This is a guest post from Art DeLorenzo, CFP, ChFC, CLU, MSFS, a retired Group Vice President at a Fortune Magazine top 100 firm and Frederic Luskin, Ph.D. a psychologist at Stanford University. Mr. DeLorenzo, Dr. Luskin and Dr. Rick Aberman are co- owners of MYT Group, LLC. MYT is an emotional competence development programs. Details about this program can be found at www.maximizeyourtalent.com.
Here are some thoughts and tips on how to cope with fear and anxiety to help people understand the impact that fear and anxiety have on them physiologically and emotionally and then some steps to help deal with those feelings.
Things to Know:
1. It is natural to feel anxious during financially stressful times so do not think that you are alone or that you are odd. It is natural and there is nothing wrong with you for thinking in an anxious way. A recent TV interview between Donny Deutsch & financial newscaster Larry Kudlow revealed that Mr. Kudlow was no more prepared for the onset of the recent market collapse than you and I were.
2. It is natural for the brain to create fear and anxiety. Therefore experts surmise the brain is trying to protect us by bringing a difficult situation like the economic crisis to our awareness. When in our awareness the brain is saying find a solution because there is something wrong here. You can read more about this in Margaret Wehrenberg’s book “The Anxious Brain”.
3. Psychologists distinguish between fear – which has a specific cause (the Saber Tooth Tiger finds you in the woods) and anxiety whose cause is more general and vague.
4. Anxiety creates cognitive distortions according to Myra S. White a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School who focuses on workplace performance. Cognitive distortion weakens our judgment which causes decision-making to be impaired. Bottom line – we make more mistakes.
5. When we experience cognitive impairment from anxiety we do not listen as well and instructions need to be repeated more often and our memory is weaker.
6. When we are cognitively impaired we tend to have shorter fuses and we often feel impatient.
7. When we are cognitively impaired we tend to obsess about the past and/or worry about the future both of which impair our present performance.
8. If during a stressful time like this you are not cognitively impaired, you may become so if someone else in our office has high anxiety. That occurs through a process known as emotional contagion according to Professor Sigal G. Barsdale associate management professor at the Wharton School of Pennsylvania.
9. Anxiety wrecks havoc on the body and the mind according to psychologist Dr. White.
10. According to a study released by CNN in mid March of 2009, 8 of 10 Americans are experiencing stress over the economy as evidenced by their concern over their jobs and their perceived loss of their life style.
What can you do?
1. Encourage your people to express their anxieties openly so that leaders can provide honest information about what is occurring. The leader of the group can convene a meeting so that individuals have an open opportunity to share their thoughts and fears. Set a start time for the meeting and an end time. Explain that once the meeting is over, everyone is advised that “worry time” is over until the next meeting and productivity time is at hand.
2. Be strategic about your anxiety. When you experience it, acknowledge it and then practice stress management so that you can move on. Take two or three slow deep breaths into and out of your belly and relax.
3. When you catch yourself back in your anxious spot, remind yourself that you were there before and it is not necessary to remain there. As a practice: Consider the difference between the mind, the brain, & the body. The mind controls what the brain does. So if you remind your brain, to be grateful or optimistic it will do just that. When you do this the body receives less stress hormones and your mind stays clear. Imagine then your body says to your brain, wow, less adrenaline…thank you.
4. Remind yourself on a regular basis that right now you are fine. You are healthy. Your loved ones are healthy. You have food, water, and shelter. Today, at this moment, there are no real threats to your safety and the safety of your family. Fear is not needed and you have the tools to deal with your anxiety.
5. Create a meditation and or regular exercise routine. Both produce natural mood elevators that will dispel the symptoms of anxiety according to Dr. White.
Some of this information came from a NY Times article written by Phyllis Korkki on Sunday, October 19th on page 11 in the Business Section.