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Economic Recession & Anxiety 

June 15, 2022

It seems like it costs about as much to pay your monthly mortgage as it does to fill up your tank these days. A burger at your favorite restaurant just went up to $20. 

Don’t forget your declining stock portfolio, rising interest rates, and numerous corporations announcing layoffs. 

Are your shoulders and chest feeling tight yet?

Recessions bring incredible amounts of stress and anxiety because a recession is a threat, and stress and anxiety are our body’s natural responses to threats. As uncomfortable and dreadful as anxiety makes us feel, it’s actually trying to be our friend. So as the economic stress hits, let’s help anxiety work in our favor. 

Think of anxiety as a smoke alarm; it’s purposely loud and uncomfortable because it’s trying to make you pay attention to a threat. The alarm isn’t the real problem, but we often treat it as if it is. We want it to be quiet, but it won’t unless it it knows we’re listening to what it’s trying to say and then address the threat. So instead of running from it or numbing it out, these eight steps can help calm the anxiety this economy causes:

1) Find where in your body the anxiety “alarm” is ringing. 
Is there tightness in your chest? Does your stomach feel queasy? Maybe your palms are sweating. Wherever it’s showing up strongest in your body, gently put your attention on that part. Just notice it for 30 seconds. Watch it as if it’s happening on a movie screen. You’ll probably notice it start to change in some way. That means it knows you’re listening. If you’ll stay tuned in to it, it’ll gradually start to reduce.

2) Breathe into your belly
Fill your stomach with air. Bring the air in and out slowly. Do it at least five times. This activates a part of your brain that sends relaxation signals to the rest of your body.

3) Listen to the anxiety
If the symptom you noticed could talk, what would it say? It’s usually trying to point you to an unmet need like safety or security (“Am I going to be ok?”). Or the anxious thought might bring a worst-case financial scenario to mind because it thinks it can prevent the scenario by focusing on it. Treat the anxiety like a toddler who’s scared; a gentle approach will help it calm down sooner. 

4) Talk about the situation with people you care about & trust 
Holding anxiety in makes it worse. Saying the worries out loud to people you feel safe around causes those worries to lose some power.

5) Know your true value - not your financial value
In financial struggles, we often have thoughts like, “What does this say about me?” “I’m a failure,” or “I’m worthless.” We often tie our self-worth and identity to our bank account. Separate these, because you have a purpose, and you are inherently valuable and worthy of respect for reasons that have nothing to do with your money. Exploring these concepts will improve your brain and mood. 

6) Take a small step within your control
Taking action, whether connected to finances or not, gives us a sense of agency and can reduce our anxiety. Make a decision about where you’ll go for lunch, or plan your weekend. If you have a financial advisor, review your strategic plan with them. 

7) Use the anxiety as fuel
Research shows anxiety can enhance the parts of the brain that process threats and make rapid decisions. You can take decisive action and inspire those you lead to efficiently navigate challenges with you.

8) Go for a walk 
Taking a walk or going for a run can trick the anxiety into thinking you’re fleeing (think the fight or flight response), and it burns off excess energy the anxiety creates. 

Trey Tucker
Licensed Therapist