A Profit and Loss Statement for Your Life
Newsweek|November 05, 2021
One approach to dealing with stress and burnout: Think of your emotional and other resources like a portfolio
By Robin Abrahams and Boris Groysberg

Sometimes people sustain losses that you cannot o set. When this happens, it is natural to feel frustrated and powerless.

STRESSED OUT? The point of being too tapped out to better your own condition is known as “resource depletion”—a state that may have worsened since the start of the pandemic.

HAVE YOU EVER COME HOME at the end of a day too worn out to cook or even order dinner, and fallen asleep with your clothes on? That point of being too tapped out to better your own condition is known as “resource depletion.” It’s part of a theory called “conservation of resources,” a way of thinking about stress, trauma and burnout that has become increasingly influential since psychologist Stevan Hobfoll introduced it in 1989.

Everyone needs food and sleep, but the specific damage a “Hungry Night” does depends on each individual’s circumstances and resources. Consider three different people:

Alex is a 56-year-old ER nurse who planned to move into a less demanding job before the pandemic struck. She is married with a teenage child. She has nights like this several times a week and resents her husband Lonnie for not picking up slack at home.

Miguel is a 22-year-old immigrant working in a meat-processing plant to support his family back home. This has been his nightly routine for the past year. He has no health coverage and his English is poor.

Sandra is a 42-year-old attorney coming home from a night on the town with colleagues celebrating a big win in court. She is divorced with no children and earns a six-figure salary with excellent health benefits.

For Miguel and Alex, each Hungry Night chips away a little more at their mental and physical well-being. Sandra, on the other hand, may suffer headache and indigestion the next day, but experiences her Hungry Night as an overall positive event and source of happy memories.

The P&L of Life

The conservation of resources (COR) theory can be thought of like a profit-and-loss statement for one’s life. Universally, humans desire the same fundamental goods: a positive self-image; health and well-being; a peaceful life; a sense of meaning and purpose; family and friends (and all those good things for them, as well). We are deeply motivated to achieve these things. This requires investing our personal resources, which Hobfoll divides into four categories:

Personal characteristics, including education; self-esteem; health; a sense of humor; optimism; stamina; ability to organize tasks; self-discipline; the feelings of accomplishing goals and being valued by others.

Material possessions, such as personal transportation; clothing; housing and furnishings; necessary equipment needed for work and housekeeping; necessities and “extras” for children; savings and emergency funds; insurance; retirement security; growth assets.

Energies, such as the time to spend maintaining one’s health, relationships, and possessions; good credit; continuing education and training; practical help at work and home.

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