Coping With Economic Stress, by Greg Paffhouse

Flowers are blooming, the sun is shining and summer is finally here. That brightness, however, doesn’t diminish the emotional distress and struggles that many Michigan residents are dealing with in the midst of this difficult economy.

Economic turmoil can cause a whole array of negative health effects, both physical and mental. Everyone deals with economic struggles differently. Dealing with these troubles can add tremendous stress, which increases the risk for developing depression, substance abuse, anxiety or compulsive behaviors such as over-eating and excessive gambling or spending.

With the unemployment rate in Michigan over 14 percent, it is understandable for people to have a sense of uneasiness. A recent poll conducted by the American Psychological Association found that almost half of all adults said they are increasingly stressed about their ability to provide for their family’s basic needs. In fact, about eight out of 10 adults said that the economy is a significant cause of stress, up from 66 percent last year.

It is important to be aware of signs that financial issues may be adversely affecting your emotional or mental well-being. These signs can include persistent sadness, excessive anxiety, lack of sleep/constant fatigue, excessive irritability/anger, difficulty staying focused, and not being able to function well at work, school or home. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, you are not alone! These signs are very common reactions to increased stress.

While we cannot change what comes at us, we can change the way we react to it. Learning to cope is a constructive way to deal with stressful symptoms. Coping techniques include:

• Trying to keep things in perspective – recognizing the positive aspects in life can help retain hope for the future.
• Strengthening connections with family members and friends who can provide support.
• Engaging in activities that relieve stress and anxiety – such as physical exercise, hobbies and sports.
• Developing new skills for employment that can provide a means of coping and directly addressing financial difficulties.
• Taking charge of your environment – if you’re bothered by media coverage or conversations about the current economy, change channels, turn the page or excuse yourself from the conversation.

Coping techniques may ease some stressful symptoms, but some problems can seem too overwhelming to handle, and that’s when it is time to seek additional help to get through the tough times. There are many people and services available to help you do just that. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a resource to help individuals identify and cope with stressful situations stemming from the economy. This may be viewed online at SAMHSA’s Web site.

Community Mental Health (CMH) services may also be available if you have a serious mental illness and meet criteria.

Anyone interested in learning more about accessing services may visit How To Access Services for more details.