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?)
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?