Stocks are roaring to record levels; the housing market is booming and people are starting to spend more on retail. That doesn’t describe a typical recession, but this is 2020. The Coronavirus pandemic has brought an economic downturn like we’ve never seen before.
Unemployment remains high, and the service economy is suffering damage that could take years of recovery. Yelp’s Economic Impact Report suggests 60% of eating and drinking establishments won’t make it. Movie theatres, airlines and the travel industry have also been hit hard by COVID-19 changes to our world.
The Effects of Financial Anxiety
It’s no wonder then, that more people are being thrown into a “fear,” “deficit,” or “scarcity” mode – most commonly surfacing around finances. Financial anxiety can cause a host of physical and/or medical problems, such as sleeplessness, lack of appetite, headaches and muscle pain – as well as psychological/emotional problems, such as lack of concentration, lethargy, overuse of alcohol and drugs, paranoia, anger and rage, and depression. It can also cause relationship conflicts — at work, at home, with family, with significant others, with friends. Any problem that was already present prior to financial concerns tends to become exacerbated.
I’ve noticed an uptick of financial anxiety with my executive coaching clients, but it’s usually centered around the concern of the unknown. Most of them still have a job, but they are worried about a downturn in business resulting in them losing that job, or losing money in their stock portfolio or retirement account.
It can be particularly troublesome if you are currently working in one of the industries being decimated by this pandemic. If that’s you, it’s prudent to make individual and industry assessments and consider:
- Will your industry be able to bounce back?
- If so, how long will it take?
- Can you pivot your business or position to survive?
- Will the industry ever be as strong again?
Depending on your current role, business and industry, you may be able to retool to survive, or you may decide to take your skillsets and transfer to more robust areas. The tech industry is thriving right now, but that doesn’t mean you need to know how to code to be hired. Other positions such as marketing, human resources, communications, finance, etc. exist in any industry, and it may be a prudent move to switch to an industry that you predict will continue to thrive.
Don’t Succumb to Inertia
While more Americans are feeling some level of financial anxiety, it’s important to remember to focus your attention on what you can control instead of what you can’t. You cannot control the pandemic, the economy or the effects it may have on your industry. When you fixate on things that are out of your control, fear, anxiety and hopelessness take over. We can easily become paralyzed and sink into lethargy which can quickly lead to depression.
This state of inertia can keep you stuck in a job, prevent you from searching for a new job and can destroy your enthusiasm. If you find yourself in this state of inertia, start taking baby steps to get yourself moving. Any small step or proactive initiative will help you build momentum. Ultimately, these series of small steps will help you figure out your next career move in these turbulent times.
Related: Stuck in the Wrong Career? Four Steps to Get Unstuck
Instead of being paralyzed by thoughts of negative events that could happen in the future, you can focus on what you can do right now to survive and thrive. What changes can you make that would change the trajectory of your future? Focus on today. One day at a time. One hour at a time. It’s important to keep your mind in a state that creates forward movement and creates possibility rather than lack and fear.
When people feel they have control, they are more likely to take action steps necessary to improve their situation.
How to Go from Deficit to Abundance
- Take 100% responsibility. The pandemic has obviously put a lot of people out of work who did not choose that path, but once you take accountability for your life and begin to make changes to improve your situation, the sooner you’ll get back on your feet.
- Be mindful of spending. You are the CEO of “You Incorporated”, and you are running your life as a business on some level. You have money coming in, money going out and hopefully, a savings account as your reserves. Think about how a business would react when faced with uncertain times. Cut expenses that will add up consistently over time. Think how much money you could save if you forgo that $4 cappuccino at Starbucks every morning and other small essentials you normally don’t think twice about!
- Develop a “positive money consciousness.” People often sabotage their finances due to their negative mindset about money. In her book, The Nine Steps to Financial Freedom, Suze Orman writes “The road to financial freedom begins not in a bank or even in a financial planner’s office, but in your head. It begins with your thoughts. And those thoughts, more often than not, stem from our seemingly forgotten past with money. So, the first step toward financial freedom is a step back in time to the earliest moments you can recall when money meant something to you, when you truly understood what it could do.”
- Lean into discomfort. Now is the time to try the things that make you uncomfortable. Think outside of the box to save your business, your position or even to find a new career. Explore all options and take new actions. Choosing to move beyond the familiar and try something new could end up with bigger payoffs. After all, those businesses who are thriving right now are being creative to make the most of the situation.
- Work on the concepts of gratefulness and mental imagery. Stating your affirmations in grateful terms, and giving thanks in advance, i.e., “I am happy and grateful that I now have plenty of money in my bank account to cover all my bills and needs,” is very powerful. Then create a mental picture in your mind of what your bank account looks like, seeing yourself paying all your bills easily with money left over, seeing your savings account growing, and seeing your life improving. Feel the good feelings that come from these mental images.
- Use your time effectively. If you are currently unemployed, you have more time than you would probably like. Use it to your advantage by working on yourself. Take master classes online, declutter your house, research new career options, partner with a career coach, get plenty of physical exercise, or take an aptitude test to more deeply understand yourself before you go out and position yourself to potential employers.
- Brainstorm as many creative ideas as possible of how you can improve your situation. Ask others for input. It is amazing how many things can actually be done to improve your financial life if you are willing to. Some ideas may be – try some “contract” work, ask family or friends for assistance, refinance your home, or ask landlords to decrease rent until things improve. Yes, some of these things will most likely cause some short-term discomfort, so you need to keep your eyes focused on the long-term gain.
- Put things in perspective. Take stock of your financial situation, and be realistic. If you have no income, how long could you survive? Is it a month, or is it a year? Everyone’s situation is different, but I know some people who could literally survive for years, and they are completely overreacting to the current circumstances. They are anxious and losing sleep over the potential of lost income in the future. Instead of spending time in those negative mood states, they need to understand that they are okay and will continue to be in the future.
- Have fun, and laugh! During a recession, people start looking for distractions (and escapes). Distractions can be healthy or unhealthy. Get creative in finding healthy distractions. Try to keep your sense of humor. After the year we’ve had, this is precisely the time when you need to laugh. Humor takes people “above” their situation so they can look at it more clearly and get more reality on it.
Think of what you can do to change your financial situation for the better. Change your mindset and take action today.
If you are currently looking for a job, our free resource Job Search Strategy: Reach Beyond the Obvious should be your playbook. It’s full of best practices that will help you get noticed and stay focused, productive and positive during your job search.