Recession and topics around it come up in everyday conversations and sessions more than I’d like to admit. It’ll find its way into random hang outs with my friends and casually get tossed into a news article. Recessions seem to be treated as normal, to-be-expected experiences that we have to simply deal with as members of society. Because of this nonchalance towards it, it is tremendously important to discuss how recessions can impact individuals mental health on a day to day basis.
The United States has seen a handful of crises. Within those, there are two notable recessions that many of us can easily recall-- the recession following 9/11 and The Great Recession between 2007 and 2009. Admittedly, I was in high school during the latter and can only recall second hand stress I witnessed from family members. Growing up in Nebraska means I ate quite a bit of beef in my childhood (there are more cows than people in the state of Nebraska, literally, and beef is abundant), but I distinctly recall eating less beef and more frozen chicken. (Granted, the chicken is the healthier option, but it was an option forced onto my family nonetheless.) Friends moved away suddenly as a result of evictions and teachers began adding economics-related lectures into classes that were seemingly unrelated to finances. I recently asked my mom to share with me how she felt during The Great Recession. She said, “It was stressful, but I don’t remember a lot from it.” Knowing my mom and the human’s response to stress, this is a trauma response. Trauma sometimes makes us forget things that feel too painful to handle.
The pending recession most likely leaves folks in one of two categories-- fear of returning to that financially constricting place or nervousness around experiencing one for the first time as an adult. Both are intimately tied in with stress and uncertainty.
Mood disorders had a 22% increase after The Great Recession. Mood disorders include but are not limited to depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, and dysregulation in bipolar and/or temper outbursts. Adults that were financially independent during The Great Recession often report acute PTSD symptoms from the experience and recall an increased amount of substance abuse during and after the time frame.
Recessions can have scary effects on our mental health.
Below is a list of information that I hope will help you navigate our current uncertainty around our economic state and whatever may come our way in the future:
1. Be honest with yourself.
The first step in any stressful situation is acknowledging what is stressful and your current state in that said stress. For this topic specifically, this honesty includes being honest with yourself about your finances.
I am not a financial advisor, thus I cannot give adequate advice in this. Here is an article that briefly discusses budgeting and I encourage you to seek financial advice if you’re looking for further information.
2. Be aware of signs of burnout.
Burnout can occur in any stressful situation, not just those that involve one completing a task like work or a personal project. Some signs of burnout include feeling helpless, fatigued, lonely, and less satisfied. If you recognize any of these, try putting your self care in overdrive. Taking time off work if you’re able to and your finances/job allow for it, going for more walks, taking a bath, and journaling are just a handful of self care options.
3. Get some support.
This point is the most versatile. Support can include getting brief financial assistance from a family member or friend, but can also be something simpler like researching community support or reaching out to friends. Many larger cities have local groups that process and discuss financial stress and provide options for emergency situations like losing one’s home or experiencing an unexpected shortage of groceries. Even if you’re not at a point of requiring tangible and necessary things like shelter and food, being surrounded by others with similar concerns of your own can be extremely helpful.
4. Plan within your means.
If we continue into a recession, planning will most likely be difficult. Similarly to how we had to respond to Covid in 2020, we have to be open to change and prepared to adapt with it. Thus, make a reasonable plan for your job, trips, and other future topics and give yourself wiggle room with those plans. Yes, planning is great, but if or when those plans need to alter or stop altogether, they can lead to having a sense of failure and lack of motivation for other opportunities. This is not me asking you to get rid of your hopes. Hopes are what make humans fantastic. I’m simply asking you not to blame yourself if things don’t go as you planned or hoped because of our current recession uncertainty.
I hope this is a helpful read. Please reach out to me if you have any further questions or comments.