Living Fearlessly in the Face of Financial Worries

March 24, 2009 10:06:12 AM PDT
As the recession tightens across the nation, fear and uncertainly follow it. In lean economic times, many people adopt a bunker mentality, and stop living their lives until the financial turbulence passes by, says Dr. Joe Siegler, a board-certified psychiatrist and life coach. He points to a recent article in U.S. News and World Report that revealed many baby boomers are changing their behavior to cope with these new fiscal realities, including cutting out entertainment and altering retirement plans. According to the Observer newspaper in England, the anxiety and depression associated with uncertain economic times has prompted Britain's National Health Service to train 3,600 additional therapists to help the populace deal with the mental stress of these difficult times. While the bleak outlook means that financial responsibility is more important than ever, it is vital to make sure that these worries do not override all the other positive aspects of life, advises Dr. Siegler of Full Life Coaching Center in Chicago. He offers some simple steps to avoid being paralyzed by fear, and to continue living an optimistic and dynamic life.

1. Look straight into the eye of your fears; be fearless

  • Acknowledge your fears; rather than avoid them, or think that they will go away.
  • Accurately assess your true financial situation; only by making a comprehensive and truthful list of your income and expenses can you see where you can make cutbacks, and identify what really are your essentials.
  • Don't make money the be-all and end-all; it's okay to occupy yourself with other interests so money worries don't take over your life. If you find you are obsessing and ruminating about finances then you are not busy enough and you need more interests and hobbies.
  • Don't bury your fears; worries can guide you toward solutions--we're talking about putting your worries in a place where you can continue to enjoy life.
  • Above all, do not let your fears force you into a passive state of inaction; move into a place of action with the help of family, friends, coach or mentor.
  • Coaching exercise: What's the worst case scenario?; Imagine the worst possible scenario: realize you can handle any outcome so you can stop worrying as much.
  • 2. Be innovative to both increase revenues and lower expenses; be creative

  • Develop new ideas that make money; (i.e., start a new home-based business that makes sense; de-clutter your house while making money through yard or e-bay sales; do you have a hobby or past-time that you could turn into a profitable career?)
  • Make cost-cutting fun; involve the whole family in this team effort; have family members research and suggest alternatives to costly activities. Apply this thinking to family vacations as much as possible, involve the whole family in deciding upon a budget and make finding deals a team effort. There are plenty of great offers out there now with low-cost airfare (including trips to Europe) and hotel rooms.
  • Take steps to decrease your expenditures; changes should be realistic and practical; don't turn cut-backs into hardships. For example, create an overall budget, no buying new clothes, no new cars, etc.
  • Do not take away your favorite things; instead, consider replacing them with low-cost substitutes. For instance, you could join a YMCA instead of an expensive gym membership, but you should never look at exercise as some kind of luxury you can't afford.
  • It's important that you don't worsen your debt situation; don't attempt to alleviate your anxiety by shopping or spending money. Instead, work out payment plans with creditors; plan cost savings with your family, etc
  • Coaching exercise; come up with one idea to increase your revenues and one idea to decrease your expenses.
  • 3. If change is needed, create the next phase of your career; be truthful.

    Use these coaching exercises:

  • Start by listing the qualities of jobs you desire and the ones you want to avoid
  • List your strengths and weaknesses
  • Consider up to ten careers you might want to pursue and write down the pros and cons of each. Remain open-minded and take smart risks; opportunities continue to exist even in leaner times (look for industries that are recession proof.)
  • Don't be afraid to try new things (i.e., new career options)
  • Consider industries you never considered before.
  • Don't abandon caution altogether; don't become desperate and/or reckless while seeking out new possibilities. As we all know, there are plenty of scam artists on the internet who seek to take advantage of people who are looking for money.
  • 4. Focus on a great job performance to minimize chance of downsizing; be a top performer at work

  • Have a great attitude and energy at work; pay attention to task management, your grooming and dress, and the way you work with others.
  • Accomplish all your key performance goals; utilize task and time management tools to ensure that your tasks are being completed efficiently, with the best possible outcomes. Realize the unique attributes you bring to your position; what you bring to the company.
  • If you are asked to take on more responsibilities, embrace the chance to enhance your skill-set and increase your value to the organization. Demonstrate that you are a team player.
  • Identify, create, and pursue opportunities for revenue growth for both yourself and your employer
  • 5. Enjoy life and focus on some of these things you can control:

  • Health and wellness goals; set goals
  • Friendships; make more frequent social plans
  • Relationships; plan dates with only each other present, out of the house
  • Dating; get out there and meet people, do internet dating with a dating coach
  • Self-development; read self-improvement books
  • Volunteering; decide how to give back to the community
  • Addictions and bad habits; come up with a plan to manage them. Turn to a professional for help.
  • Tutoring; teach someone else
  • Family; appreciate and spend time with family
  • Fun (i.e., lower cost travel); take up an old hobby again.
  • Low cost home improvements; freshly paint your favorite rooms.
  • By following these steps, you can remain in an active and positive frame of mind while taking bold steps to help ensure your financial stability and keep your fears from ruining the quality of your life.

    These tips were provided by Dr. Joe Siegler, board-certified psychiatrist, executive coach, and founder of the Full Life Coaching Centers. Dr. Siegler's new book FIRE YOUR THERAPIST will be published by John Wiley & Sons and will be in book stores on July 6. The book describes the end of stigmatizing therapy and the dawn of client-centric coaching. For more information on Full Life Center's services, call 773.529.1200 or visit Full Life is located at 2750 North Racine (at Diversey) in Chicago.