By Garth Mintun, LCSW, ACSW, CSW-G
What a stressful time for US citizens! The price of gas and food is rising, our equity in our house is going down and our citizens are over their heads in debt from un-regulated credit card interest and bank charges. The people making most of the money are 1% of the wealthiest among us and the rest of us make the same or less money. To top that off, many of our jobs are in jeopardy because of the economy slowing and borrowing restrictions from banking to employers.
So, what can we do to keep our stress from getting the best of us? First we take a deep breath and realize that economies swing.. I encourage you not to read the “survivor web sites” that describe worst case scenarios and raise our fear and tension. The key to times like these is to feel that we can exercise some control over our lives in the present and keep focused on the moment instead of doomsday scenarios of the future economy.
What are the facts? Most Economists predict a recession until around the end of 2009 and possibly 2010. The energy crisis indicates gasoline will probably be staying high or rising higher until the world demand is lessoned. There is pending legislation and the Federal Reserve is supporting reining in the banks with their gouging interest rates on credit cards and outrageous bank fees. Those are some of the facts as we know today that impact our lives. In my view, everything else is speculation.
So what is a person to do…….? Take control of what we can do right now.! With gas prices for cars, what alternatives do we have for transportation, car pooling, riding bike, mass transit, or bus? How about our jobs? Do you have a plan if your company lays off or goes under?
How about growing some of your own food? . Even if you do not have a yard, most cities and areas have places you can garden for free or minimal cost. Or another option is food cooperatives.
How about joining some community action at the local and national level to pool resources together, coop farming, green life style or pooling together for transportation? I cannot stress the importance of feeling you are taking action to increase your sense of power over your destiny. Organizing a system for bartering a wide range of service would be another alternative. Cooperative groups organizing babysitting, food purchasing in bulk are just a few ways to beat the recessive economy. This kind of action tends to strengthen the community and inherently increase a sense of support, fostering self sufficiency and providing a pooling of resources. Self help community groups provide economic partnerships and decreases isolation in the community.
How about therapy and/or psychotherapy to help with relationship stresses which are magnified by the economy? Many therapists take insurance or have a sliding scale for those with no insurance.. There are Employee Assistance Programs with psychotherapy sessions paid in full by the company. Psychotherapists or “talk therapists” can help you sort out those stress factors that you can do something about and identify the stress factors that create problems with families and marriages. Counseling can also help your with anxiety with your children and the economy, job issues and general stress about the state of the world. How about group therapy counseling as a less expensive form of therapy then individual therapy.
The worst enemy is fear in times of trouble with our economy. The isolation is what hurts us as a nation and hinders effecting the most positive in these times. In the 1970’s the entire decade was recession, gas crisis and double digit inflation and unemployment. Many individuals and families made it by creatively developing cooperatives and altering lifestyle. We can do the same today, and perhaps discover that even in times of adversity, there can be positives in our lives. In summary, take action on the areas which you can do something about, join groups to change laws and try not becoming alarmist about your worries over the future and we don’t know. Again, stick with the reality of the situation right now.