I want to share this short survival guide for a tanking economy.  It’s written by Sheenah Hankin, sometimes called “the shrink of last resort.”  Perhaps you’ve heard her on radio or TV, where she is always insightful and funny almost beyond measure.
I wouldn’t try to explain Sheenah’s point of view, she’s done it herself a marvelous book called “Complete Confidence.”  This guide to today’s mess might be best appreciated if you know her important work, because what she says about dealing with the present fiscal crisis is what Sheenah says about almost everything we encounter in daily life.

If you are intrigued by what we offer below, perhaps you’ll read the whole book.  I have complete confidence in saying that, at the very least, reading Sheenah will keep you away from perpetual Doom and Gloom TV.

— Elizabeth Hemmerdinger

How To Build Confidence When the Economy Is Crumbling

When recession scuttles a booming economy we all worry about money, jobs, and in some cases, even homes. When our survival is threatened and the future uncertain and unsafe, it is all too easy for people to overload their brains with anxiety. This prevents the brain from utilizing the essential mood stabilizers that are designed to calm us and enable us to think clearly and strategically when we are threatened.

The first of these is the hope that drives action. When shrinks like me meet someone in a depressive mood, one of the symptoms is a profound sense of hopelessness. I know their depression is in fact an episode, which usually lasts from three to six months even without treatment. Recessions never last either, but you can be confident that the pressure on the financial markets and on us will weaken and the good times will return. So refuse to lose hope.

Secondly, avoid blame. Looking for the “bad guys” and the general assigning of blame makes you a victim. (Victims see themselves as unable to help themselves.) Most financial decisions we make involve a lender and a lendee (you and me). So we have a choice: we can blame both parties and feel both shame and self-pi.jpgty, which generates depression; we can blame financial leaders, government and financial institutions for not taking care of us. We avoid shame this way, but complaining victims both avoid personal responsibility and waste the energy needed for creative short term solutions. So the confident decision is to blame no one, as confident people do not blame others (save for criminals and terrorists and the like) and are therefore much more likely to act effectively in tough situations.

Thirdly, don’t avoid. Fearful people want to hide. Bills remain unopened. Creditors are avoided. Anxiety and fear pile up. When in debt, be honest with those you owe; honesty will command respect and negotiations are much easier when each side respects the other. Seek the advice of knowledgeable others—money smart friends and relatives and other wise financial advisors. Please avoid anyone whose approach to life is negative and helpless. They lack confidence and lack of confidence is a virus you can easily catch. If you lose your job, start your search within hours of the pink slip. Those in business need to believe in and find new ways to turn around their businesses.

Fourth and finally, calm and comfort your brain in order to build and restore confidence. You have this potential but may not have the skill. Begin by telling yourself to calm down a little in order to think more clearly. Then challenge your doom and gloom thinking. This is not the end of life as you know it, but a serious setback that demands a calm and confident response. Over-reactive thinking builds anxiety. Finally, comfort your self-pi.jpgty, shame and anxiety with a biochemical brain-changing intervention—words of comfort that include encouragement for action:

“I can get through this.”

“I will do what it takes to survive.”

“There is something I can do today to take care of myself.”

New skills need constant practice. Repeat and rehearse these words and you will activate the calming chemical structures that will save you from  drowning in fear and anxiety. Your brain will learn, and confidence once learned is never forgotten for long.

In my book Complete Confidence, I help people train their brains so that they can gain the confidence they need to play the game of life with a winning hand.

— Sheenah Hankin

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  • Cathy Warren September 29, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    Great advice to everyone. Staying positive and facing the truth about finances relieves the stress of being behind. Confidence in one’s self will always help to over come hardship.