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The Cost of the Economy: How to Recover Health and Happiness in the Face of Financial Crisis
October 2011 will mark the three-year anniversary of some of the worst weeks in stock market history since 1929. As many people know or have experienced firsthand, unemployment rates are at near-record highs, and according to a recent report, one in 611 housing units is in foreclosure. New graduates are being met with a grim welcome to the job market, and many retirees are going back to work part- or full-time.
Navigating the conditions we find ourselves in can be unpleasant at best, and at worst, it can cause one to feel anxious, depressed, hopeless, fearful, and ineffectual. As a result, the state of the economy can affect us physically, leading to mental and physical health issues. As people’s stress levels rise, sleep deteriorates, agitation peaks, and fuses shorten.
Chronic emotional stress can wreak havoc on the body on many levels. While it’s easy to get sucked into your problems and feel defined by them, people can cope with unpleasant, even dire, circumstances. New research into happiness and coping offers proof of the value of finding a way to remain distanced from problems in order to tackle them effectively. We asked Gretchen Rubin, author of New York Times best selling book, The Happiness Project; Dr. Alan Manevitz, psychiatrist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center; and Dr. Jason Eric Schiffman, of the UCLA Anxiety Disorders Program at the Stewart & Lynda Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital, David Geffen School of Medicine and the Editor in Chief of Anxiety.org, to discuss how to do this.
The stakes are high. According to Dr. Schiffman, "Some degree of anxiety surrounding finances is normal for most of us. In the current economic climate, however, many people are experiencing a degree of financial stress and anxiety that is unlike anything they have experienced before...[Foreclosure] is one of the most severe stressors one can experience, financial or otherwise."
But the bottom line is this: you may not be able to change your situation overnight, but you can change your attitude about it. Doing so not only makes you feel less depressed in a moment-to-moment way, but it helps you think more clearly so that you can tackle your problems more efficiently. Rubin underlines that "even if you don’t think you can feel happy, you might be able to feel happier. Keeping yourself as serene, energetic, and cheerful as possible will make it easier to handle this tough situation." Here are some specific tips from both experts on how to weather the economy, undertake your problems, and build happiness at the same time.