eater

    This may be a good exercise to look at this problem as an investor. Even though the cost of a barrel is dropping, it is still a barrel of oil and it still has value in our society. If it can’t be produced at these prices for a profit, the companies will eventually just stop producing until they force the price up. In the long run, oil isn’t going away any time soon and so neither are the oil related jobs.

    If in the interim you both lose your jobs, it could be a much needed mini-retirement which your FIRE planning has you well set up for. Maybe you go back refreshed when the jobs come back (win) or maybe you’ll have moved on to a better way of life and never go back (win). Or maybe you’ll not ever even lose your job(s) (win).

    Pretty good situation to be in when looked at that way.


    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Exactly! Win, lose, or draw, the jobs will be there when prices get back up even if we both got let go. Like you mentioned, we do have a contingency plan that if that happens we may just take a sabbatical until prices are up and spend some family time hanging out, road tripping, doing whatever.

      It’s really good looking at it from that perspective, and that was what Mrs. SSC pointed out to me. Essentially, she said, Here’s how much our monthly costs are, here’s how much we could reduce them, and then here’s what we would need if neither of us worked. With our savings and investments where they are, we could tap into that and fund a mini lifestyle change and see where that takes us. It might not be as permanent as we were wanting, but it could be a huge breath of fresh air just the same.

      Pretty good situation indeed.

  8. Mark@BareBudgetGuy

    You know…it’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small. Tweaking of the manpower! That is a new one. What a joke! My first company called them “skillset realignments.” It’s almost a bigger insult when they try to disguise the word or make it seem more sophisticated. But you are right, so much of it is controlling our thoughts. I’ve been working on this lately.

    1. Mr. SSC

      They definitely try to add some bureaucratic-ese to it to make it seem cooler but it fell pretty flat this time. :) Controlling my thoughts about it all is something I can work on and get things more calm with myself at the very least.

  9. Stockbeard

    This kind of article is a tough reminder for me to keep saving even more. I’m in an industry that has been doing good this year, but who knows what the future is made of?

    1. Mr. SSC

      You never know what the future holds and while it might be fun to live like the grasshopper and play the days away. If you are more like the ant and plan for contingencies, you’ll be in coast mode if something bad does come along.

  10. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

    I hear you on not watching the news – we turn it off most days too – it just adds too much to the stress. Luckily, you guys are in a great situation financially and I think layoffs would end up being a great thing for both of you, even if it is scary. We’ve got a lot of background noise these days just due to the urgency we feel in our hearts to dump our debt mega quickly. It’s going well, but just not fast enough for us. Trying to quiet the noise and focus on doing what we can.

    1. Mr. SSC

      The more we talk about it, the more we think the same – in regards to layoffs maybe turning out better for us. In any event, in 600 more days, actually a few less, I’ll be fully vested and layoff or no, we can choose to enact our moderately funded lifestyle change, lol. Yesterday, we did discuss all of our options if we make it a few years, and even if we don’t we are positioned well to use this as a catalyst to start a different lifestyle that is more focused around family rather than career and “getting ahead”.

  11. Ditching The Grind

    I’m actually reading You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment by Thich Nhat Hanh right now. It talks about Buddhist principles like mindfulness and I’m finding it to be a really great read. My brain is always going a mile a minute and I wanted to step back and focus on truly living in the moment. Perhaps you’d enjoy it too.

    1. Mr. SSC

      I bought that for Mrs. SSC a few years ago when she was going through this kind of anxiety with something totally different. I’ll have to track it down around here and give it a read. :) Thanks for the suggestion, especially since we already have it. :)

  12. Abigail @ipickuppennies

    I’m terrible about getting stressed out over things I can’t control. These days, I just do everything I can to prepare. Then, whenever the panic starts, I just tell myself, “Yep, that may happen. But you’ve done X,Y and Z. And that’s all that you can do. So… next subject!”

    That’s become invaluable because my husband’s disability was reviewed, which was nerve-wracking. Then it was denied. We’re in the midst of the appeals process, but if he loses his benefits — especially Medicare — it’s going to be disastrous for us financially.

    But you know what? There are only one or two other items still on the list that we have to get around to. And the rest will just have to be left to the lawyers. And more appeals in the future if need be.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      That s a big fear/unknown of ours – health. We are fairly healthy and stay active, but you can’t account for accidents or genetics that could screw those plans up big time.

      Like you said, we can plan, and plan, and I have to remind myself that I planned for this, and that’s all I can do. It may turn out worse, it may turn out better, but it’s out of my control.

      I found a post from last February that is along a similar train of thought, so evidently I worry more than I think I do. :)

  13. Amber Tree

    By nature, I thinker a lot, I run through different scenarios in my head. This can be quit annoying.
    Not so long ago, I came across a litte framework. it looks at items in the following way: can you influenc it or not. In short: if you can not influence it, the do’t put energy into it and let it go. Just like you did. if not, you will be frustrated
    On the other side, their are the things you can influence. Doing nothing leads to passivity, so the best here is to take action.

    I use this simple approach in work and private related situation. I have introduced a middle option as well: it are things that I can influence/change, but it would that much energy that I do not want to do it. I let it go then.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Running those scenarios through your head and constantly analyzing is very annoying. That’s a good approach you have with the middle option. A nice balance of “Is it worth the energy it would take to influence this thing?” If not, then no action needed and let it go. I like it!

      There are a lot of grey areas with letting stuff go, no need for it to be black and white. :)

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