THE BLOG
11/10/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Don't Panic, it Won't Help

The free falls on Wall Street are beginning to evidence themselves in free falls of emotional sobriety. "I'm seeing a lot of sleep issues, people with gastrointestinal illness and chronic stomach issues, and people who are sicker in terms of colds and coughs and immune issues," said Kenneth Ruge, a staff minister and counselor at Marble Collegiate Church in New York City who also has many clients on Wall Street. "I'm seeing more Xanax and Ambien for sleep aids and anxiety control. The levels of alcohol consumption, I think, are up somewhat among some of my clients."

Everywhere we look we're seeing evidence of strain, anxiety and panic. While it's natural and expected that we be affected during these uncertain times, it would be prudent to stay out of a state of panic: panic only leads to poor or erratic decisions and possibly self and relationship destructive behaviors. While there may be little we, as individuals can do about the broader financial picture at the moment, there are many things we can do with our own personal picture to cope and stay level. Here are some suggestions for maintaining emotional sobriety when the world is looking emotionally not so sober:

Take Small Actions: People who help during a disaster even with small clean up efforts or aid to each other tend to develop fewer symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder PTSD than those who lapse into helplessness. Taking small positive actions helps to significantly reduce stress and feel empowered and useful. Actions like trimming or planning budgets, learning more about your own finances or even cleaning the house or garage will help you feel that you're in constructive rather than destructive motion rather than staying frozen.
Get Rest and Sleep: Stress tires us, this is no time to be short on rest.
Eat Well: Binging and indulging to "feel better" will work for a very short moment but can leave you feeling depleted and depressed in the long run, eat well so that you will feel good.
Don't Self Medicate: Stay away from abusing alcohol, drugs, food sex or even internet addiction. This will start a downward, destabilizing spiral.
Don't Isolate: Talk over your anxieties rather than withdrawing or looking for someone to blame them on; try not to pick fights, we're all on edge.
Don't Dump: This is not a time to displace your rage over the economy by screaming at your spouse, children, co-workers, architect, plumber or housekeeper.
Don't Ignore Leisure: It's going to be a beautiful weekend in many parts of the country, get outside, take a walk, go on a picnic or gather with friends.
Reassess: Take stock of all that is going well in your life, what you value most, make a daily mental gratitude list about all in your life that remains stable and good and go over that list in your mind several times a day.
Maintain Life Balance: While we all want to keep abreast of the changing financial news, try not to become so consumed with it that your gut is constantly tight, you cannot sleep and you enter a state of panic, it won't help. Do a little living in between watching TV and the Internet, take your kids to the park, go to a movie, do what you normally do to enjoy yourself. The world is not coming to an end; we need to stay in good shape for the long run, the markets will take time to absorb these shocks and rebalance themselves, we need to do the same. Do what you need to do to maintain your emotional sobriety.

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