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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

How this new economy can threaten your family without you even knowing it

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Jan 8th 2009

upset parent and childIt was only a few months ago that the Wall Street Journal predicted this new economy to be the worst since the great depression in the 1930's. Whether that is true or not, one thing I'm increasingly reading about and seeing is increased job loss and stress in this distressed economy.  Historically, when we hit a financial recession, individuals and families can begin an emotional downward spiral that only complicates their situation and makes it more difficult to cope.

The Iowa Youth and Families project has tracked 500 families who were affected by the farm crisis in America since 1989. Over time they found what many people might expect. When hit financially, families are put under pressure to pay bills and have to pull back on things like food, utilities, and even healthcare. This causes tension and distress which leads the way for depressive-relapse, heightened anxiety, increased irritability and frustration.

Who ultimately suffers are not only the individual, but the marriage and the children.

When parents are preoccupied with worries about how they are going to make it, they are less available to one another and their kids. When they are communicating, this stress and frustration may spur them to lash out at one another more. When the children see this they begin to become more anxious.  This can have profound implications. In this past research study, they found that children who lacked this necessary parental support ended up doing worse in school, acted out behaviorally, and eventually acquired less lucrative jobs than other children. These findings have now been replicated cross-culturally.

So what can you do?

  • Family first - The parents in the research study who put family first fared better than their counterparts. Leading researcher Rand Conger, Ph.D. said that the children didn't seem to care about having less "stuff", but were bothered more when the parents were distressed, irritable, or withdrawn.

  • Engage in Community - Researchers in the study also found that families who were more engaged in their spiritual or religious community, schools, or civic organizations were less emotionally affected by the economic downturn. In other words, they felt supported.

  • Mind traps - Be aware of common mind traps that can visit during this time. Catastrophizing is when we expect disaster and the mind starts up with the what if's game. Left unchecked, this can lead to a full out stress reaction leaving us imbalanced an incapable of effectively solving problems. Self blame or blaming others is another one that either leaves us feeling depressed and withdrawn or gives our power away to others. Just be aware of these traps and then refocus on what is really most important in the moment.

  • Mindful planning - This is very different than letting the mind run amuck worrying about the future. This is taking time to intentionally plan things to do to reach your goals (e.g., get a job). Having a goal in mind, determination to do it and a plan on how to get there increases you hope which has multiple restorative effects.

Whether you are being affected by the economy or know someone who is, keep in mind that this is temporary and keep in mind what you can do. Please pass this article onto people, parents, and families you think might benefit from it.

As always, please feel free to comment, question, or share what is helpful for you during this time. Your sharing and wisdom has the opportunity to touch so many more.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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