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Overcoming Economic Anxiety - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Overcoming Economic Anxiety in 2009

February 19, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

A new Associated Press-GfK poll reveals that the American public is becoming increasingly concerned about the tanking economy. Nearly half of those surveyed fear losing their jobs -- almost double the percentage at this time last year.

In addition, the latest Gallup Poll indicates that anxious Americans are spending forty percent less than they did a year ago. With daily reports of auto bailouts, layoffs and downsizing, Americans have reached a new level of anxiety and financial stress.

Here are a few tips on getting through these tough times:

The Unexpected Economic Downturn: The current economic crisis was upon us before most of us realized that things were this serious. We fell from relative prosperity to economic peril. This change was jarring. The public fell into a dreadful cycle of panic, restricted spending and pessimism.

Inescapable Headlines: Everywhere we turn, there is negative financial news. We are “marinating” in worry and negativity.

No Control Over the Economy: Our lack of control in correcting this problem is profound. None of the suggested solutions are immediate or perfect. The prolonged crisis is exacting its toll due to unrelenting uncertainty, no quick fix and no clear idea about what would help make it better.

No Predictability: Predictable adversity is less stressful than unpredictable adversity. We can’t predict when the recovery will occur. If you knew the current economic stress would end in 93 days, you would feel far less anxiety. With no end in sight, the resulting uncertainty increases our anxiety.

We keep getting news that things are getting worse.

One week, Congress passes a stimulus bill and the next week, the auto giants are laying off thousands of people. Such dire news creates images of catastrophe and suffering. If you don’t know when the economy will improve or even if it will improve, your anxiety spirals upward. If you clearly saw that things were getting better, your anxiety would decrease substantially. Unfortunately, we overlook any positive signs in the economy.

Emotional contagion is a real phenomenon.

It refers to our tendency to pick up the emotions of those around us, both positive and negative. Our brains are wired to detect fearful expressions from others, and some studies even argue that we can smell fear. People who are anxious are more susceptible to becoming “infected” with the intense reactions of others. The anxiety ripples through the group, leading to ‘wild-fire’ panic and irrational thinking. This economy is a real life example of this phenomenon.

Tips on Dealing with Economic Adversity:

This economic recession may be with us for a while, and the public needs to implement long-term stress remedies that really do work. If you cloud your mind with constant worry, your ability to problem-solve when it counts is compromised.

Stop Catastrophizing: Intrusive ‘doom and gloom’ thoughts are incredibly draining. Monitor your thought patterns, stop the negative thoughts with distraction and/or recreation, and get more rest. Anxiety flourishes in a tired mind and body.

Fight Against Your Own Negativity: Learn to argue against negative, unrealistic beliefs. How realistic are you being when you descend into gloom? Aren’t there options you are overlooking that could lead to a better outcome?

Put Your Situation in Perspective: You live in the most affluent country in the world with the most democratic philosophies. Even if you are struggling with financial stress and career uncertainties, you are still better off than 95% of the rest of the world. This country has survived far worse times, and we will definitely overcome this stressful economic period as well.

Laugh Long and Loudly: “Just twenty seconds of laughter is the cardiovascular equivalent of three minutes of strenuous rowing.” Laughter is good for your breathing, for your cardiovascular system and for your soul. Surround yourself with friends who enjoy life and the blessings at hand.

Sources:

"Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers" by Robert Sapolsky, Ph.D.

"Cognitive Therapy" by Judith Beck, Ph.D.

"Lighten Up" by Metcalf and Felible


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