Managing Stress in Difficult Economic Times
With the economy in recession and economists predicting challenging times to come, many Americans feel anxiety and stress about their financial futures. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2008), the nation’s employers cut over one million jobs, and the unemployment rate is the highest since 1994. News headlines about business closings, declining housing prices, and the banking crisis compound many peoples’ every-day stress levels.
The American Psychological Association (2008) reported that the economy and household finance are the primary sources of stress for 80% of Americans. But as with most every-day stress, people can learn to manage this extra pressure. How individuals cope with stress depends on two things: how they view the situation and their general outlook on life.
The ABCD model of stress management is an excellent stress reduction strategy. This model suggests that what people tell themselves about a stressful situation determines how they feel about the situation.
How this stress management model works
The model is partitioned into different behavioral segments. It starts with people experiencing activating events. An activating event (the "A" in the model) is any event that occurs in an individual’s life. An example of an activating event might be a recent job loss. When individuals experience an activating event, they immediately develop either rational or irrational beliefs (the "B" in the model) about the event. These beliefs are allowed to dominate their thinking. Two examples of irrational beliefs include: "I will never find another job," or "I won’t be able to support my family." Conversely, rational beliefs would be the following examples: "I have contacts in the industry," and "I have money in the bank to support my family until I find another job."
According to the ABCD model of stress management, individuals experience either positive or negative emotional consequences (the "C" in the model)—depending on what they tell themselves. Individuals with an irrational belief system practice negative self-talk and typically experience negative emotional consequences such as stress and anxiety. On the other hand, individuals with a rational belief system typically practice positive self-talk and experience more positive emotional feelings.
Unfortunately, during difficult times, people often revert to irrational thinking and often create self-induced stress. In these challenging economic times, it is important that people catch themselves thinking irrationally, dispute (the "D" in the model) their negative self-talk and replace negative talk with more rational thoughts.
Here are some examples of how to dispute irrational thinking:
- Ask for facts, such as: "Where is the proof I will never get another job?" "Where is the proof I will not be able to support my family?" Answer the question with additional facts: "I have been laid off before and have always found another position." I have saved enough money to support my family for two years."
- Other effective ways to dispute irrational thinking are to ask the following questions: "What would I tell friends in the same situation?" "Would I tell them what I am telling myself; that they will be poor and destitute?"
There is no doubt that the current financial crisis has created hardship for many Americans. Using the ABCD model of stress management can be an effective strategy for coping during these difficult times.
American Psychological Association (2008).
Economy and money top causes of stress for Americans. Retrieved January 26, 2008