By the time you read this, the stock market will most likely have gone up and down, in dramatic fashion, at least three more times. In the past 72 hours, the market dropped 634 points, then gained 429 points last Tuesday and sunk 519 points again. According to the news media, it’s the first time that the Dow has moved by more than 400 points in three straight days since November 2008, when markets were crushed by the financial crisis that had really just begun.
It’s enough to make you sick. Not just stressed, but physically ill. And, despite the recent report that technology is doing well and there are less people joining the ranks of unemployment, the overall sense is that consumers are spending less, they’re frustrated with the state of the economy, the state of things in Washington and they’re hunkering down for what will be coming next.
Even if it’s not technically another “recession” (two down quarters of GDP or a 1.5 percent rise in unemployment in 12 months), ask anyone on the street and they’ll most likely say we’re deep in one.
Recessions have economic implications, but they also have health implications and although I don’t have any empirical evidence to support it, I’d bet that the incidence of health-related claims due to physical, emotional and mental health issues increase in times of economic uncertainty. Ulcer, anyone?
As a yoga teacher, I spend my days working with people in groups and privately and I see the impact of stress in their lives. You can see stress in peoples' bodies -- the way they hold their body, their ability to stay focused, the way they collapse on their mats before the start of class. Their heads are full. They’re worried, they’re stressed and they’re uncertain about their futures.
So what can you do? How can you try to maintain some semblance of health in tough economic times? Here are a few ideas:
Eat well. Despite the cost of healthy food, make healthy food choices. They will sustain your hunger longer, make you feel better physically, mentally and increase your ability to focus on the job.
Maintain (or start) an exercise routine. I’m not suggesting you train for a fall marathon, although that’s not a bad idea, but if you don’t see that in your future, go for regular walks. Do some yoga. Go to the gym. If you don’t have membership somewhere or are concerned about cost, look at deals at gyms and studios. With Groupon and other deal websites, there are many wonderful ways to access locations for short money. Exercise has been proven to increase endorphins and decrease stress. Enough said.
Practice giving up control. Your blood pressure will thank you for it. In A Course in Miracles, there’s a reflection, “today I will judge nothing that occurs.” It speaks to an approach to managing stress that asks you to stop trying to be right, stop judging all that is happening around you and simply do your best. Working in ever-changing corporate environments, where things change from day to day, creates stress. Instead of making your workplace “good” or “bad,” approach it more from the perspective of “doing your best.”
Use the news media for information, but keep in mind it’s in large part about ratings. During the recent debt ceiling debate, it was news 24/7 about the decision deadline and where legislators were at in terms of finalizing things. It was more than anyone could take, with the news media pushing our stress buttons all in the name of “informing the public.” Use the news to get updated, yes, but as much as you can, avoid getting sucked into a continuous feedback loop. Go for a run instead or watch a funny YouTube video.
Things are always changing. This is a central principle of Buddhism. If there’s anything the stock market reflects, it’s that that things are up and then they’re down. The same can be said for the economy. While it may be a somewhat simplistic view, blend in a little “this to shall pass” along with the doomsday predictions you can get on any news channel today.
Spend time in nature. Leave your cell phone at home. Go to the beach. Take a walk. Go to one of our local parks in Charlestown. Instead of talking on the phone, open your ears and eyes. Connect to what’s around you. You’ll feel better in no time.
Support local business in Charlestown! Lots of recent articles refer to consumers cutting back on spending. One famous way the "experts" usually suggest to save money refers to cutting back on your early morning coffee run or lunch out. Small businesses, often those that make coffee, sell bagels and make you lunch are the same ones that make our economy grow. What I’ve done is spend less on grocery food I end up discarding because my schedule does not always allow me to eat lunch at home, and I eat out at our local eateries. I feel good supporting local business, they hopefully get the support they need to stay around and we have a lot of healthy food options in our neighborhood!
General tips: Keep your car tuned up as best you can. Find faith in whatever you can, religious, spiritual or otherwise. Look for the good in the world by taking time to look for things of beauty. Spend time with children. Spend time with people you love. Hug your pet. Be kind to those around you.