Managing Anxiety During Tough Economic Times

  • With the uncertainty of the current global economy, it’s no surprise that many of us are feeling anxious about our financial future. Anxiety is a normal reaction that tells you to stay alert and work harder to protect your finances and your future.


    These days many people are anxious. In a recent ADAA online poll, more than 43% responded that personal finances are stressing them out.


    Yet even during good economic times, some people relentlessly check their finances online every hour, finding that the numbers haven’t changed; or constantly worry about the unemployment line although their jobs are secure; or watch news for hours on end, seeing the same information over and over again, which leads to trouble sleeping or concentrating on other tasks as well as stomachaches and headaches. They know their fears are irrational, yet they feel powerless to control their anxiety. These people may have generalized anxiety disorder.

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    People with generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, experience persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about money, health, family, work, or other issues for six months or longer. They don’t know how to stop the worry cycle and feel it is beyond their control. Physical symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include fatigue, restlessness, difficulty sleeping, irritability, edginess, muscle tension, and gastrointestinal discomfort or diarrhea.


    GAD affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population, in any given year. Women are twice as likely to be affected.


    Like other anxiety disorders, GAD is treatable. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is effective for many people, helping them to identify, understand, and modify faulty thinking and behavior patterns. This enables people with GAD learn to control their worry on their own. Some with GAD also take medication. You may also want to add alternative treatments, such as relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, or exercise, as part of your overall treatment plan.


    Because the disorder frequently co-occurs with other health conditions, such as other anxiety disorders, depression, or a sleep disorder, don’t be afraid to raise concerns with your doctor about other symptoms you have that may or may not be related to GAD.


    Whether you have GAD or not, take these steps to reduce your anxiety in times of economic uncertainty:


    • Turn off the TV. Take a break from bad news, especially if it adds to your fear and anxiety. Making important financial decisions during times of high emotion is never a good idea.
    • Make a plan to determine whether to contact a financial adviser, put off a vacation, or do nothing for the time being. Focus on your plan and don’t let your anxiety overtake it.
    • Control your money. If you’re worried about your finances, focus on saving money and paying off debt rather than obsessing about things you can’t control, such as the prices of groceries or gas. If you’re spending more than you earn, decide which expenses are essential and try to eliminate those that are not.
    • Put your finances in perspective. Unless you’ve lost your job or you are close to retirement, think in the long term. If you take your money out of the market, you’ll miss the gains when it goes back up, which analysts agree it will eventually do.
    • Think conservatively. If you are nearing retirement or are worried about your job or financial security, talk to a financial advisor about diversifying your portfolio to include more low-risk investments that will minimize the impact of a struggling market economy.
    • Stay healthy. Get enough sleep, eat healthy, exercise, and allow for personal time. This will help clear your mind of negative thoughts. Being physically or emotionally exhausted makes it difficult to handle stress and anxiety.
    • Talk to someone about what worries you. Call a professional financial planner and ask for advice. If your finances are under control, but you’re still feeling anxious, you may want to talk to a therapist, too.


  • PLEASE NOTE: The Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA) does not endorse or promote any specific medications or treatments.

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Published On: October 28, 2008