June 10 , 2008
Managing Your Stress in Tough Economic Times
Dr. David Prescott – Acadia Hospital
In terms of maintaining good mental health, the way you manage stress is a key factor. Obviously, stress is unavoidable. With daily reports about falling home prices, job losses, and rising fuel prices, money and our economic future is a leading source of stress today. While some things are beyond our control, they most important factor in productively coping with stress is focusing on those things over which you truly do have some control.
Updated National Stress Survey Focuses on Economic Factors: The annual national stress survey sponsored by the American Psychological Association has repeatedly shown that finances are a leading source of stress in the lives of many Americans. This is highlighted in updated survey data from April, 2008. Today, facts about the leading sources of stress include:
- 75% of Americans say that money is a significant source of stress.
- Two-thirds (66%) of Americans identify the economy in general as a source of stress.
- More than in previous polls, over half (56%) of Americans identify housing costs as a significant source of stress.
- Work, family, and health concerns continue to be significant sources of stress for more than half the people surveyed.
Why is Stress Coping So Important? Some of the reasons for coping with stress in a productive fashion are often obvious, such as just feeling less tense. But, the effects of stress go far beyond simply reducing anxiety and worry. Chronic high stress is associated with:
- Developing chronic health problems like ulcers or high blood pressure.
- Increased use of alcohol, cigarettes, or other drugs.
- Higher levels of depression, anger, or irritability.
- Higher risk for developing psychological disorders like panic disorder, clinical depression, or substance dependence.
Can You Really Cope with Something as Big as the Economy? It is important not to dwell solely on the big factors that are beyond your control as you cope with stress from finances, work, or housing markets. It may be tempting to simply stop trying to cope. However, research repeatedly shows that people who adopt a more active coping style are less likely to develop health or psychological problems in stressful situations. Some ways to cope, (identified by the American Psychological Association Help Center) include:
Pause but don’t panic. There are many negative stories in newspapers and on television about the state of the economy. Pay attention to what’s happening around you, but refrain from getting caught up in doom-and-gloom hype, which can lead to high levels of anxiety and bad decision making. Avoid the tendency to overreact or to become passive. Remain calm and stay focused.
Identify your financial stressors and make a plan. Take stock of your particular financial situation and what causes you stress. 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. Although this can be anxiety-provoking in the short term, putting things down on paper and committing to a plan can reduce stress.
Avoid coping styles which lead to long term difficulty.. In tough economic times some people are more likely to relieve stress by turning to unhealthy activities like smoking, drinking, gambling or emotional eating. The strain can also lead to more conflict and arguments between partners.
Ask for professional support. Dealing with stress alone is often unhelpful. Asking for help, either for credit counseling or psychotherapy, is one way to prevent problems from becoming too overwhelming to manage.
For More Help: American Psychological Help Center: http://apahelpcenter.org