7 Personal Tune-Ups for Tough Times

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We had lunch last weekend with friends we had not seen for quite some time. My former co-worker’s spouse looked at me, as I was now more than 20 months away from the corporate world in which she’s still immersed, and said, “You look so calm.”

Her comment was both a surprise (since I do not necessarily feel calm), and exactly what I try to work on all the time.

With lingering economic issues and recent wild stock market swings occupying news daily, it is clear challenging times are not going to be over any time soon. While the economy obviously creates lingering financial concerns for those who find themselves out of work, taking pay cuts, or having their retirement nest eggs gutted, the impact on individual mental outlooks can extend even to those who have not been touched financially, such as my friend.

This makes it imperative for individuals to take care of themselves mentally as they try to take care of their career and financial prospects in tough times.

Having planned and started my personal career transition during the tough times of the past five years, here are 7 personal tune-ups that have been tremendously beneficial to me in helping me stay as “calm” as I have.

1. Understand your Distinctive Talents

Think through your talents, identifying those at which you are best and improve all the time, the ones that that bring you the most energy and that benefit others. After identifying your “distinctive talents,” use them in as many work and personal situations as possible to maximize your positive impact.

2. Tune Out Negative News

I used to wake up to talk radio and listen to it until arriving at work. That was until seeing Ed Foreman, who asked why anyone would fill themselves with downbeat news to start the day. I now awake to upbeat music, avoid the newspaper in favor of uplifting reading, do quick creative tasks, go to Church, and listen to energizing music or helpful presentations in the car. The result is a more positive attitude when arriving at work.

3. Give Yourself a Break

Tough times lead to greater pressure to achieve goals. Compensate by figuring out what mind-taxing tasks you can eliminate to give yourself a break. Get up earlier and start the day so you are not running behind. Stop reading a redundant industry magazine. Set a slightly earlier time to leave work. Consciously live below your means. These and other ideas can help reduce self-induced mental pressure.

4. Stop Thinking so Much about Yourself

Go out of your way to serve others – at work and in personal life. Instead of turning inward, increasingly reach out to others. Apply your talents to help others be more successful as they face their own challenges. This may seem counter-intuitive, but I would rather be known for contributing to many of other peoples’ successes than simply focusing on my own.

5. Be a Joy to Be Around

Smile, laugh, cheer people up. As tempting as going into a cocoon when everything seems crappy may be, don’t do it. Be a source of calm and enjoyment, bringing comfort and lighthearted moments to others. Find whatever works with your personality. For me that’s wearing orange socks (that have become my trademark), even when I don’t feel like bright colors and seeking out humor and fun to share with others.

6. Be Visible

Use your talents to be visible outside your company. If your talent is speaking, develop content and present to local organizations and universities. If it’s writing, submit articles to publications looking for content or start a blog on your expertise. If you’re good at building, cooking, or other essential skills, volunteer in your community. Make sure you’re using talents to help others and expand your network.

7. Work Out

Exercise and I were never good friends until my wife signed us up at a nearby health club and arranged for me to work with a trainer. I’d done cardio before, lost a little weight, but it never had a major impact. Working with a trainer brought new focus, helped relieve stress through exercise, and resulted in losing 25 pounds. All that, plus knowing I can go get away and exercise is both a tremendous motivator and a sure-fire antidote to a bad day of work.

Get Started Now

You don’t have to do all these things, but pick at least one or two as a way to tune-up your attitude and mental perspective if you’re feeling like the economic news or career challenges are dragging you down. It’s always a good time to start taking better care of yourself. Best wishes for successfully incorporating these ideas into your daily routine to stay calm!

IMAGE VIA lululemon athletica

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Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Mike Brown is an award-winning marketer and strategist with extensive experience in research, market analysis and planning, communications, and sponsorship marketing. His blog, Brainzooming, combines lateral thinking techniques, strategic planning processes, humor, and a DIY sensibility to give readers a steady stream of highly engaging and practical ideas for success.


  1. Good post. I like number 6, be visible. We all have talents and it is good to use out talents wherever we can and not just at work. We never know where our talents will take us when we use our talents outside of work.

  2. Mike, all of these points are terrific, but I’d like to highlight two and four as especially important. First, just turn that junk off! Second, take some of your energy to serve others who can’t repay you; maybe who don’t even know who you are at all. The sense of personal control, that you are able to give to another, is empowering. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do. Doing good will make you feel great!

  3. @tedcoine Turning off the junk is tougher these days since there’s a vested interest from so many people in adding their voices to shouting about problems thinking it’s a way to get more attention. Far better Ted, as you point out, to channel that energy toward helping others.

  4. @NoahG_Tidbits You definitely want to apply your talents broadly, particularly when it may seem most challenging to do so. It may seem during tough times like you just want to be out of the spotlight, but that’s the time to force yourself to get out there and doing something dramatic.

  5. I am so glad I found your post and these wonderful tips! Being a recovering news junky, turning on the news channel first thing in the morning was like brushing my teeth, just part of the routine. Now, I wake up and turn on whatever channel my 9 year old daughter was last watching…odd, but it has helped 🙂

    I found myself recently falling into the trap of #4 & #5! Feeling overwhelmed by personal issues I became all too consumed with myself and in turn haven’t been much of a joy to be around. Reading your post helps me to understand that in reaching out to others I will in turn feel better about me…like @tedcoine said, “Doing good will make you feel great!”

  6. @JohnFeskorn 3, 4, and 5 are all really easy to get caught up on John. Maybe 4 and 5 in particular are counter-intuitive. When things are challenging, it’s easy to question how focusing on others and trying to be what may seem artificially upbeat are going to help YOU when YOU have SERIOUS issues.

    Yet, if you can get over the intellectual arguments on why you shouldn’t do them and just do them, they work! I guess it’s all about outsmarting yourself to help yourself.

  7. @Brainzooming Thanks, Mike! Oh, and I think I’ll visit the departments store tomorrow and trade in some of my black and brown socks! 🙂

  8. @Brainzooming Thanks, Mike! Oh, and I think I’ll visit the Department store tomorrow and trade in some of my black and brown socks! 🙂

  9. really enjoyed this post, 5 and 6 are key! thanks again for the tips… #3 is something I should re-read over and over… THX talentculture @Brainzooming

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