Worried About the Economy

Some people would say that if you are not worried, you simply aren’t paying attention: rising unemployment, big stock market losses, and predictions of more economic distress to come.

How to deal with this? Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) offers some guidance.

Remember, some amount of anxiety is a good thing. It can prepare you for danger and get you ready to take on what ever will come. If it motivates you to keep your resume updated, network, learn new job skills, or rebalance your investment portfolio, it just might help set the stage for a better future. And doing one or more of the above activities can help you get a sense of control, the feeling that you are in charge and not simply the victim of external forces.

Here are a few other things you can do to reduce your level of stress:

1. Learn progressive muscle relaxation or take a meditation class or a yoga class. In addition, regular aerobic exercise may well improve your mood and outlook.

2. Make a list of past life challenges that you have survived. How did you get beyond these? Remind yourself about the personal strengths you have that helped you to get through past difficulties.

3. If you tend to be a worrier, ask yourself just how often your expectations of bad events have been proven false. You might be one of those people who tend to catastrophize. Talk back to that tendency by writing down objective reasons why the “catastrophe” is actually less likely to happen than your feelings suggest.

4. Recognize that most bad events are survivable. As the old saying tells us, “life goes on.”

5. Recall that most negative events have an end point, including wars and economic down turns. Imagine how much better things will feel once the economy improves.

6. Focus on the good things in your life that haven’t changed. If you have a supportive and loving family, good friends, or decent health, you have much for which to be grateful. Also, if you live in the USA, your economic well being is still likely to be much better than most of the rest of the world.

7. If these suggestions aren’t helpful and you find that your stress level is unmanageable, consider going to a cognitive behavior therapist or obtaining anti-anxiety medication from a physician.

In the future I will write more about worry. In particular, I’ll discuss the well documented general tendency of older adults to worry less than younger people. Is this the result of wisdom accumulated over a life time, brain changes that occur during the aging process, or reduced life demands once you have accomplished the task of finding a compatible mate, made a living, and raised your children? I’ll let you know what researchers think.