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A Survivor’s Guide to a Recession: 4 Crucial Areas to Focus on Now

Immunity is up for grabs

Woman looking at her bills during a recession
Photo courtesy of Mikhail Nilov

This article is part of InHerSight's Working During Coronavirus series. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, find helpful advice here on working remotely, job hunting remotely, dealing with anxiety and stress, and staying safe at work if you have to be on-site.

Within the past year, there has been a lot of buzz concerning the American economy. Earlier this year, economists were predicting a recession in 2020. Just hearing the word recession can be daunting. After all, many of us know what it was like to live through the Great Recession of 2008. By July 2008, housing prices were falling dramatically, and the stock market was on the brink of crashing. Women who had recently graduated and were looking forward to starting their careers had to take part-time and temporary jobs just to make ends meet. During the years that followed, the state of the economy (and the job market) was bleak, at best.

So, it goes without saying that the threat of another recession has caused a bit of panic. This is especially true during a time when some women are prioritizing entrepreneurship, continuing education, and other costly endeavors over traditional employment. In 2018, CBS News reported that millennials, who make up more than half of the workforce, are resigning from their jobs to travel. Essentially, women across generations are increasingly seeking fulfillment outside work, which can be tough if the economy falters, as some economists are predicting.

In September, Bankrate reported that most economists predict a 41 percent chance of a recession by November 2020. Although this prediction is more promising than the forecast from early 2019, it is still concerning. Just knowing that the economy could plummet anytime during the next couple of years is a great reason to start preparing for the future.

Here are three areas you can focus on now to mitigate the impacts of a recession.

1. Finance: Start that side-hustle

So, you’ve got this great business idea that you know would really takeoff. The only problem? You haven’t started on it! Whether you want to start a small business or take on a new gig, the time to start is now. The gig economy is not just for folks who are quitting their job to work for themselves. The gig economy is for anyone who’s willing to put in the work to learn a new skill, reduce debt, or build a nice little nest egg in case of a recession. If you’re good at making crafts, baking goods, or hustling another way to earn extra income, don’t hesitate to start a side hustle. Get started on it now so that if a recession does hit, you’ll have at least one additional income stream to keep you afloat.

Pro survival tip: Try to choose a side-hustle that people will need even if their funds are low. Check out these six ways to make more money or explore useful side gigs, such as tax preparation, social media management for small businesses, or tutoring.

2. Mental health: Seek therapy or a support group

Life can be tough during peak economic conditions, so dealing with daily life during a recession can feel impossible. Mental prep is just as important as financial prep. To get a jumpstart on staying mentally healthy during an economic downturn, consider finding a mental health professional who can help you work through your issues. This person can serve as a resource for you before, during, and after a recession. Whether you meet with a therapist once per week or on an as-needed basis, you can get your mind right before the recession takes a toll.

As with most professionals you seek, it can take time to find the right fit. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) advises that you think about what you want in a therapist, gather referrals, make an appointment, ask questions, then build a relationship. Some people may think therapy is an expense that goes out the window once a recession hits. However, the sooner you start therapy, the sooner you can find out what your options are concerning payment plans and group therapy, which tends to be more affordable.

Pro survival tip: The average therapy session can cost up to $300, depending on several factors. Check with your insurance company about coverage for mental health services. If you aren’t fully covered, explore community health centers and training clinics that offer low-cost counseling options.

3. Physical health: Remember that health is wealth, even during a recession

Taking care of your body and taking care of your mind go hand in hand! If you haven’t already, develop healthy eating and workout habits. If your finances change with economic conditions, you may find that a gym membership is too costly to maintain. Find creative ways to stay active. Take advantage of free workout videos on YouTube, get into the habit of walking around your neighborhood, or try bodyweight exercises that don’t require fitness equipment.

Keep in mind that eating well can help you maintain a healthy body and mind. Now is the time to make a list of budget-friendly meals that you can buy and prep easily. Plan ahead for weekly meals and learn how to use what you already have in your pantry. Maintaining your health during tough economic times doesn’t have to be difficult or costly.

Pro survival tip: Avoid shopping for food while you’re hungry. Make a list at home then stick to it.

4. Career: Become an asset in the workplace

In 2008, U.S. employers cut more than 2 millions jobs due to the suffering economy. While no one can say for sure how many jobs will be lost in a future recession, you can be sure that nonessential employees are laid off first. The same is true for employees who are regularly underperforming, taking extended periods of time away from work, or racking up disciplinary actions, such as write-ups and suspensions.

Although you can still be laid off as a top performer, it is less likely. The best way to secure your job before an economic downturn is to become an asset in the workplace. Become indispensable. Also, take advantage of professional development opportunities that your employer funds, such as certificate programs, training workshops, and professional memberships. This not only helps you become a stronger asset for the company, but it also ensures that if you need to find new employment in the future, you are well-equipped to do so.

Pro survival tip: Set up a meeting with your direct supervisor to get a list of two to three key areas your company will be focusing on within the next 12 months. Gain proficiency in at least two of these areas so you can provide hands-on support when the time comes.

While you may not be able to avoid an economic decline, you can absolutely take the steps to survive it. By focusing on these key areas, you can increase your chances of making it through a recession with minimal damage to your finances, mental health, and career.

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