Surviving the Recession, Part 3: 15 Things You Can Do to Regain Control

– Posted in: Anxiety
Artwork by Andy Warhol

Artwork by Andy Warhol

The current economic crisis has been a disaster for many individuals and families, to say the least. 

As has been pointed out in Parts 1 and 2 of this series, the recession is causing almost unbearable stress and anxiety to untold millions of Americans. For some, it is pushing them into harmful behaviors and mental illness. Yet, however bad your situation is, there are things you can do to help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety it is causing you.

This is the third part of a four-part series on “Surviving the Recession.” Today’s installment has 15 tips to help you regain control of your finances, your emotional life, and your relationships. Tomorrow’s post, “Surviving the Recession, Part 4: 16 More Things You Can Do to Regain Control” has 16 more tips, for a total of 31. 

The tips are presented in no particular order. They come from over 20 different sources, each with a particular point of view. There may be some overlap, there even may be some contradictions, but there is a wealth of good advice among them. I hope that the main thing you come away with is that you can be proactive; you can maintain control over your life even in the worst of times.

Be sure to read the first and second parts of this series. The first, “Surviving the Recession, Part 1: What It’s Doing to Us,” discusses the effects of financial crisis on Americans under these subject headings:

  • How are people handling the recession?
  • Women in particular are stressed by the economy
  • What the recession and economic worry are doing to us

Surviving the Recession, Part 2: Anxiety, Harmful Behavior, and Paralysis” is the second part of the series, and deals with how the recession is affecting our mental health. It covers the topics:

  • Economic stress and mental disorders
  • Excessive worry may lead to Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • If you’re stressed out, anxious or depressed, avoid turning to harmful behavior
  • Paralyzing yourself: Denial and catastrophizing

Tip #1: Turn off the TV and radio. Put down the newspaper and the news magazine. 

Take a break from the bad news, especially if it adds to your fear and anxiety. Remember that the news media thrives on sensationalism, and that this is a boom time for headline writers. Psychologist Katherine Nordal, PhD, the American Psychological Association’s executive director for professional practice says. “Pay attention to what’s happening around you, but refrain from getting caught up in doom-and-gloom hype.”{{1}}

One of the worst things you can do for the fear system in the brain is to keep the TV and radio tuned into the latest news on the recession and to keep checking CNN.com to find out what the newest grisly Wall Street number is. This kind of compulsive behavior is toxic for people who are prone to stress and anxiety — even without a reporter telling them to run for cover.{{2}} 

And Cass Grange, a senior adviser associate at Lucien, Sterling & Gray Advisory Group in Austin, Texas, states:{{3}}

We’re daunted by news reports. The news media make it appear so grim out there. I’m not saying people should not listen to the news, but you need to have a longer-term perspective.

Tip #2: Determine if immediate action is required

When you act now to plan for this national emergency, you can avoid the pitfalls of procrastination, denial, and panic. Hold a family meeting to work on a plan to ride the recession through. Look at your finances realistically and clearly without panic. There probably are several things you can do to tune up your finances. For some, drastic action is called for. For others, only watchful caution is required. 

Whatever you decide to do, it will cut stress and anxiety greatly, even if your situation is dire. 

Sally Winston, PsyD, co-director of the Anxiety and Stress Disorders Institute of Maryland advises:{{4}}

Make a plan, whether it’s to call a financial adviser, delay vacation plans, or even to do nothing for right now. Then let your worries take a back seat to the plan and the rest of your day.

Tip #3: Control what you can control, and don’t worry about things you can’t control

The most uncomfortable part of a Wall Street crash or economic recession is the lack of control most of us feel. It’s contrary to our human psychology. 

We want to drive the car, or at least be the passenger in the front seat giving directions. But in an economic downturn, we’re not even in the car.{{5}} Nicholas Yrizarry, an adviser with Nicholas Yrizarry & Associates in Reston, Virginia flatly tells us that, “You can’t control what’s going on today” in the larger economy.{{6}}

This lack of control tempts us to just give up, to sigh, “Why bother?” To combat those feelings, Cass Grange recommends that we:{{7}}

Concentrate on the things you can control — like saving more money or paying off debt. The antidote to fear is action. If you even take small steps, you’re going to feel more in control of your money.”

Tip #4: Put things into a broader perspective

It’s easy to panic when faced with the current economic crisis, especially if you have no plans to confront it. But acting out of panic almost guarantees unwise choices. Instead, you should base your decisions on calm, rational thinking. To be a solid, workable plan, each element will need to be thought through and prioritized, so the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

The most important thing to do is to start working on your financial plan right away, if you haven’t already. As you encounter each situation, ask, “What’s the worst that can happen?” and “What is the best that can happen?” Will you merely be uncomfortable? Will bills go unpaid? Will you lose your house? Keep asking questions until you are satisfied you have the right answer.

Without asking these hard questions, you can have no realistic sense of the reliability of your answers, as well as the priority each situation must take within your financial plan.{{8}} 

Tip #5: Think in the long term 

Always remember that even the Great Depression was eventually over. This recession is already showing signs of easing, and even the most pessimistic pundit predicts it will be largely over within a year or so.

When it comes to your finances, unless you’ve recently lost your job or you are close to retirement, think in the long term. {{9}} The measures that you are taking today to keep afloat in this economic storm will not always be necessary. When planning, don’t just stop at the measures necessary to make it through the next few months. Work on your long-term goals, realizing that the recession is just a glitch in your 5- or 10-year plan.

Tip #6: Take the opportunity to simplify your life

Over the years, it’s easy to accumulate both physical and mental junk in our lives. It piles up everywhere, in every corner, in every closet. Rather than think about how much a disruption the recession is causing, look on it as an opportunity to clear away this junk from all corners of your life.

The easy steps are those involving physical junk. The great thing about physical de-junking is that it can be turned into money through:

  • A yard sale
  • eBay or CraigsList
  • A consignment shop
  • Barter with a friend or neighbor for something you need
  • A donation that you can get a tax deduction for

For each physical item you examine, ask the following questions:{{10}}

  • Have I used this item recently?
  • Does this item help me in my life’s goals?
  • Do I need to own this item? Or is there a way that I can rent, borrow or improvise the function of this item when I need it?

Other tips for physical de-junking are:{{11}}

  • Work on a small area at a time. Trying to de-junk large areas can be discouraging.
  • Consider disposing of extra versions of items that you only use or wear one at a time.
  • Dispose of items that you accumulate, but can get more of, such as cardboard boxes and plastic bags.
  • Pay particular attention to getting rid of items that are useful, but not in the quantity you may have accumulated.
  • Rethink your choice of owning structures that hold items, such as shelves, dressers, wardrobes, and storage buildings.

De-junking your mind is another matter entirely. Typically, it’s full of outmoded attitudes, bad decisions clung to, unexamined goals and values, and other things that are getting in the way of your inner peace and balance. Take the time to really think about yourself and your life. Examine everything, no matter how small. Work on your values and your goals for yourself. There are many ways to do this — far beyond the scope of this article — but there are many, many sources of help online, or that you already know about and have put off until a “better day.” Today’s that day!

With all your de-junking, don’t forget your quality of life. Many times, in fits of desperation or misplaced virtue, we back a dumpster up to the door (physical or mental) and just start tossing without considering what kind of life we will live without all that junk. Remember that real peace of mind comes both from keeping those things that are valuable, and discarding those things that are not.

Rather than repeat myself, you might be interested in a guest post I wrote for the Time Goes By blog entitled “Getting Rid of the Junk.” It goes into detail how we have been de-junking our lives, but holding the quality of our lives as the number one thing we consider as we do so. 

Tip #7: Think conservatively about your investments

There are times in our lives when it pays to think conservatively about our investments, such as when we are nearing or are in retirement. In these times, you may also be concerned about your investments if you are worried about your job or financial security.

It’s not the time to sell everything and stuff the money in your mattress! But it might be time to talk to your financial advisor about diversifying your portfolio to include more low-risk investments that will minimize the impact of a struggling market economy.{{12}}

Tip #8: Stay healthy in body and mind

It almost goes without saying that anxiety and stress are made worse when you’re not taking care of your body and your mind. We overeat, or eat the wrong things. We don’t get enough exercise. Our sleep patterns are disrupted with either too much or too little sleep. We cram our lives so full of “things” that we don’t have any opportunities for personal time.

But getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercising, and allowing for personal time will help clear your mind of negative thoughts. If you are exhausted — physically or emotionally — it will be more difficult for you to handle stress and anxiety.{{13}}

In this recession, many people are turning to comfort food to, well, comfort themselves in the middle of all this anxiety and stress. Don’t let this time of tension expand your waistline — more weight gain means even more stress. It’s a well-known fact that candy and snack companies are almost recession-proof. People will buy snacks before they buy more healthy food!{{14}}

Healthy exercise need not be expensive. A simple walk regularly will do wonders for your stress. There are shelves full of exercise books at your library that will teach you how to exercise at home using common items like chairs, canned foods for weights, and isometric exercises that require no props at all. Commit to regular exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. If you’re likely to ignore it at the end of the day, do it at the beginning and feel great knowing you started the day off right. Take a walk regularly with a friend or your spouse; it will be good for both of you. {{15}}

Too often we let the tensions of the day get in the way of taking personal time for ourselves. But your mind’s equilibrium is more important than ever to maintaining a positive, productive attitude. Carve out some time for yourself each day, even if it is only 15 minutes. You’ll feel much better for it. 

Tip #9: Talk to someone 

In these stressful times, we often try to go it alone, either from a misplaced feeling of independence, or shame over being in a financial bind. Cass Grange, a senior adviser associate at Lucien, Sterling & Gray Advisory Group in Austin, Texas says that we can feel a lot of shame and guilt around our money issues, and that can make us secretive. She continues:{{16}}

Aloneness is one of the greatest contributors to financial fear. People feel they have no one to talk to about this.The first step to getting a handle on your finances can be opening up about them to someone you trust, whether that’s a financial pro or your spouse if the two of you aren’t already communicating about money.

Being secretive or going it alone can be very harmful to your mental health, building stress and anxiety with no way to relieve the pressure. Psychologist Katherine Nordal, PhD, the American Psychological Association’s executive director for professional practice advises:{{17}}

Reach out to family, friends and trusted advisors. Research shows that receiving support from others is effective in managing stress. If you continue to feel overwhelmed by stress, then consider seeking professional help.

And don’t try to make major financial decisions alone. You may think that you can’t afford professional help, but it can be the best money you ever spent. “If you do have questions, or if you feel paralyzed by fear, go talk to someone who does this for a living,” says Brian Jones, a financial planner and vice president of CJM Wealth Advisers in Fairfax, Virginia. He advises asking friends and family which financial planner they use and recommend if you don’t already have one.{{18}}

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed out and anxious, it may be time to talk to a mental health professional. They are trained to help you deal with these issues and put your life back into perspective.

Tip #10: Start small, but start somewhere

One of the first reactions many people have had to the recession is paralysis: They don’t know what to do, so they do nothing. Of course, this can be disastrous, not only to your financial situation, but to your stress and anxiety levels. Others panic and try to do everything at once, another recipe for disaster.

The best approach when you are confused and paralyzed is just to start somewhere. Start small, but start somewhere. Dr. Stephanie Smith, a Colorado psychologist, says that:{{19}}

Many of us bury our heads in the sand because our finances are so overwhelming. This can just make the problem — and ultimately our anxiety about the problem — worse. Start small and start somewhere. Think of this recession as an opportunity to evaluate your financial situation and money habits and figure out ways to change.”

Tip #11: Come up with a short-term plan with small, manageable steps

One of the mistakes that people make during this finite economical crisis is to try to make a huge 5- or 10-year plan for their finances and their lives. Rather, you should focus on a short-term plan to tide you over for the next year or so, and revisit it regularly to revise and adapt it to circumstances as they happen.

Terry Diebold, president of the Virginia Association for Marriage and Family Therapy in Fredericksburg, says that:{{20}}

[People] need to sit down and look at their finances and be realistic. Remember that this is not going to last forever. So what you need to do is come up with a short-term plan. Think, “How are we going to get through the next year?” instead of `This is going to go on forever.”

And while focusing on the next year, divide your action plans into achievable steps instead of radical, giant steps. Dan Abrahamson, assistant executive director for state advocacy at the American Psychological Association, advises you to:{{21}}  

Break [your financial plan] down to small, manageable steps. You have to make some moderate steps that might begin to change the economic landscape for you.

Tip #12: Be here in the present, not in the future or the past

Garth Mintun of SelfGrowth.com advises us to:{{22}}

Be here in the present now! Look at the situation right now. Are you breathing? Do you have food on the table and a roof over your head today? If the answer to those questions is “Yes,” reality is kinder than your imagination.

Do not moan and reminisce over the “good old days.” They are gone forever, for good or ill, and can only serve to harm you in the present. The stress and anxiety of today are sufficient to keep you occupied!

The stress of imagined future fears or anxieties may cause you to overindulge in food, alcohol, chemical substances, shopping, gambling or a host of other compulsive activities to numb you from feeling the pain of the current moment. If allowed to continue, it can make you physically weaker from the stress — and then you will have new problems to worry about! All this is unnecessary if we stay with the reality of the present.

Focus on what can be done, and not on what has been or what could be. Become proactive and plan for the future without scaring yourself about the future. Look realistically at your financial situation, and manage problems with your health and your prized relationships in the here and now. 

Be interested and curious about your process of “catastrophizing” and exaggerating the future. Try to catch yourself in those dire thoughts and fantasies, and notice that in the present those events and circumstances simply are not in your life. Remind yourself the future is still unknown. Name your projections into the future so you can begin to distinguish the present from future fears. Remember your own history of overcoming adversity and take stock of the wisdom of your life experience.{{23}}

Tip #13: Identify your financial stressors and make a plan

Knowing yourself is more than just a path to inner peace. It’s a way to know your tolerance for financial risk and uncertainty. It’s also a way to know what causes you the most stress about your financial situation.{{24}}

Take stock of your particular financial situation and what causes you stress and anxiety. Write down specific ways you and your family can reduce expenses or manage your finances more efficiently. Then commit to a specific plan and review it regularly.{{25}}

Although writing your financial plan can be daunting and anxiety-provoking in the short term, putting things down on paper and committing to a plan can reduce stress. If you are having trouble paying bills or staying on top of debt, reach out for help by calling your bank, utilities or credit card company.{{26}}

Tip #14: Examine your financial priorities

If you have developed a plan for your finances, it is time to examine it for what it shows about your priorities — not only financial priorities, but your life priorities, as well. Does the plan take you where you want to go in life? Are the actions required by the plan in accord with your values and life goals? If not, you need to take a serious look at that plan to make sure you are not taking drastic steps in the present that you will regret in the future.

Are your financial priorities and money goals matching up with your spending habits? Are they in accord with your short-term financial plan? Dissonance between your plan and the way you are executing it can be a source of anxiety and conflict, especially between spouses or partners.{{27}}

Tip #15: Realize that your situation is unique, and not the same as your parents

Many of us have parents or grandparents who lived through the Great Depression. If you don’t, then it’s easy enough to find first-hand accounts on the front page of almost any newspaper.

I distinctly remember the tales of want and privation that my parents told of their lives during the Depression. And my in-laws, in their late 80’s, never miss an opportunity to impress on me the financial lessons they learned during that time.

Frankly, I feel a great deal of shame that I haven’t heeded their advice. I speculate whether not listening to them has gotten my family into a financial pinch. And those stories generate a fear that those terrible days will become real here in the present.

I have to keep reminding myself that the current situation is entirely different from the days of the Depression. More importantly, my family, our finances, and our goals and values are very — maybe even radically — different than theirs.

Trying to graft our parents’ advice and cautions onto our family’s lives only leads to a great deal of stress and anxiety. As much as it makes us feel that we are in some way rejecting them, we have had to decide to go our own way, the way that feels best to us. This in itself creates stress, but it is small in relation to trying to live your life with someone else’s values.

Be sure to read the other parts of the series!

This is the third part of a four-part series on “Surviving the Recession.” Tomorrow’s post, “Surviving the Recession, Part 4: More Things You Can Do to Regain Control” has 16 more tips, for a total of 31. 

Be sure to read the first and second parts of this series. The first, “Surviving the Recession, Part 1: What It’s Doing to Us,” discusses the effects of financial crisis on Americans under these subject headings:

  • How are people handling the recession?
  • Women in particular are stressed by the economy
  • What the recession and economic worry are doing to us

Surviving the Recession, Part 2: Anxiety, Harmful Behavior, and Paralysis” is the second part of the series, and deals with how the recession is affecting our mental health. It covers the topics:

  • Economic stress and mental disorders
  • Excessive worry may lead to Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • If you’re stressed out, anxious or depressed, avoid turning to harmful behavior
  • Paralyzing yourself: Denial and catastrophizing

What do you think?

A total of 31 tips for you! I really got carried away, but there is so much good material that I hated to hold any of it back. I hope they are of use to you, and you enjoy reading them as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing them.

  • Which is your favorite tip today?
  • Do you disagree with any of the tips presented?
  • Could you add any tips of your own?

Artwork by Andy Warhol. Dollar signs, 1981. Silkscreen on canvas.

©2009 Anxiety, Panic & Health. All rights reserved.

As always, your comments are welcome!

If you have enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to this blog, either via RSS or email at the top of your screen. It’s free! You can also follow me on Twitter from the same place. I would also appreciate your sharing this post using your favorite social media, such as StumbleUpon or Digg. Just click the little green “ShareThis” button at the bottom of this post.

Related posts:

%RELATEDPOSTS%

[[1]]Bethune, Sophie; Brownawell, Angel. (2008, October 7). APA Poll Finds Women Bear Brunt of Nation’s Stress, Financial Downturn. Retrieved April 13, 2009 from http://www.apa.org/releases/women-stress1008.html [[1]]

[[2]]Borchard, Therese J. (2009, February 1). Recession Anxiety: 8 Tips to Manage Financial Stress. Retrieved April 17, 2009 from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/02/01/recession-anxiety-8-tips-to-manage-financial-stress/ [[2]]

[[3]]Lindner, Sarah. (2009, March 31). Feeling financial anxiety? Take some steps in the right direction. Retrieved April 16, 2009 from http://www.statesman.com/life/content/life/stories/other/08/31/0831guide.html [[3]]

[[4]]Staff of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. (2009). How to Survive Tough Economic Times and Manage Your Anxiety. Retrieved March 25, 2009 from http://www.adaa.org/gettinghelp/MFarchives/EconomicTimes.asp [[4]]

[[5]]Borchard, Therese J. (2009, February 1)[[5]]

[[6]]Trejos, Nancy. (2009, March 1). Fear, Stress, Anxiety: A Global Recession’s Personal Economics. Retrieved April 13, 2009 from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/28/AR2009022800150.html [[6]]

[[7]]Lindner, Sarah. (2009, March 31)[[7]]

[[8]]Staff of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. (2009)[[8]]

[[9]]Staff of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. (2009)[[9]]

[[10]]December, John. (2009). Live simple: Dejunk your home. Retrieved April 23, 2009 from http://www.december.com/simple/live/dejunkhome.html [[10]]

[[11]]December, John. (2009)[[11]]

[[12]]Staff of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. (2009)[[12]]

[[13]]Staff of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. (2009)[[13]]

[[14]]Bachmann, Helena. (2009, April 11). Chocolate Sales: A Sweet Spot in the Recession. Retrieved April 23, 2009 from http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1890565,00.html [[14]]

[[15]]Staff of Just a Guy Thing. (2009). 5 Keys to Recession Proof Your Anxiety. Retrieved April 17, 2009 from http://www.justaguything.com/5-keys-to-recession-proof-your-anxiety/ [[15]]

[[16]]Lindner, Sarah. (2009, March 31)[[16]]

[[17]]Bethune, Sophie; Brownawell, Angel. (2008, October 7)[[17]]

[[18]]Staff of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. (2009)[[18]]

[[19]]Molitor, Nancy; Staff of American Psychological Association. Economic Worries Tax Out Americans as April 15 nears. (2009, April). Retrieved April 10. 2009 from http://www.apahelpcenter.org/articles/article.php?id=174 [[19]]

[[20]]Trejos, Nancy. (2009, March 1)[[20]]

[[21]]Trejos, Nancy. (2009, March 1)[[21]]

[[22]]Mintun, Garth. (2009). Controlling Anxiety About the Economy. Retrieved April 10, 2009 from http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/Controlling_Anxiety_about_the_Economy.html [[22]]

[[23]]Mintun, Garth. (2009)[[23]]

[[24]]Borchard, Therese J. (2009, February 1)[[24]]

[[25]]Molitor, Nancy; Staff of American Psychological Association. (2008, December). Managing Your Stress in Tough Economic Times. Retrieved April 10, 2009 from http://www.apahelpcenter.org/articles/article.php?id=171 [[25]]

[[26]]Molitor, Nancy; Staff of American Psychological Association. Economic Worries Tax Out Americans as April 15 nears. (2009, April)[[26]]

[[27]]Molitor, Nancy; Staff of American Psychological Association. Economic Worries Tax Out Americans as April 15 nears. (2009, April)[[27]]

Related Posts

6 Comments… add one
Tracy
Twitter:
April 26, 2009, 6:22 pm

Great tips Mike, I am going to share these. I think it’s important to understand that we can control our reactions, even in tough times. It’s not easy, and there is no shame in asking for help if you can’t manage it on your own, but just understanding that it is possible to take charge is very powerful and life changing.

Thanks!

Tracy’s last blog post..A WHOLE chicken in a CAN

Mike April 27, 2009, 4:32 pm

Thanks for dropping by and commenting again, Tracy!

One of my favorite quotes of all time deals with our freedom to choose our reaction and attitude in any event. Viktor Frankl said, “Everything can be taken from a man but …the last of the human freedoms – to choose
 one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Here was a man who survived the Nazi concentration camps with his soul and self intact by clinging to that last of the human freedoms. In these harsh times, we sometimes forget that we maintain control over the most important things in our lives.

Asking for help is something Americans don’t do well. We are raised from the cradle thinking that going it alone is the “best and most noble” way. How wrong that is! And how wrong this attitude is in the face of the growing interconnectedness of all humans on this planet!

If I had a magic wand to change Americans for the better, learning to ask for, to give, and to receive help would be at the top of the list.

empangeni accommodation August 1, 2011, 2:47 am

Simply desire to say your article is as surprising. The clearness in your post is simply excellent and i could assume you are an expert on this subject. Well with your permission allow me to grab your feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please keep up the rewarding work.

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Menu
×