The financial crisis has affected many people and involved losses on many levels –jobs, income, money in the stock market, a certain comfort level, retirement funds, a sense of security, dreams for the future. And, inevitably, these feelings of loss are accompanied by a period of grieving. Ever since Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross first identified the stages of mourning in her seminal book, “On Death and Dying,” bards, mental health experts and pundits have waxed philosophical about this process.
These stages are universal and can relate to any catastrophic personal loss. Kübler-Ross maintained that the steps do not necessarily come in any particular order, nor are all of them necessarily experienced by everyone. If you or your loved ones have lost money, trust or confidence, evaluate where you are in this process by the stages and comments below:
• Denial – “Others may be worried about money issues but this can’t be happening to me.”
• Anger – “Why me? I haven’t done anything to deserve this financial mess.”
• Bargaining – “I’ll do anything if you just help me secure my retirement account.”
• Depression – “I’m so discouraged, what’s the point in even trying to save?”
• Acceptance – “These problems are serious, so I might as well prepare for the long haul.”
Dr. Kubler-Ross describes the final stage of acceptance as generating the energy to reinvest in new objects. As you begin to recover from the economic upheaval, don’t you think you will be best served by investing in your own wellbeing? As a private citizen, it’s difficult for you to influence government policy, but you can have control over your own health. The average annual cost of health care in the United States is over 2 trillion dollars – a large drain on the economy. Almost 75% of health care dollars are spent treating chronic preventable illness. You have the power to make in-roads if you take your health into your own hands. Here are some ways to start taking more personal responsibility:
1. Participate in regular physical exercise that you enjoy and find engaging. The Centers for Disease Control recently released the ‘2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.’ The guidelines, which recommend incorporating both aerobic activity and flexibility/strength training into your weekly routine, are a result of overwhelming evidence of the benefit of exercise in chronic disease prevention. Studies indicate that aerobic exercise brings more blood and oxygen to your brain cells. So you can improve your mood, control your weight and protect yourself against cognitive loss, all at once.
2. Alleviate stress by the consistent practice of yoga or meditation. The first few times you try yoga, your body may be resistant and the postures may feel uncomfortable. Meditation can also be difficult at the beginning – having to sit still and to quiet your mind. However, if you decide to study yoga or meditation, and practice it regularly with the assistance of an experienced and compassionate instructor, you can produce results that go far beyond merely alleviating stress.
3. Maintain a healthy diet, rich in fruits and vegetables and moderate in fat. Research has shown that keeping track of what you eat, and why, is one of the most powerful tools in a weight change program. If you are significantly overweight, you have a greater risk of developing many diseases including high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, stroke and some forms of cancer. Reaching and maintaining a healthier weight, or even losing a few pounds or preventing further weight gain, has considerable health benefits.
4. Recognize how you deal with tension related to money. Financial pressure can lead to unhealthy activities like smoking and drinking. If these behaviors are causing problems for you, try to find healthier approaches to managing anxiety. There are 12-step and behavior modification programs that provide the guidance and support that you need.
There is now no doubt that this financial crisis will be deep and go on for a long time. You may have already suffered a loss of faith, trust or confidence. Fear and uncertainty contribute to the failure of conventional wisdom in tough times. But the human spirit is resilient. And the best antidote to stress is taking care of yourself. What lessons have you learned from these difficult circumstances, and can now put to good use? Begin to believe that you have control over your life. If you choose to live a healthier lifestyle, you could save a lot of money and perhaps even lower your taxes.
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