Coping with the Furlough

Yesterday was the start of a new fiscal year, and as I’m sure you know, the U.S. government shut down for lack of an approved budget. I live in the Baltimore-Washington corridor and many of my friends and clients are now “furloughed.” This means they cannot report to work and they don’t get paid. No one knows how long this situation will last.

I have seen two opposite reactions to the news: a lot of people are very distressed, angry at Congress, and fearful of how they will pay their bills; while some are happy–or rather, excited. Thrilled, even. To them it’s like having a snow day, when school is cancelled and you get to stay home, watch cartoons, and go sledding.

Which type are you?

If you are one of those furloughed, which reaction did you have? Each attitude has its consequences.

The fearful may tighten their belts, cut out unnecessary spending, and perhaps look for a part-time job. But they will also worry, and stress compromises the immune system, making them more vulnerable during the upcoming cold and flu season.

The second group will enjoy their unexpected time off, probably indulging in play and/or completing tasks previously put off for lack of time. However, if the shutdown lasts for weeks or even months, they could find themselves unprepared and in a pinch.

What to do?

I believe the best approach combines both reactions, to a certain extent.

  • Enjoy the new-found time. It’s a gorgeous time of year in the DC area to take a day trip into the countryside. Pack a picnic, bring your camera, and discover a new place.
  • Pamper yourself with cheap thrills. Swap massages or manicures with a friend or partner. Visit your local library and check out the latest bestseller you’ve been meaning to read, but couldn’t find the time. Attend a free concert or visit a local museum (just not any of the Smithsonian museums).

    Student Zentangles®

    Student Zentangles® (Photo credit: DreamScribe)

  • Start a hobby. Check out Zentangle, an intricate form of doodling, for example.
  • Socialize. Visit an old friend. Take your dog on a long walk through the park. Invite the neighbors over to watch a movie on TV. Keep in touch with work friends through social media or in person. Otherwise you may experience withdrawal symptoms from a lack of human contact, especially if you live alone.

What Not To Do

Now’s not the time to make a big purchase you haven’t already budgeted for, or to console yourself by eating out every night. I would also avoid spending your days at the mall, unless you can avoid the impulse to shop. You can still indulge in fun activities without spending money.

Whatever you do, hold positive thoughts and don’t let the situation bring your spirits down. Remember the Serenity Prayer:

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

This is one of those things you can’t change, so it’s just a waste of time and energy to worry about it.

How are YOU coping with the government shutdown? Leave a comment below.

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About Abby

I am a fictional literary character. I work as a massage therapist in Ellicott City, MD, and in my spare time I help the local police solve crimes. In my former life I was a corporate lawyer. I graduated from Cornell University, Harvard Law, and the Baltimore School of Massage. To keep fit I run and practice yoga.
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