The big 2010 question: just how much is the sky falling and stress rising?
According to Paul J. Lavrakas, a research psychologist involved in a recent AP-AOL survey, “10 to 16 million are suffering terribly due to their debts.” Not coincidentally, people who report high debt stress also report the following:
- 44 percent had migraines or other headaches
- 29 percent suffered severe anxiety
- 23 percent had severe depression
- 51 percent had muscle tension, including pain in the lower back
Basically, stress chemicals wreak physical havoc, creating everything from a rise in blood pressure and heart rate to problems with memory, mood, digestion, and even the immune system.
With this in mind, here are some empowering tips on bouncing back from financial stress so you can experience a rise in both your health and bank account.
1. Recognize stress and depression deplete your overall health, and are even considered by doctors to be “whole-body disorders,” having bad side effects on the heart, brain, bones, metabolism—you name it. So be especially conscious of eating healthfully. Add in extra mood-boosting vitamins and supplements—like SAM-e, which is a naturally occurring molecule produced in your body that regulates mood. When stressed, SAM-e gets depleted, increasing moodiness and irritability. Nature Made makes the best SAM-e supplements because they come in super good moisture-protective packaging.
2. Know that if you ask depressing questions, you’ll 100 percent of the time get depressing answers. For example: “Why didn’t I?” “What if?” “Why me?” Would you accept those mean and nasty questions if they came from an outside source? Doubtful! You gotta stop ’em and swap ’em for questions that bounce you upward! “What can I do to move forward?” “How can I grow from this challenge?” “What’s within my control to change?”
3. Shrink negativity into nuggetivity. Limit the amount of time you think negative thoughts to three-minute nuggets, three times a day. Next use your talent at procrastination to your benefit! Whenever negative thoughts enter your head, tell yourself you must delay thinking them until your pre-set Nuggetivity Appointment. Who knows, maybe you won’t even want to think negatively once this time swings around.
4. Whenever you’re tempted to dwell in a bad thought, repeat this single word: “forward.” Brainstorm one positive action step to keep you moving forward to a better future.
With this last tip in mind, I want to emphasize the importance of making sure you’re doing action steps to move forward, even if you’re highly tempted to lounge around at home eating bonbons and feeling sorry for yourself. Indeed, The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reported that the number one contributor to well-being isn’t money, good looks, or popularity! No, the biggest life goodie is “autonomy,” defined as “the feeling that your life—its activities and habits—are self-chosen and self-endorsed.” Studies at the University of Michigan confirmed that “having a strong sense of controlling one’s life is a more dependable predictor of positive feelings of well-being than any other objective conditions of life.”
In one famous study, researchers randomly gave mice either cheese or electric shocks. The mice did everything they could to avoid the shocks and get more cheese, but when they figured out that their actions had no effect, they lapsed into a state of passive listlessness. When they were eventually given the choice (autonomy) to avoid the electric shocks or get more cheese, the mice were so bummed out they just lay there, choosing not to do anything at all!
Similarly (but with better results), psychologist Judith Rodin encouraged nursing home patients to exert more control in their lives by motivating them to make a few key changes to their environments (to decide if the air conditioning should be on or off or how furniture should be arranged). Rodin also pushed patients to request changes in various nursing home policies, which they subsequently received. As a result, 93 percent of these patients became more alert, active, and happy.
It just goes to show that, unlike a mouse, we Homosapiens are lucky to have this thing called “consciousness.” We know better than to give up, even after our autonomy has been challenged. So if right now you’re feeling so sideswiped and stressed, be sure to do whatever you can to increase your feeling of autonomy by increasing your “internal locus of control” the power you have to make easy, small changes.
For example, create three deadlines for new projects and three exciting events to be shared with loved ones. Mark them all down on your calendar. Then do these things and meet these people in a timely, efficient way.
Establishing deadlines—then meeting them—will absolutely help you feel like the master of your destiny that you know you are!
By Karen Salmansohn for Minyanville