There has been chatter about an impending recession for the better part of a year now. And I should know, because the minute I heard the word uttered last year for the first time since 2008 (not long after I graduated from college and entered the job market, by the way), I’ve been on high alert. 

So, for the better part of a year, I’ve been waiting for the recession shoe to drop, so to speak. I’ve been waiting for a majority of economists to declare that we have entered the much-forewarned recession, only for us to continue on for months without any clear indication of whether we’re in a recession or not. Some experts believe a 2023 recession is inevitable, while others still think we may eke out a soft landing after all. 

Speaking from personal experience, waiting for a recession is an exhausting and stressful experience that has pushed me to question: Does it really matter if we’re in a recession or not? 

It does, of course, matter if we’re in a recession because within a recession, more people would lose their jobs or have their savings take a hit. Both of those scenarios affect individuals, their families, their livelihoods, and mental health, among many other repercussions. 

But in other key ways, whether we’re in a formal recession or not, it’s time we adjust to our new economic and work environment — making the most of our current situation without worrying ourselves silly. 

Corporate behavior has changed 

Whether or not we’re technically in a recession, corporate behavior has changed significantly in the last year. Whereas borrowing money to take risks or grow and expand used to be virtually free, now there is a significant cost to borrowing thanks to the Federal Reserve’s cumulative rate hikes

Some industries, like the tech and media industries especially, have seen widespread layoffs that would indicate that we’re headed for a recession. And some economic experts predict that the layoffs in the tech sector will spread to other sectors in the coming months. 

As well as the laid-off employees themselves, these layoffs have also affected the employees who remain. In fact, a recent research study by JustWorks, a HR technology platform, found that 42% of employees are fearful of getting laid off in 2023. We’ve written extensively about the hidden cost of layoffs in a recent post, offering advice on how to mitigate those costs as best you can. 

Overall, corporate behavior has become more cautious, more risk-averse, and more hesitant. And that means employees around the world in a variety of different industries need to adapt in order to thrive amid this ongoing uncertainty. 

What you can do to keep recession anxiety at bay

While there’s no surefire way to eliminate the anxiety that this economic rollercoaster can give you, there are a few things you can focus on that will help you ride it out more peacefully. 

1. Work with the resources you have

Understand that doing more with less is now the name of the game. The sooner you embrace doing the most you can with the resources you have, the better off you’ll be. That’s why we’ve dedicated an entire ongoing series to the range of ways you can do more with less to really thrive during this uncertain period. We’ve started with coping with the hidden cost of layoffs and consolidating your martech stack, and we’ve got more killer content to come on the topic. 

2. Embrace upskilling

Channeling nervous energy into upskilling can be a smart way to distract yourself and maintain or build your confidence as you wait out the current economic climate. You’ll be more employable should you be caught in a round of layoffs and you’ll stay actively engaged in your career field. 

3. Become an early adopter

As if an impending recession wasn’t enough upheaval, the sudden acceleration of AI has shaken up many industries as well. Where possible, keep tabs on how the new technology is developing so you can hopefully implement it into your own work to prove new and impactful skills. For example, everyone’s talking about ChatGPT. If you can figure out how to leverage it for your own purposes to streamline your work processes, it will give you an edge. 

4. Anticipate client needs

It’s likely that your clients in other industries need to do more with less, too. If your role interfaces with other industries that haven’t yet experienced mass layoffs, anticipate that they are proceeding cautiously as well. If you can, bring what you’ve learned about doing more with less to share with clients in other industries and bring added value to your relationship. 

5. Engage in company culture 

Finally, now is not the time to disengage from your company, no matter how much the work environment has shifted. However you can, engage with your fellow employees and actively participate in activities or projects that will make you feel connected to your company. This will help you keep your mental health on track throughout times of uncertainty. 

No amount of worrying about a recession is going to keep it from happening. As the Glenn Turner quote goes, “Worrying is like a rocking chair. It’ll give you something to do, but it will get you nowhere.”

Instead, channel that anxious energy into focusing on what you can impact in the shorter term and bolster your skills for the long term.