Don’t let the economy get you down

Published on Fri, Mar 13, 2009 by Tara Nelson

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With the nation’s jobless rate topping 8 percent, the highest in 26 years, it’s little wonder consumers are suffering anxiety from the threat – either real or perceived – of job loss, foreclosure on their home, or possibly both.

Stressors such as those not only have a crippling effect on consumer behavior but also on mental health.

Blaine psychologist Dwight Moore, however, said there are a number of things individuals can do to keep themselves balanced.

“People feel alone with their grief a lot,” said Moore. “One of the keys is to talk and listen to other people. I recommend people talk with others about what you feel and think and also listen to them about what they feel and think. And be sure to ask them good questions such as ‘what other alternatives have you thought about?’

This can help them reframe what they are believing.”

Moore’s tips for balanced mental health:

• Examine self-talk and determine if there is real evidence for those beliefs. Statements such as: “Now I can’t retire” or “Now I won’t be able to do the things I wanted to” and “I’ll never find another job” sometimes simply require a different way of looking at the situation. For example, Moore suggests considering evidence that is contrary to those beliefs and finding alternative explanations.

• Reframe self-talk. Moore says some examples could include phrases like “Now I can concentrate on what’s important rather than commercial,” “This is an unexpected but interesting time,” and “I’ve dealt with adversity before and came through successfully.”

• Decide not to increase negative feelings. Depression and negative beliefs grow out of the following thinking patterns:
– Catastrophizing: “The market will never come back.”
– Overgeneralization: “I was never good at protecting my family.”
– All-or-nothing thinking: “Either I’ll work or be on welfare.”
– Tunnel vision: “The market dropped another 150 points yesterday.”
– Personalizing: “I should have acted on my instincts.”
– Negative labeling: “The boss should have anticipated this.”
– Mental filter: “There is no good to come out of this recession.”
– Labeling: “I am a loser.”

• Reframe negative self-talk into phrases like “It may take a while, but the market will come back,” “I’ll find a way to take care of the ones I love; I always have,” “No one anticipated this,” and “I’ll try and find the upside of this.”

• Increase your stress resilience by exercising, volunteering, decreasing the use of phrases such as “should” and “must,” learning a new skill, making a budget and planning for reductions, increasing outdoor activities, decreasing fat intake and alcohol, increasing humor (Moore says find at least one joke a day), networking with others and limiting news intake to 30 minutes a day.

Further reading, check out The Stress Answer: Train Your Brain to Conquer Depression and Anxiety in 45 Days, by Dr. Frank Lawlis; Why Am I Still Depressed?, by Jim Phelps; and Overcoming Depression: A Step-By-Step Approach To Gaining Control Over Depression, by Paul Gilbert.

Moore earned his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Minnesota in 1984 and is licensed by the state of Washington. He offers a variety of services including individual psychotherapy, marriage and family therapy, anxiety disorder, career counseling and mood disorders on a sliding scale. His home office is located in Blaine and can be reached by calling 371-7180 or by emailing dr.3dmoore@att.net.

Crisis hotline
The Whatcom County Health Department manages a 24-hour crisis hotline: 800/584-3578.