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Some Pointers for Dealing with Financial Meltdown Stress

27 Oct

Well, just about everyone I know is somewhat demented over our national financial vulnerability, and fears abound about retirement, mortgages, business loans and savings.  Sad to say, it looks like the situation isn’t going to get better any time soon.  As I wander around the U.S., I’m continually being asked what can be done for the inordinate level of financial stress people are feeling.  Here are a few suggestions: 

  1. Get a Plan and Surrender to It.
    Get some good advice from at least one neutral, smart, financial expert about a strategy to follow and then implement it. This will help you let go of wringing your hands over each day’s ups and downs.  You don’t want to be checking your 401K all the time – that’s about as useful as checking your weight daily, to see if your diet is working. The general trajectory is what counts here.

  2. Think Long-term.
    Get used to the idea that this is going to be going on for a while and adjust your expectations accordingly.  This will help you stay attuned to the realities and make the most of the choices you have now.  Think in terms of 5 years and do your best to stay alive that long.

  3. Leave Off Obsessing Over What You Should Have Done.
    Don’t keep looking back at what you shoulda, coulda, woulda done last year at this time.  That’s the ultimate bridge to nowhere, people!!  And don’t spend a lot of time listening to gloaters telling you how prescient they were when they averted losses with clever moves last year.  Not helpful.

  4. Trust in Your Future and Your Country’s Future
    Have faith in your eventual future and the resilience of your country, not to mention the collaborative efforts of world leadership, understanding that when everyone is in the soup together, they tend to behave pretty wisely and well.

  5. Take Advantage of the Opportunities
    Chances for once-in-a-lifetime bargain basement shopping abound.  So keep your eyes peeled and pay attention.  Better yet, make sure your finance mavin is.

  6. Learn to Relax at Will
    If you haven’t already, develop a regular practice to ground and relax you. If possible, start and end the day with guided imagery, yoga, meditation, relaxation, deep breathing, petting the cat in a rocking chair or listening to soothing music. Even five minutes, twice a day, will give you some protective ballast against the stresses that are pummeling all of us. And if you can’t manage this daily, do it whenever you can.

  7. Take a Mini-break When You’re Getting Crazed
    When you find yourself starting to catastrophizing or drowning in your own circular thinking, take a quick break. Step away. Go outside for a walk, do some guided imagery, snuggle your favorite toddler, play some music, call a trustworthy friend or do a couple of yoga stretches. Five minutes of conscious AWOL can clear your mind and give you back your perspective, flexibility and common sense.

  8. Dose Your Day with Humor
    Humor, by its nature, provides moments of distance, balance, clarity, perspective and sanity. So practice the art of finding the ludicrous, paradoxical and nonsensical in these disturbing daily events, and laugh to yourself or with a friend over these insights .  And if you can progress from ironic chuckle to belly laugh, you’ll change your biochemistry and clear out emotional gunk like there’s no tomorrow.

  9. Don’t Be Proud – Get Support When the Chips are Down
    Use your good friends or family well.  Sometimes talking things out with someone you trust will allow you to safely acknowledge your feelings, let off some steam, get you away from circular thinking and rearrange your mislaid perspective. Sometimes friends even have helpful advice to give. Sometimes they actually stop us from doing something really dumb.

  10. Practice Staying in the Moment
    By mindfully going about your day, putting your awareness into what you are doing at the moment, you will be using even mundane, everyday activities as the focus of meditation, and simple as it sounds, you will regain peace and balance. Yes, peeling potatoes can be a route to spiritual attainment and inner peace!

  11. Feed Your Spirit on Little Moments of Beauty and Sweetness
    This sounds hokey but it works. Notice beauty around you and take a moment to breathe it in … same with a smile, a gracious act, a loving gesture. Practicing   gratitude for these lovely bits and pieces of daily life is a potent way to de-stress, and it’s contagious, too.

  12. Take Care of Your Body
    Now is the time to do all those things you know are good for your physical well being: get regular exercise; take it easy on the caffeine, sugar and alcohol; get enough sleep; eat healthy food – you know this stuff.

  13. Track Your Physical Comfort
    Take time to check in and see how your body is feeling. Once you notice, you can make small corrections to relieve discomfort before it takes over. Breathe into tight places; stretch and move when your back or neck feels stiff; look out the window when your eyes are straining at the computer screen; massage your neck and press the acupoints when a headache is lurking. But you have to notice what’s amiss first. Conscious awareness can keep you well and strong at a vulnerable time.

I hope this list is useful to some of you, even if it’s just to remind you of what you already know.  And if you have something to add, please do - we can use all the good advice we can get!

All best,

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award