Counseling Center

Managing economic stress

The current economic downturn is negatively impacting the majority of students in some way, adding to already existing stress and anxiety. Money and employment have been found to be the top two sources of stress for approximately 75% of people living in the United States, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2007 “Stress in America” survey.

Although stress can sometimes be helpful as it motivates the development of adaptive responses to threatening or anxiety-provoking situations, persistent and intense stress can reduce the ability to function effectively. This in turn can lead to a great deal of distress and angst. Fortunately, there are healthy strategies that students can use to manage the stress of these difficult economic times.

  • Identify areas of personal control. Improving your self-efficacy and your sense of being capable to achieve your goals is a great survival tactic. It can help prevent despair and panic that can arise in situations like the financial crisis. For example, you can choose to pay attention to relevant news about the economy but avoid sensationalist panic that can contribute to poor decision-making.
  • Directly confront financial stressors and make a plan. Write down your particular financial situation as well as specific solutions within your control. This may cause a short-term bump in stress, but creating a plan can reduce stress in the long-run. You may feel more in control if you have a plan for “worst case scenarios.” A plan can include gathering more information, exploring options, and reaching out for help. Once you have developed a plan, review it regularly.
  • Identify and correct unhealthy coping strategies. Economic stress could drive some to use drugs like alcohol, to smoke or gamble, or to practice unhealthy eating habits. Financial stress can also strain relationships as you may avoid or push away others. Choose healthier responses to stress like listening to music, exercising, seeking the company of loved ones, and engaging in positive thinking. Click here for other stress management ideas.
  • Look for silver linings. Although difficult, challenges can offer opportunities. For example, financial worry can motivate you to find healthier ways to cope with stress. Hard times can bring loved ones closer together. See what other opportunities are present.

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, dealing with complex issues, or not making healthy choices, seek professional support. Talking with a financial advisor can make a huge difference in financial planning and saving for the future. Seeing a counselor may help you address the emotions behind your financial worries and stress, help you develop strategies to manage stress, and assist you with changing unhealthy behaviors.

The University of Washington Counseling Center staff is here to help you meet life’s challenges during these uncertain times through our individual, couple, and group counseling services in addition to a variety of informative workshops. Feel free to contact our office (206) 543-1240 to learn more about how you might benefit from meeting with one of our counselors or taking part in one of our workshops. Counseling can empower you to find new ways to handle current problems and establish new patterns for healthier, happier living.

Please look at the included links for additional resources and information.

Finding a Job in the Financial Crisis:

Managing your Money: