Watch your head! Keeping yourself sane in hard economic times

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Tough economic times aren’t just hitting us in the pocket, they’re hitting many of us in the head as well. Last week Pam Belluck from the New York Times reported on the heightened psychological anxiety many people are experiencing due to the economy— a phenomenon we're calling Recession Depression. But once you start worrying about the economy, what can you do to stop? For some advice on how to cope with psychological stress brought on by the economic downturn, The Takeaway talks to Dr. Robin Kerner, a clinical psychologist at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City.
"Some of that discharge is actually a good thing, though, if you don't recommend firearms or throwing objects that can hurt somebody. But the idea of keeping it bottled up, that's not healthy and that actually can cause a lot of those physical symptoms of stress."
—Clinical psychologist Dr. Robin Kerner on dealing with anxiety over the economy

For more, read Pam Belluck's article, Recession Anxiety Seeps Into Everyday Lives in the New York Times.

Also, check out the government's website, Getting Through Tough Economic Times for more information on the signs of recession depression and where to get help.

Read Dr. Kerner's notes from the segment.

Contributor's Notes: Dr. Robin Kerner

It’s time for an AFGO... another freakin’ growth opportunity!

The news hasn’t changed for months, in fact it seems to be getting worse. You can’t pick up a newspaper or turn on the television or your computer without hearing about it. In case you’ve been sleeping for the past year (and apparently most of us are no longer sleeping) the economy is a mess and it looks like we should buckle up for a long ride. And if you haven’t been directly impacted with job loss, mortgage problems, and mounting credit card debt, you’re about to be. Or at least that’s what a lot of you are worrying about. So what can we do to cope with this “Recession Depression?”

First, I want you to breathe. That’s right. Stop what you are doing, and I mean everything you are doing since I doubt any of you are just reading this blog without engaging in at least one other activity… and just breathe. Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths. If the thought of that sends you into a panic, try for 5. Trust me, it will help.

During stressful times, we need to find ways to feel grounded again. Breathing is a quick tool to start that process. Too many of us are living in the past or the future; either ruminating about everything that has gone wrong in our lives and landed us in this mess or nervously anticipating the doom and gloom ahead. Neither of those is going to make things better, in fact you may even be making it worse. Think about it- let’s say you’re lucky enough to still have a job, but every day you go in and worry that the pink slip is coming. You obsess about a presentation you made last week that could have been better or you worry about that report due on Friday. You share these concerns with all your co-workers and your boss instead of just putting your nose to the grindstone and being the best little worker bee your company’s ever seen. If the inevitable layoffs do come, who do you think is going to be kept around? Things are not actually as out of control as you think. You can’t do much about the economy or your company’s bottom line, but you can control your thoughts, your behavior and how you respond to the external stressors.

And along those lines, think about limiting your news intake. Yes, knowledge is power and if we know what’s happening we feel a greater sense of control in preparing for it; however, in this case a little information goes a long way. Repeatedly exposing yourself to this glut of negative economic talk can be traumatizing. Here’s an alternative to try when you get home tonight: instead of turning on the television or computer, talk to your family and friends. People who maintain good social contact do better during stressful episodes. While the technological innovations of the past decade have done a lot to keep us connected, they also have created a new kind of disconnect. If you doubt this, just watch a group of teenagers texting each other instead of talking when in the same room.

So spend some quality time together with people you care about. These difficult times can be an opportunity for all kinds of growth, personally and professionally. Take a look at what’s working in your life and what’s not serving you so well. And make some changes. Take stock and figure out what’s important to you. Find your purpose. Yes, it’s time for an AFGO. Take a breath and dive in!