ANXIETY & DEPRESSION
Dr. Kalb recently spent an hour on KGO radio discussing economic anxiety, and was featured in a front page article in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Here are some of the key points she made:
COPING WITH ECONOMIC ANXIETY
We are living through extraordinary times - times fraught with anxiety. We can easily succumb to emotional contagion and get swept up in panic. Or we can try to find our bearings, take concrete steps to minimize our anxiety, and even grow from the experience.
Know yourself. This isn't the time to revamp your personality. Ask yourself the following: Do I tend to feel refueled by people or drained by them? Are there particular people it's comforting to be around? People who's anxiety I absorb like a sponge? Does more information settle me down or rile me up? Then be prepared to act on those answers.
Avoid rumination. Take a close look at the way you think, at the kind of questions you ask yourself. Are they problem solving questions like "What can I learn from this? Who would it be helpful to turn to?" or ruminative, self loathing questions like "Why do I always make the same stupid financial decisions? What if I never figure this out? Why am I such an idiot?". This is not neutral chatter or productive self reflection. When you notice it, try your best to stop. Turn on some music, do jumping jacks, rent distracting movies. You are not a good friend to yourself when you circle around and around the same material in your head. You don't just go nowhere fast -- you get stuck in dark, lonely places.
Move. Exercise is the cheapest, most sure-fire way to lift a mood. Get out of bed. Lying there, alone and worrying more and longer about the economy is the worst thing you can do. It will make it harder to think clearly and plan effectively for what to do next.
Take long deep breaths. Getting oxygen to your brain gives your body the message that you're not in danger. When you feel like you're in danger, you react with crisis thinking and acting -- with fright/ flight responses. This is fine when you're facing a saber-toothed tiger, but not when you have an ongoing situation like the current economic crisis. For that you want your more analytic, higher brain to be available and on duty.
Talk to your kids. You want to give them context. The guidelines are similar to when you talk to them about sex: keep their ages in mind, follow their lead, don't give too much information, and try to have your own anxiety in check because they will pick that up. If you're not proud of some of your decisions, try to see this as an opportunity to show them you've learned from your mistakes. If they're puzzled by how we, as a nation, got into this mess, let them know they're not alone and that they're asking good questions. Growing up in tough times, instead of in a bubble, can actually be good for your kids.
Rediscover what really matters. It's a cliché to say that that money doesn't buy happiness. But it's a cliché that's borne out by evidence. Once your basic needs are met, more money does not lead to more happiness. (see this page) What does money mean to you? Think back to when you had less. Did you feel deprived and worried? Or did you get by fine, feeling capable and self-sufficient? If you've recently been "disqualified" from the rat race—once you get over the understandable sting or even panic of that—maybe you'll feel relieved, as though a burden has been lifted. Now can be the perfect time to take a good look at your relationships, and to invest heavily in them. Ask yourself what's providing the most meaning in your life.
Volunteer and donate. If you've been laid off or had your hours cut, you can't spend every waking moment looking for work without becoming overwhelmed with frustration. This is an opportunity to pursue something you're passionate about, while giving to others. An interesting finding about money is that those who give it away, i.e. those who donate to charitable causes, actually do report greater happiness. (see this page )
Seek out professional help. What if you've tried all of the above and it's not getting any better? Or you can't get yourself to try anything. You may find yourself unable to shake feeling ashamed that you're not living up to a particular standard of living, even though you logically know that many others are going through the same thing. Maybe this situation is kicking up memories of financial stress from your childhood. Perhaps a financial crisis was the impetus for your family dissolving into divorce. Finding a licensed professional who can hear and understand you without judgment can be an invaluable gift to yourself. It can make the difference between succumbing to despair, or, taking stock, regrouping and moving forward. Some therapists provide a sliding scale and most counties provide some low fee counseling services.
Laugh. It really is the best medicine. And it's hard to panic and laugh a the same time. Too panicked to think of anything to laugh about? There are many free Joke of the Day sites, and free comedies to watch art Hulu.com. Here's a link to The New Yorker Cartoon Bank having to do with money.