Dealing with Anxiety and the Economy

Lloyd A. Looney


Panic on Wall Street. Record oil prices. Falling dollar. Rising inflation. Slowing economy. Gold over $1,000. Home foreclosures. All of this is enough to make you feel helpless and anxious. A few months ago there was a historic bailout of Bear Stearns, a Wall Street bank that manages money and makes trades for the “big money” players. JPMorgan Chase & Co. agreed to pay $236.2 million in stock for Bear Stearns, or about 1 percent of what Bear Stearns was worth 16 days earlier.

This news comes on top of the economic stimulus package that President Bush and Congress passed a few weeks ago.  “Letting Americans keep more of their own money should increase consumer spending, and lift our economy at a time when people otherwise might spend less,” President Bush said. The last time a stimulus rebate like this was issued was in 2001. One recent study revealed that consumers spent two-thirds of those rebates within 6 months of receiving them.

It’s nice to know that there might be more money coming in to our pockets due to this stimulus plan. But overall, many people are feeling anxious about our economy, their job situation, their mortgage payment, or other bills. One economic writer said, “People are feeling a lack of control. They’re also thinking they should be doing something. Just watching it happen isn’t very reassuring. Before, people still had wealth in their home. Now their stock portfolio is going down, and the value of their home may be diminishing. Now they feel doubly poor.”

You may have anxiety about the economy in addition to the other normal concerns of life such as your child’s health or education, extended family members’ lives, a friend’s divorce, etc. With so much to worry about, including the economy, how do you manage?

First learn what anxiety is. Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, apprehension, fear, or worry. Some fears and worries are normal, such as concern about a loved one or the anticipation of taking a quiz, test, or other examination. Anxiety becomes a problem when it interferes with your ability to sleep or concentrate or otherwise healthily function. Teenagers may be particularly susceptible to having irritability as a symptom of a number of emotional problems, including anxiety. Anxiety may not have a clear single source or it may occur based on a real situation but may be out of proportion to what would normally be expected. Severe anxiety can have a serious impact on daily life.

Second, recognize the symptoms of anxiety. Anxiety can be accompanied by a variety of physical symptoms. Most commonly, these symptoms are related to the heart, lungs, nervous, and gastrointestinal systems. You may have upset stomach, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, or it may be as intense as feeling as if you may faint or are have a heart attack.

Third, take positive steps. There are a lot of different strategies for dealing with anxiety but as it relates to dealing with our society’s current economic struggle here are a few suggestions.

Strategies for Dealing with Anxiety

1) Get back to basics. Try to stuff a little extra money in a bank account. That can help you psychologically. Now is also a good time not to be overspending or maxing out a credit card. Hunker down.

2) Be proactive. Listening to the financial analysts or other news reporters everyday can make you feel depressed and lethargic and as though there is nothing you can do but helplessly watch the economy flounder. Instead talk to your banker or accountant or a financial advisor about what you can do to protect your financial health. Think in terms of small steps instead of large steps.

3) Practice rational, constructive thinking. Many people start asking themselves “What if…?” type of questions such as “What if I’m laid off? What if my I can’t pay my credit card bill this month? What if…?” While we all need to plan for the future, these questions can create a greater sense of helplessness because it causes one to live “out there” in the future over which you have no control. Convert “What if…?” questions into  “I will (do) …” kinds of statements. This way you live more in the present and have some sense of control over your life.

4) Make your money work for you. Don’t wait until your stimulus money comes in the mail to formulate a plan. Make sure that you do not spend this money before it gets to your hands! Dave Ramsey, a radio personality and financial adviser suggests a few ways to make your tax rebate work for you – a) Pay off debt. This may sound like a no-brainer, but few people will actually do it! b) Invest it. If you put this big chunk of change into a mutual fund for a few years, you’ll actually receive tons more free money than just the initial $600 or $1,200 check this summer. C) Have some fun. There’s nothing wrong with taking your spouse out for a nice dinner or buying that new pair of jeans with some of this money you could be getting. Just stick within your boundaries.

Anxiety has a way of steadily increasing and taking control of us if we remain passive.

Remember to take small, active steps. Also remember that you are not ultimately in control of America’s economy but there is someone who oversees all things – 1 Peter 5:7 – Cast all your care upon Him; for He cares for you.