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

How this economic recession can pull you into an emotional recession without you even knowing it. 5 key steps that can help

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Jan 29th 2009

man carrying economyOn the heels of a historic election in American history, this country is in an economic recession that could very easily pull you into an emotional recession without you even knowing it. Recent headlines, "Ford reports a loss of $5.9 billion", "New home sales plunge to lowest on record", or how about "Continuing jobless claims set record". While these headlines grab for our attention, a process is interacting between our thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and behaviors that cycles round and round pulling us deeper and deeper into an emotional recession. Here's how it works and what you can do to stop it.

Try something out. Go ahead and read those headlines again a couple times and while you're doing it take a brief inventory of your thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. Passively being bombarded with this news day in and day out, most people might report some form of emotional discomfort whether it's fear, anxiety, sadness or just pain. The body kicks in with a tightening of the chest, breathing faster, or maybe a feeling of lethargy and heaviness. Thoughts may start spinning around in the head with worries about the future, regrets about not seeing this earlier, and feeling that this may never get better, how no one can help you, and you can't even seem to help yourself right now. At this point you feel completely defeated with no energy to live well.

Make no mistake, this is a very difficult time for many. So how can we be aware of the economic recession that is going on while keeping our emotional recession at bay?

  1. The first step is to notice if there is this negative cycle happening between your thoughts, feelings, body, and behavior. If it is, take a breath to become present and interrupt it for a moment.

  2. The next step is to remind yourself that this time that we're in is temporary. The economy may be challenging for a while, but it will eventually pick up again. How do we know this, it always has. We need to use our experience of history to inform our reality.

  3. The third step is to self soothe for a moment. One way of doing that is to come to our senses. What does that mean? Find something in your environment that is pleasant to either your seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, or feeling. Take a few moments with it. Paying attention to this will help you break out of being stuck in future worrying and calm your nervous system so you can be more effective moving forward. This is also an act of self care and caring for yourself provides strength.

  4. The fourth step involves redirection toward a positive psychology. Begin to write or make a mental list of your strengths, believe me you have them (e.g., gratitude, spirituality, listening, empathy, optimism, hope, courage, creativity, altruism, tolerance, wisdom). This is not to ignore the challenging reality you are living in, but to buffer against the imbalance of the news and create some balance. You will be more effective day to day if balanced. 

  5. The fifth step involves proceeding with an activity today that incorporates one of your strengths. Actually remind yourself that you are using a strength when doing the activity. If you are really listening to someone, you can remind yourself that you are using a strength. If you are providing hope to another, remind yourself that you are engaging that strength. Recent research supports the theory that focusing on positive resources creates a spiral upward of broadened coping skills and continuous support. These will be helpful during this time.

Balance the focus, you still have those same positive resources in you even during these challenging times. Bring awareness to them and intentionally activate them today.

As always, please share below any thoughts or questions about this article. You can also share how you get caught in a downward spiral and what you do that helps. Your contributions below create a living wisdom for all to share and benefit from.


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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