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Stress from Economic Uncertainties

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Money Matters - Presented by Fifth Third Bank

Today's Family Magazine May 2009

It's hard to pick up a newspaper or flip on the TV without being inundated by negative news on the state of the economy. Not surprisingly, a recent American Psychological Association study found eight out of ten Americans blame the economic crisis for much of the stress in their lives. Below are some tips to help you manage this stress.

  1. Focus on what you can control. There's nothing you can do about the markets. However, you can control your personal finances. This includes limiting spending, increasing your savings and making appropriate investment choices for your family.
  2. Limit your exposure to negative news. While you shouldn't bury your head in the sand, you don't have to subject yourself to negative economic news 24 hours a day. Consider changing your television viewing habits to limit your exposure to negative news. Watching a comedy or listening to music instead can have a surprising effect.
  3. You don't have to do this alone. Friends, family members and financial advisors can provide you with valued assistance. For couples, work as a team and make sure you have regular discussions on finances, spending, and budgets. If you find yourself in a situation where you may fall behind on your mortgage, credit card or other loan obligations, reach out to your lender-even before you've missed a payment. Together you may be able to work out options such as a customized repayment plan, loan modification or more. Both you and your lender can benefit from handling the situation in a proactive manner.
  4. Learn from others. While this may be a new experience for you and your family, you can get ideas from friends and older relatives who may be able to share reassuring experiences from previous economic downturns. Benefit from their examples. Your banker and financial advisor are great resources of information as are free counseling organization within your community.
  5. Prepare yourself to handle life's stressors. Healthy coping skills such as eating well, exercising regularly, getting a good night's sleep and avoiding excessive use of alcohol or food make it easier for you to cope with whatever you have to face.
  6. Decide what's really essential. One of he best ways to reduce financial stress is to reduce your spending. It seems obvious, but it's not easy to admit that you can't afford something. Families should work together to decide what is essential and which nonessential purchases can be delayed or eliminated.
  7. Let your children contribute. Whether it's taking out the garbage, helping to prepare dinner so you can work extra hours, or forgoing the latest video game, kids are looking for ways to help. Doing so gives them some sense of control of the family's situation. Be honest with your kids about your situation and help them find a way to pitch in.
  8. Maintain family normalcy. Maintaining family routines and outside activities provides a sense of stability during uneasy times and may provide your family with the added reassurance you need. Still, consider cost-effective alternatives to your normal activities. For example, a fun movie night at home could substitute an expensive trip to the theater with tickets, popcorn and candy.
  9. Know the signs that stress is affecting you. There can be significant health consequences to not managing stress or ignoring the signs and symptoms of stress, which can very from person to person. Pay close attention to changes in your physical, emotional and mental state and visit your doctor if you're experiencing any of the telltale warning signs.
  10. Maintain a positive attitude about the future. in the not-so-distant future, many may look back at this as the time when they improved their future by taking control of their finances. Tough times can present the perfect opportunity to reevaluate your goals and dreams.

Ask Dr. Susan