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What I need isn’t another day off – Celebrating Labor Day in the midst of COVID-19

Written by Kelly Klund, LPN
Resource Nurse, Empira

In normal times many American’s look forward to the first Monday in September as a paid day off of work. We celebrate by spending a long lazy weekend at the lake, having a picnic or BBQ with friends and family or enjoying a community parade.

Just a Little History


Labor Day was first celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City and was created to celebrate the achievements of American workers. On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday.

Another Day Off


In the age of Covid-19, with nearly 25 million Americans unemployed, 2020’s Labor Day looks and feels much different than past years. With astronomical numbers of Americans currently out of work, this crisis has likely touched all of us in one way or another. We may be unemployed ourselves, have a loved one who has suffered a job loss, or we may see the effects of unemployment in our communities. In light of the wide reach and reality of the number of people out of work, we must face the mental health impact that unemployment can cause. According to the Journal of Labor Economics, this reality includes people self-reporting feelings of worthlessness, uselessness, feelings of despair, inability to find enjoyment, and an increase in the number of people being diagnosed with depression or anxiety.

I believe, that if we take a deeper look, we will find that unemployment is just one facet of the struggle that people are having and that by identifying a sense of purpose in our daily lives we can ease some of this despair. Having a sense of purpose means having an anchor that influences our behavior, helps shape our goals, offers us a sense of direction, and gives meaning to our lives. Studies show that identifying a sense of purpose in life may help people deal with early onset stressors and maintain overall quality of life. People who attach their sense of purpose and contribution to their employment, may be struggling with questions such as “Why should I wake up?” or “What difference am I making?”

Finding Your Purpose


If this resonates with you, your next question is likely, “How can I find my purpose?” I recently came across a Ted Talk that can help to answer this question with five simple self-reflections.

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • Who do you do it for?
  • What do those people want or need?
  • How do those people change or transform as a result of what you give them?


Let’s break it down a little further with an example:

Who are you? Say your first name. It’s as easy as that.

I’m Kelly.

What do you do? What do you love to do? If there are too many options. Change it to, what is one thing that you feel supremely qualified to teach other people?

I teach people how to have fun parties.

Who do you do it for?

I do it for my friends and family.

What do those people want or need?

They want to laugh and have fun.

How do they change or transform as a result of what you give them?

They make memories.

I’m Kelly and I’m a memory maker.

My purpose can be part of my work day, but it doesn’t have to be defined by it. This Labor Day I challenge both the employed, who are appreciating in a much needed day off, and the unemployed, who may be struggling with one day blurring into the next, to identify their sense of purpose by asking themselves these questions. Who are you? What do you do?

After you answer those questions go do more of that thing that can fill your soul and give you a reason to wake up! As for me, I’m headed off to plan a virtual birthday party for my mom!

References

Farré, L., Fasani, F., & Mueller, H. (2018). Feeling useless: The effect of unemployment on mental health in the Great Recession. IZA Journal of Labor Economics, 7(1). doi:10.1186/s40172-018-0068-5

Historic unemployment weekly claims | Unemployment data. (2020, April 17). Retrieved July 17, 2020, from https://usafacts.org/visualizations/weekly-unemployment-claims/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=ND-Jobs&gclid=CjwKCAjwx9_4BRAHEiwApAt0zrJ0PclPnhmsB4LdPsk9eDu3E47rdPHwR40x-2UjXNYREkGBunEYxBoCGXUQAvD_BwE

History of Labor Day. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/general/laborday/history

Leipzig, A. (2016, August 7). How to know your life purpose in 5 minutes | Adam Leipzig | TEDxMalibu [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=om-XLTeQee0

Yeung, P., & Breheny, M. (2019). Quality of life among older people with a disability: The role of purpose in life and capabilities. Disability and Rehabilitation, 1-11. doi:10.1080/09638288.2019.1620875

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