08/09/2011 04:35 pm ET Updated Oct 09, 2011

Riding Out the Stock Storm

As of Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 5.5%, or 634.76 points, the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index tumbled 79.92 points, or 6.7%. The Nasdaq Composite slumped 174.72 points, or 6.9% and the Russell 2000 index of small-capitalization stocks fell 63 points, or 8.9%.

The world's financial markets are going to be a mess this week. Serious people in business attire will run around with severe expressions, claiming to a) Have known this was coming all along and/or, b) Know what's going to happen next. Internet banners will use words like "Storm" and "Crisis," "Plunge" and "Crash." Cable news shows will use bold, large-print headlines of "Breaking News" with bass-clef, heavy-brass lead-ins. The public will be terrified; the networks will be giddy, with rising rankings from "sky is falling" programming.

The financial markets are going to be a mess and so are individual people. They'll worry about what all this craziness is going to mean when it filters down to their livelihood, their 401ks, their jobs, their families. The panic on Wall Street will infect Main Street because panic is contagious.

When the stock market crashed in 1929, the ensuing fear was fueled by a lack of information. Ticker tape machines that normally gave stock quotes were overloaded and went down. Telephone and telegraph lines were overwhelmed with the volume of calls and cables. People knew it was bad but didn't know how bad and, naturally, assumed the worst. There is no drought of information now; there is a deluge. People know it's bad and are learning just how bad from places and institutions they know little about. Knowing little, they, naturally, assume the worst.

Like everyone else, I'm watching, wondering and, yes, worrying about what this is all going to mean. It feels like a storm is coming. I see the outer bands hit the East Coast financial markets and I wonder how long it's going to take to get to me. And when it hits, what am I supposed to do? What are you supposed to do when any storm hits? My advice: Don't panic, utilize available shelter, be patient in the long-term; and don't lose hope.

Don't panic. Needless injuries occur during storms when people panic and rush outside, only to be hit by falling wires and trees and debris. There is going to be fallout from this latest financial storm but it is not totally apparent yet where and what. There is a chance the best course of action for the moment may be no action at all.

Utilize available shelter.
Storms have a way of stripping away the surface of things, leaving only the foundations. What are your foundations? Where do you go for shelter? Alcohol and drugs offer flimsy and fleeting cover. Anger and rage have a way of collapsing in on themselves. Fear and panic draw the storm inside instead of keeping it out. Now is a good time to strengthen your connection to family and friends, or to a faith community, if you are so inclined. Reacquaint yourself with your values and priorities. If all else is stripped away, what do you want left standing?

Be patient in the long-term
. Storms are rarely storms only; they come with an aftermath. There is the storm and then there is the clean-up afterwards. I have a feeling the clean-up of this financial storm is going to take a while. Patience isn't the most natural of human traits but it often produces the highest dividend.

Don't lose hope
. Hope is what allows you to maintain your perspective. Without hope, when you're huddled in a pitch-black corner, buried under a mound of debris, the pounding outside becomes another terrifying onslaught of the storm. With hope, that same pounding becomes the sound of help arriving to dig you out.

I don't know how long it's going to take to dig out from under this monetary mess. I do know I'm not going to give in to panic. Whatever happens, I'm going to find a way to take what I learn from it and put that insight into practice going forward because this won't be the last storm to weather. If I've learned anything in the past and been reminded of this week, it's that storms happen even when we're not prepared, and that we can get through them in one piece.