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National Debt, Stress and Perception, Is It Really That Bad?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Aug 10th 2011

National Debt, Stress and Perception, Is It Really That Bad?If you are filled with anxiety, panic, gloominess, and find yourself hyper ventilating over news reports about the economy of the United States, who can blame you? You are not alone. The headlines scream such things as, "double recession," "stock market plummets," "world wide recession," and, "financial disaster." It makes it seem as though we are on the edge of the end of the world.

On the other hand, have you noticed that you, along with all the rest of us, arise in the morning and go about our daily affairs. We feed our children, clothe them, send them off to school, go to work or manage as best we can if we are unemployed. Yes, things are tough for many people right now, but they are finding ways to cope.

Psychology has shown that perception exerts an enormous influence over the way we view our lives. Base on our environment, individual physical constitution, back ground and history, we often view things differently from our friends and neighbors. For example, for those who are working and earning a good living, we are in a recession. For those who are unemployed, running out of unemployment benefits and have no savings left, we are in a Great Depression similar to that of the 1930's.

The theme behind this article is that a major driving force underlying the way we perceive the world today are news reports and how they portray the world and the nation. The way the media casts the news makes it seem as though there is only gloom, with doom about to crash down upon us. We need to ask, "Is it really that way?" My answer is "No, it is not that way."

It's important for mental health to not allow ourselves to experience life as catastrophic. Remember, our grand and great grand parents, lived through the Depression of the 1930's and survived. We, too, will survive. What is necessary is to shield ourselves from undue amounts of stress. This refers to the stress that is a direct result of our reactions to the news.

To reduce stress it's important to tune out news as much as is realistic. There people who pursue every report out of a sense of having to keep up. A much better tactic is to protect ourselves by greatly reducing the amount of time and attention given to world and national events. There are more stress busting techniques that can be learned by doing a search here, at Mental Help Net. I want to direct everyone's attention to the excellent articles written by Dr. Elisha Goldstein, a clinical psychologist who specializes in mindful living and mindful psychotherapy. Read his article and put them to good use. You will learn how to reduce your stress.

Remember what Charles Dickens wrote through his character, Sidney Carton, in the novel, "A Tale of Two Cities."

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair..."

An important caveat, unlike Carton, we are not facing the gallows. That makes his quote that much more meaningful.

Your comments are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD



Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Additionally - Cathy - Aug 11th 2011

The thoughts are good but in reality, we are experiencing unusually turbulent times.  I think putting in a little extra effort can go a long way in relieving one's mind.  For many, unemployment does loom and even if you are not touched by it, families members can be and your job can slow due to the unemployment of others so not many are immune and the other tradegy now is the weather and the "fits" it has been throwing.  In my opinion, it makes sense to do what you can to be prepared but keeping it simple.  Everyone should look at emergency preparedness.  I don't mean stocking up with freeze-dried foods for the next 30 years and building a bunker.  Keeping the cupboards a little overstocked especially with grains, beans, etc., having flashlights, batteries, having a meeting place for family members in case of a weather event or some uprising (think financial crisis) and then, knowing you have a plan, go on with your everyday life with the peace of mind in knowing that if their is a disruption in services vital to your existence, you got it covered!  Lazy me has not yet prepared the 72-hour emergency packs (google it) - something to grab if we needed to leave in an emergency.  An area near us was just hit by a horrible tornado and we were in the Gulf Coast when the last big hurricane hit.  Being prepared for life's little hiccups or maybe a little bigger ones can set your mind at ease.  It is like doing what you can, your best to be ready to deal with something and then finding peace in that.  Can you do more than your best?  No.

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