Stress Management During These Unpredictable Times

I have been wanting to write something about the harsh economic times that we are all experiencing. It’s a very scary time. But I didn’t know where to quite begin. Recently someone asked me for some tips on reducing stress, particularly stress caused by these unpredictable and anxiety-causing economic realities. So I’ve put together this list, though it isn’t exhaustive by any means. There may be things to do with one’s 401K or IRAs, but that’s not my area. Below I’ve listed a few things that one can do to help deal with the stress:

  • Talk to people and do not keep the worries and anxiety within. This may be especially difficult now; many people are worried about finances or lost retirement savings, and talking about money or financial matters is often difficult. Money is perhaps the last remaining taboo (even more than sex). However, not to talk about ones fears and stress only reinforces those feelings. And in today’s climate, with so many people worried, it is likely that one would be met with a sympathetic listener. In this way, one could feel less alone. Obviously, this is where therapy comes in.
  • Have your feelings. Many people, when faced with distressing feelings, want to get rid of them, sweep them under the carpet, or just ignore them. But feelings are real and best attended to. Recognizing the feelings and giving yourself permission to feel them is the best way to allow them to work through. Feelings are like waves: they come in and wash away. What can start out as sheer panic and overwhelm may reduce to mere worry (which is an improvement these days).
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise. When feeling overwhelm and panic and worry, it’s probably time to get to the gym, break out the running shoes, and go for a hike. Exercise is a proven stress buster and natural anti-depressant.
  • Practice positive distraction. Everyone needs a break from life’s travails and worries. I just heard a screenwriter interviewed on NPR, and he proclaimed that that is his work’s mission: to provide people with that respite from real life. So if it’s watching TV, or better yet taking up a hobby, writing a letter to a long-lost friend….engaging in some project where your mind is distracted from the worries is, at least for the moment, a needed break.
  • Repeat step number #1. Talk, talk, talk. Don’t be alone. Don’t consider it a weakness to admit that you are scared. Everyone is scared. Each day brings news of new layoffs, increased unemployment lines, and proposed bailouts. It is a very scary time and no one has to feel alone.
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