How to deal with financial stress and anxiety during tough times
Protesters donned masks during a rally to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
China Information Service
There is no doubt that Americans are feeling stressed and anxious these days.
Money problems hit a lot Coronavirus pandemic upset the economy. There are also fears about the virus itself, as well as the pain it inflicts on people daily.
It all added up to mental health problems. In a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation at the end of March, 45% of adults declared their mental health had been negatively affected due to worry and stress over the virus.
By May, a United Nations guidance note said the Covid-19 crisis “has the seeds of a major mental health crisis”.
Then, on May 25, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died in police custody after a white Minneapolis policeman knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes. Protests and unrest followed and many Black CEOs and Financial Executives Speak Out on the racial wealth gap.
Soon after, depression and anxiety surged among black Americans. According to Household pulse survey from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and the Census Bureau, 40.5% of non-Hispanic black Americans reported symptoms of anxiety and depression the week of May 28 to June 2, up from 35.6% the week before . In comparison, non-Hispanic white Americans saw a slight increase to 33.1%, from 32.3%. Hispanics or Latinos saw a slight decline.
Dr George James, LMFT
George James Certified Marriage and Family Therapist, Director of Innovation and Senior Staff Therapist at the Council for Relationships and member of the CNBC Invest in You Financial Wellness Council, spoke with CNBC about the link between finances and mental health, the Covid-19 crisis and the impact of recent events on the black community.
CNBC: How Do Money Problems Affect People’s Mental Health?
Dr. George James: Money is simply linked to so many things for the sanity of people in different ways. If people don’t have it, they worry about it. Usually there is some anxiety if they feel like they are losing it. And even if they have it, can they maintain it?
There is also just the connection between the quality of life and the way people see themselves. Am I successful? Did I do well? Am I helping my family? All of those things that build internal character and self-esteem can sometimes be related to how a person sees themselves financially.
Money can have a huge impact on how we see ourselves, how we see our family, how we treat our family members, how we treat others. It can take us to a place where we are weak and sad and depressed. It can take us to a place where we are excited.
CNBC: How is the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic affecting people’s mental health?
GJ: The coronavirus pandemic has just brought out so much. If you didn’t really believe in anxiety or just think it’s something other people experience, Covid-19 made you realize that you also suffer from anxiety. And if you admit that you’ve had anxiety before, maybe it’s kind of a shot through the roof.
There is fear and worry about: Will I get sick? Will it be worse? Will this happen to a family member? And then what impact does it have on my work? Will I be able to work? Will it be safe?
So, financially, will we earn the same amount of income or income? What if there has to be time off or even job changes or even job loss?
These are all worries, worries and anxieties that many people end up feeling and struggling with. Sometimes when we are overwhelmed, we stop. Sometimes when we are overwhelmed we are not as productive. We don’t make the best choices or decisions.
CNBC: What are the coping mechanisms for those who might find themselves under stress, especially financial stress?
GJ: One, for a lot of people who might be so overwhelmed and stressed out, is being able to recognize it.
Sometimes we can just be on autopilot and not even realize that our heart rate is increasing, we are more frantic, we are irritable, we treat those around us very harshly. And being able to just own, “Oh, there’s something else that’s completely escaped me.”
Second, being able to find those things that help you cope. For someone, it is physical activity. It could be a walk or a run, or whatever. For others, it’s morning tea and watching something that’s not going to make them feel bad. Others are family time.
I really encourage people to find out what your top five things are that can help you feel better when you are overwhelmed. Know these top five. Then activate, go after and do it. Once you do that, you can now be in a place where you can maybe be more productive or you can be your best.
CNBC: Is the stress of minorities different during this time?
GJ: Unfortunately, our country has a long history of injustice in many ways. Whether it’s the way we treat women, the way we treat people of different sexual orientation, the way we treat older people. We have also seen it for the way this country treats people of color as well and, in particular, how it treats African American and black families.
There is a long history of refusing loans to people, even with the same credit rating. People had to live in certain neighborhoods because they could not find housing in other neighborhoods or because there was less access to education.
All of these things are part of systemic racism and they pile on top of each other and then lead to negative results. Neighborhoods you might be required to live in might not have a grocery store. Thus, being able to eat healthily becomes a challenge.
Or, you might not be able to get the job you were qualified for just because someone doesn’t want to look at your resume because your name sounds like you’re related to an ethnic group or your name is something they just have. a bias against. What may seem like one thing, plus another thing, plus something else added to it.
So when I was talking about the anxiety that Covid-19 has brought to a lot of people, a lot of people of color have felt this anxiety throughout their lives. Will I find a job? Will I be judged or will I be seen for my qualifications and skills? Will I be able to get the loan? So when you add all of these things, plus Covid, plus intense racial injustice, it just becomes significant and overwhelming.
CNBC: What is the impact of racism on the mental health of black Americans?
GJ: One of the things I have talked about a lot is racial trauma. It is the psychological and emotional impact of racism and daily micro-aggressions.
Micro-assaults are those things people of color go through that continually tell them they aren’t considered equal: being followed around the store, not earning the same pay as your coworker doing the same job or less.
When you add them up, they can increase levels of depression, anxiety, overwhelm, fear, and insomnia.
CNBC: How can people of color cope with this added tension?
GJ: It’s good to take care of yourself and take breaks. Self-care is crucial because anxiety, worry, being overwhelmed, it’s just hard. And the more intense it is, the more paralyzed we are. For a lot of people of color, it was so intense.
Sometimes it’s hard to take care of yourself because you feel like you need to get the cause going. But that’s OK. It’s good to take a break. It’s OK to reload. It’s good to take a breath and then come back and do whatever you need to do.
CNBC: How does all of this affect our interpersonal relationships?
GJ: When we talk about Covid or racial injustice, these things come back home and these are things that our partner feels, our children, our coworkers. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that it’s not just us who are going through this. There are other people we are connected with.
Ask your partner for more information. Find out from your children. Have conversations with your children. Have conversations with your partner. Ask your colleague for more information. Ask ‘how are you’ whether it’s Covid or racial injustice because doing these things to the people you are connected with can make a huge difference in how they feel and what you feel .
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Tassels.