Monday, March 9, 2009

Economic Recession Leading To Depression: How To Deal With the Emotional Pitfalls

Job Loss - Homes in Foreclosure - World Economic Crisis

Each day we wake up to headlines of gloom and doom. We are keenly aware of the Dow Jones Industrial Average even if we don't own a single share of stock. Suddenly, our general anxiety level  is rising to astoundingly high figures. 

We find ourselves in a constant state of  nervousness, worry and a sense of instability. Some of us are right in the middle of the worst of the times. We have lost our jobs, businesses or homes. Others of us see a decline in our income, and notice the  downward spiral.

Collective Unconscious
Carl Jung talked about society having a state of collective unconscious. That means that we as a community experience similar hopes, dreams and fears. When September 11 struck, we as a nation felt a unified feeling of deep grief, disbelief and terror. Today our world is filled with another kind of collective feeling. 

No one can escape the fact that we are  living in uncertain, shaky, chaotic times. Though we collectively breathed a sigh of relief on Inauguration Day, reality has now set in. No one person or new administration can change the entire state of the world. We live in an age of grave uncertainty that leads to real  feelings of anxiety and a valid need to change our way of living.

How To Deal With Your Anxiety
You may have suffered some kind of real loss. Or, you may be anticipating the possibility. Here are some simple ways to deal with anxiety and worry:

Stay in the Moment
Be grateful for what you have this instant. Human beings  have a need for food and shelter in order to survive. Those are our  only true needs. Anything else is a want. Yes, we want to feel  comfortable, pay our bills, have material goods and services but none of those are true necessities. They are wants. 

Be grateful for any extras. Right now we are sitting inside, have the ability to read, comprehend, eat and  sleep. Right now we are breathing and healthy. We often forget to  acknowledge the things we have right now. Get in touch with your ability to be grateful.

Change Your Thinking
Be aware of the way that you thinking. Your thinking  truly affects the way that you feel. When you think about the injustice of your loss, the 'mistakes' you made or the institutions or people who let you down, you are guaranteed to feel angry, ashamed or resentful. These feelings lead to despair and anguish. They are not helpful. Right now you want to feel better. Anger, shame, and resentment will not help you achieve your goal.

Many of us have a life long habit of  feeling anxious, worried and angry. That's because we internalized  negative messages from parents, teachers and caretakers. We've taken  these voices and made them our own. In order to cope and achieve your  goal to feel better, you need to find a new voice. 

Imagine that you are your own parent. Not the parent you were necessarily born with but the archetype of the perfect parent. This is the 'perfect parent' who loves you unconditionally, allows you to make mistakes without shame and offers  helpful, positive support. 

Parent Yourself
Each of us needs to learn how to be our own perfect parent. We need to learn how to defend against the intrusive voices that  tell us we are hopeless, incompetent and incapable. In this tough economy those voice are particularly toxic. They are present to validate every bad feeling we've ever had about ourselves. They serve to make us feel even worse about the losses we have or may sustain in the future.

The real truth is that it's not your fault. You did the best that you could. Sometimes things happen that are beyond our control. Sure, we can always second guess ourselves or imagine doing things differently. Learn to speak back in a caring, nurturing, reassuring manner. Speak the way you would to anybody else you love. 

How would you talk to a child whose brand, new bicycle got stolen, broken or destroyed in a fire? Would you scold or berate that little person? Of course not. You'd acknowledge the hurt the child is experiencing. You'd allow the child to cry and express his sadness, frustration or anger. Ultimately, you'd be soothing and tell the child, "It's going to be OK". Later, you might explore other options. Perhaps there's some other type of bike or activity that the child would want to explore. It's never about replacing the loss before feelings are acknowledged. Moving occurs only after the loss has been thoroughly affirmed. 

Develop A Kinder Voice
Learn to talk to yourself in the same soothing way you'd talk to someone you love. Speak to yourself kindly and respectfully. Do not call yourself names. You are not stupid, ugly or  cowardly. In other words, if your mortgage payments are now too high you are not incapable, you were uninformed at the time. 

Do not shame or berate yourself. Think about what you learned and how you can do it differently next time. Always remember that as humans, we make mistakes. We are never simply a mistake. 

Do Not Minimize 
Your loss experience is real. It's OK to feel sad and  mourn all the things that could have been better, different or more. It's also OK to talk about what happened. Choose those who know how to  listen without offering advice. Friends and family may suffice though they are often lost in their personal struggles. Choose someone who can listen objectively and focus in on you.

Right now it's important to be heard. Your feelings are valid and need to be expressed. While it's always true  that 'it could be worse' your situation has to be acknowledged. No matter how big or how small, this is your loss. It happened to you.

Take Action
Express your pain but allow yourself to move beyond  the pain of the loss. Figure out a plan of action. Work with what you  have. Imagine you have to cook a meal with only the foods in your fridge  and cans in your cupboard. Chances are good that you'd be able to put something together that was both edible and satisfying. It may not be  exactly what you crave at the moment but the meal would nutritionally offer the sustenance you need to survive. So it is with your situation. 

Plan Each Day
Changes in routine can feel very overwhelming. Make lists so you know what to do each day. Enter enough things on the list to keep yourself busy. Don't make your list too large. That will be frustrating. You want to feel a sense of accomplishment.

When You Need More
It's OK to seek out the help of a mental health professional. The cost is not as great as you might imagine. Therapists  are generally flexible and want to be helpful. Find someone who is  empathetic but also directive in helping you achieve your goals. Your mental health is crucial right now. You absolutely need to be clear thinking in order to make and adjust to real changes in your life. 

In Summary
We are currently living in challenging times. Heartbreaking  events have occurred to us and people we love. Right now it's especially important to attend to our own mental well-being. We don't want to compound the loss of material things with loss of our relationships, friends and peace of mind.

Collectively we are all experiencing this time together. We are keenly aware of the pain of our fellow man. It's a  time when it's OK to reach out and acknowledge we need help.

Most important of all, be gentle with yourself. Develop the healthy part of your persona that is capable, reassuring and kind. Stick up for yourself and remember that you have the capacity to achieve your goals. Acknowledge the good that is present in this very moment.

© 2009 Jackie A. Castro, MA, LMFT