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Monday, October 11, 2010

Psychological Effects of the Recession and Coping Tips

The worldwide recession has changed the way we do business here in California. We used to take for granted the fact that our education would buy us opportunities for advancement in our jobs and adequate healthcare. This is no longer true. With many high tech and sales jobs being outsourced, companies merging, cutting costs, laying off employees, and consolidating jobs, many of us are earning less than we were ten or fifteen years ago. There is no job security anymore. Everything is up for grabs.Many of us are paying $ 1,000+ for health benefits and every day there seems to be another vacancy sign as small businesses begin to close. Foreclosures and divorces are up. Many people are taking antidepressants, and stress is at an all time high. Many of us have long commutes and, regardless of whether both parents work, or one stays home and the other gets home after 7pm and travels, life seems to be a constant juggle. Some families are forced to relocate because of job considerations leading to feelings of dislocation and alienation.

As a clinical psychologist in private practice in Mill Valley, I see patients suffering from recession-related stress and associated relationship difficulties, insomnia, weight gain, or increased alcohol consumption.  People have lost their houses and jobs and have to start again or endure long periods of unemployment. For men, in particular, not being able to provide adequately for their families leads to feelings of personal failure, depression, and low self-esteem. Sometimes, this is masked by anger and irritability. This type of chronic, unrelenting stress is associated with inflammation and can and increase vulnerability to heart disease.

Here are some tips to deal with the recession without losing your health:

(1) Patience and Acceptance
These times represent a difficult period for our country and the world, yet they are just a few moments in the endless flow of time. Up and down economic  cycles are inevitable and if we just keep showing up, hang in there, and get through this period, we will get some relief at the next uptick.

(2) Revise Priorities
During the housing boom everybody was spending, spending, spending. We bought lots of stuff we don't need and that probably will end up in a landfill one day, such as excess clothing, toys, holiday decorations, shoes, gifts, home furnishings. Now, with people moving and downsizing, excess stuff just becomes a burden. It takes time to sort through it, costs money to store it, takes time to consign it for not much return. Nowadays, there's less trying to keep up with the neighbors because, most likely, they don't have money to spend either. Without money and possessions to obsess over and spend time accumulating, we can pay more attention to enjoying the beautiful nature around us, and our families.Play with your children instead of taking them to the mall and they'll be just as happy.

(3) Exercise
Exercise will get you out the house and into the fresh air and sunshine or into the gym with its associated social opportunities. Aerobic exercise also results in release of a chemical called endorphins, which are a natural opiate-like substance produced by our own bodies.  If you can't get off the couch, buy a dog, especially an active breed like an Aussie shepherd that will spend the day trying to herd you out the door.

(4) Give back to your community 
Volunteering for your local PTA, cr in the classroom not only keeps you connected and contributimg to your children's education, but offers new social opportunities and community connection. Focusing on doing something concrete to help your community distracts you from your own problems and gives you a sense of efficacy.

(5) Breathe!
Breathing engages the parasympathetic nervous system which puts the brakes on stress-related sympathetic arousal and gets your body moving back towards balance or homeostasis. Some forms of exercise, such as yoga or Pilates involve deep breathing combined with stretching. The air is free so grab as much of it as you want.

If your stress is ongoing, interfering with your mood, sleep, appetite, concetration, or relationships, you may want to consult a psychologist for a professional evaluaion.

Copyright reserved, October 11, 2010 by Melanie A. Greenberg, Ph.D.
My private practice is at 33 Millwood Street, Mill Valley, CA 94914
E-mail me at or check out my website at for more information.
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