Martha's big adventure -- The job hunt - Martha Carr

A long job hunt can be bad for your heart. The Great Recession has created millions of new job hunters and what's essentially a buyer's market for employers. It's not uncommon to hear anecdotal stories about people doggedly pursuing leads for a year or two before finding employment, and many people are under-employed or temporarily in a different profession.

There are always blessings in every passage of life and this long trek through the economic trough is no exception. However, in order to see what we can learn from all of this, we're going to have to stop staring down the black hole of unemployment.

First, let's look at a couple of reasons why it's in our best interests to find some gratitude and build a few new strategies, regardless of how dire the situation might seem. A newly released study by the Harvard School of Public Health has found that job churning, which is when there's relatively low unemployment but marked increases in layoffs, results in the most marked decline in health, particularly among white collar workers. That's exactly what's happening right now.

While our unemployment rate remains relatively low at 9.7 percent or 14.8 million people, especially when compared to other industrial countries, it's the increased rate of job layoffs that is causing our angst, according to the study. In other words, people are finding a job, keeping it for awhile and then getting laid off again.

The rate has doubled from 3.5 percent to 7 percent over a 20-year period, and doesn't show any signs of reversing, reported Kate Strully, the author of the report.

There is a short list that cardiologists hand out about what creates dangerous levels of stress for the human heart. Divorce, death and loss of a job are always the top three. That loss of work may seem like it doesn't rate the same amount of grief as breaking up a marriage or burying a loved one, but think again.

Loss of a job is more than gaps in a paycheck. There's the loss of a routine, a way to contribute during the day and the loss of a social network. For a lot of us the people we work with represent our neighborhood, and losing daily access is like a foreclosure. A layoff is a way of saying, "Don't come back to this place because you don't live here anymore," even if the time spent in the community consisted of the 8-to-5 stretch.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that heart disease will cost the U.S. $316.4 billion this year in medical care and lost productivity. Some of that is due to diet and DNA, but some is being linked to a growing sense of unease among the American workforce.

It's becoming an intractable problem as U.S. corporations look for ways to remain flexible, and see cutting the labor pool as the first line of defense in a recession, or a means to rid themselves of job titles that have become outdated as new technology comes onboard.

Here's where all of those artist and writer friends you have that have always seemed just a little too unstructured can lend a hand and give you some advice on how to cope. I have spent a 20-year career pitching thousands of ideas by now to a constantly changing roster of editors, agents and publishers. Every time a job is completed, means I've just been laid off. The cycle never goes away. In order to not go crazy, I've had to spend a lot of time reminding myself that I'm here on this earth in order to be of service to others, a new project always comes along, and then I let it go.

Other strategies include exercising on a regular basis, so that I get out among live bodies and release some endorphins. My library card gets a work out as well, and I cook at home a lot more and invite friends over to enjoy the latest creation. Game nights have also become popular. Volunteering is once again on the increase as people realize they can't spent an entire workday looking for a job, so why not donate part of it to a good cause? I can usually be found tutoring kids with special needs.

Years after this is all over, and it will eventually be over, I promise, we're going to either be able to look back and wince at how freaked out we were, or marvel at how much we learned and, therefore, gained. This is one choice that's still yours to make each and every day. More adventures to follow.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail Martha at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.