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Overcoming unemployment fears amidst a global pandemic economy

Overcoming unemployment fears amidst a global pandemic economy

For many workers living in a COVID-19 world, fears of an uncertain future is a constant worry. Stricter containment policies and mandatory lockdowns have led to a sharp contraction in economic activity.1 Current data suggests that the pandemic has triggered one of the worst economic crises since the Great Depression.1 The effects of this economic crisis is a prevalent fear as a worldwide survey found that in July, unemployment fears was the second highest worry (40%) after COVID-19 (43%).2 These unemployment fears have remained relatively high despite COVID-19 fears steadily decreasing over the recent months.

Figure 1. Top Global Concerns of 2020, Research among adults aged 16-64 in 27 participating countries. c. 19,000 per month. (April - July 2020).
Figure 1. Top Global Concerns of 2020, Research among adults aged 16-64 in 27 participating countries. c. 19,000 per month. (April - July 2020).

This stark reality is a difficult thing to come to terms with for workers who either rely on their job as their main source of income or have other people to support. It may be tempting to just “put on a brave face” and power through. However, this is not an effective way to handle such worries. Simply saying “Don’t be anxious is completely unhealthy,” says Dr. Camille Preston3, a business psychologist. In fact, dismissing worries and concerns only makes fears worse. This type of suppression often decreases a person’s self-confidence to overcome their struggles and negatively impacts close relationships as well.4

However, “in absence of confidence, courage takes over,” says Dr. Neel Burton5, a psychiatrist, philosopher and author of “Hide and Seek: The Psychology of Self-Deception.”6

Courage is different from confidence. “Confidence operates in the realm of the known, courage in the realm of the unknown,” he adds. It's easier to be confident when the outcomes are certain. And although adopting courage in times of uncertainty “requires greater effort and greater strength”, people are far more resilient than they think.7

Adopting this resilient attitude is important in rebooting a person’s mind to say: “Okay, that’s what it is. What are the choices that I can make around it?” remarks Dr. Preston. Essentially, it “activates our own internal braking system,” she adds.

Stephen Covey, author of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”8, highlights a proactive way to engage this system. Accept and acknowledge what can’t be controlled and instead, focus on what really matters - the things that can be controlled. This shift and reclamation of power aids in not only overcoming fears of uncertainty but also helps rebuild confidence in ourselves and in the belief that we have the power to change our circumstances and move forward.

1. https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/1686c758-en/index.html?itemId=/content/publication/1686c758-en

2. https://www.ipsos.com/en-sg/what-worries-world-july-2020

3. http://www.camillepreston.com/about

4. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2016-41528-001

5. https://neelburton.com/

6. https://www.amazon.com/Hide-Seek-Self-Deception-Neel-Burton/dp/0956035361

7. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2009-22821-005

8. https://www.amazon.com/Habits-Highly-Effective-People-Powerful/dp/0743269519