As we face the perspective of an economic recession in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, managing the stress is more important than ever. However, it is often easier said than done. An economic downturn has many consequences: you may risk losing your job or need to find another side hustle to strengthen your finances.
Finding ways to cope with stress can seem impossible. However, you may also see difficult economic times as an opportunity to pare down your lifestyle and adopt healthy living habits, such as sports activities, that will help you get through these tough times and serve you long after the economic recession is just a bad memory.
What Is a Recession?
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a recession is a significant and durable decline in economic activity overall. Experts often consider that a recession occurs when the gross domestic product (GDP) declines for two consecutive quarters. The economic slowdown is reflected in other indicators such as unemployment, household spending habits, retail and wholesale activity, industrial production, etc.
How Does Recession Influences Mental Health and Well-Being?
The perspective of losing their job, along with facing difficulties meeting their financial obligations and basic needs, such as keeping a roof over their head and food on their plate, is enough to give most people cold sweat. An economic recession has real-world consequences: for example, it may lead to inflation and make the prices of basic goods seem inaccessible. In addition, the hostile climate can cause a lot of anxiety and push people to try to protect their livelihood by picking up extra hours and going out of their way to prove their worth.
Individuals who are more at risk are also more likely to pick up bad habits – such as turning to drugs and alcohol – than to find healthy ways to cope with stress. They may have difficulties sleeping and eating healthy, which can worsen their feelings of anxiety and depression.
14 Ways to Reduce Stress in Tough Times
The good news is that you can find healthy ways to cope with stress that are inexpensive and will not take much of your time so that they can remain manageable despite a busy schedule. Here are 14 stress-reducing activities to include in your daily habits.
#1 – Do Exercise
You may already know that a good workout reduces stress. It can help you relax your body as well as your mind and contributes to improving your mood. Regular physical activity is an excellent outlet to release negative energy and increase your mental health. Therefore, if working out is already part of your routine, keep up the good work. However, if you are primarily sedentary, now is the perfect time to incorporate some exercise to reduce stress in your daily habits.
We recommend joining some group fitness classes to manage stress since working out with other people is always more fun, and the presence of a teacher to guide you will prevent you from getting hurt, especially if you are just beginning your fitness journey.
#2 – Do Not Think Too Much
This one is easier said than done. How can you prevent your mind from running wild, exanimating every possible pessimistic scenario, going over your family’s finances, and worrying about the ones who rely on you as you lay wide awake at night? Taking care of your mental health in an economic recession is not an easy feat. However, if you are dealing with stress-induced insomnia and anxiety, practicing some mental exercises to reduce stress, such as yoga or meditation, can help you clear your mind and be more serene.
#3 – Follow a Healthy Diet
As the saying goes, “you are what you eat”. You are probably already familiar with the implications of your diet on your physical strength and weight. A balanced diet rich in nutrients, lean proteins, and healthy fats can power your body so you can feel good all day long. However, managing your diet can be particularly challenging when dealing with stress.
If you are taking on extra shifts at work, you may be tempted to skip breakfast or lunch. People who are stressed out are also more likely to binge-eat junk food, which is perceived as comforting. However, if you are wondering how to effectively cope with stress, your best bet is to eat healthy homemade meals with minimal snacking, as studies have shown that highly processed food and added sugar can increase your perceived stress levels.
#4 – Reduce Your Caffeine Intake
Nobody likes to hear that it may be time to switch their daily cup of Joe for caffeine-free alternatives, but your morning coffee may contribute to increasing your feelings of anxiety. Although caffeine is A-OK in moderation, studies recommend keeping your daily consumption of caffeinated drinks and food such as chocolate, energy drinks, tea, coffee, etc. on the down low so your caffeine intake stays below 400 mg per day (the equivalent to 4-5 cups of coffee.)
If you are looking for ways to manage stress, try switching your afternoon cup of coffee for herbal tea.
#5 – Minimize Phone Use and Screen Time
Phones, tablets, and laptops have become ubiquitous in our modern lives. We use them for work, communication, entertainment, and so on. However, too much screen time can contribute to increasing levels of stress since your brain does not get a break from the flow of information, often negative, it is exposed to.
Besides, the blue light emitted by the screen can disturb your circadian rhythm. Therefore, one of the best ways to cope with stress is to ban electronics from the bedroom and switch your mindless scrolling for stress-reducing activities, such as exercising, indulging in your hobbies, or simply spending some unplugged quality time with your loved ones.
#6 – Remain Calm
It is easy to fall into panic mode when dealing with stress induced by the dire state of the economy that threatens our lifestyle and, in many cases, our livelihood. However, as best as possible, try to stay calm and remember that this, too, shall pass. If you are feeling overwhelmed and are wondering how to cope with an economic recession without losing your mind, you may need some extra support to get through this phase.
In more extreme cases, it may be time to request professional assistance and schedule some sessions to help you find some coping methods with a therapist. However, most of the time, you can find healthy ways to cope with stress alone. Here are some examples of activities that can help you take a step back and help in managing the stress of an economic recession:
- Breathing exercises to reduce stress: working on taking long, deep breaths is an easy fix for these times when you feel overwhelmed, and it can quickly be done anytime and anywhere. Focusing on your breathing can soothe your mind and your body. We recommend checking out videos ahead of time, so you are ready whenever you feel the need to use this handy tool.
- Progressive muscle relaxation: also known as PMR, this exercise to reduce stress can be done anywhere and anytime you feel the need. It consists in tensing, then relaxing your muscles one by one. Like breathing exercises, focusing on your body’s mechanics can help relieve your mind and help you feel better, providing pain relief and helping you find sleep.
- Exercise as a stress reliever: you can turn to use exercise to reduce stress by choosing a calming activity, preferably outside, such as walking, running, biking, etc.
#7 – Reframe the situation
Reframing a scary situation is an excellent exercise to reduce stress. Instead of denying or belittling your natural feeling of anxiety, you will need to acknowledge the situation and take a step back to focus on the big picture while putting a positive spin on the problem. After all, an economic downturn often has negative consequences on many households’ lives.
You can also try journalling to act as a reminder that your sentiments are valid and natural but are not an end-all situation. Here are some examples of reframing, specifically during difficult economic times.
- Your family’s economic situation is a personal failure —> everyone faces the same difficulties, and you will come out stronger.
- Your family is worried —> you will find strength in each other and grow new bounds.
- The future is uncertain —> now is your chance to try new opportunities and get out of your comfort zone.
#8 – Take a Break
Spinning dark thoughts in your mind over and over again will make your feeling of inadequacy worse and will not improve the situation. If you feel caught in a rut, one of the best ways to reduce stress is to do something that makes you happy. It is your signal to indulge in your favorite hobbies, call a friend, go for a long walk in nature, or simply binge-watch your favorite feel-good comedies without feeling guilty.
#9 – Focus on Learning
A financial crisis is undoubtedly a stress-inducing situation, but it is also a fantastic learning opportunity for you and your family. In more flourishing times, it is natural to turn to the easiest – and often more expensive – solution. For example, you may indulge in take-out multiple times a week or neglect to follow a budget.
On the other hand, learning new skills is an excellent mental exercise to reduce stress. Not only will you keep your hands and mind busy while finding money-saving solutions, but you will also grow. Now is your opportunity to expand your cooking repertoire, grow a garden, or adopt more frugal habits which will serve you in the long run.
#10 – Make a Plan
Feeling idle and procrastinating can increase your stress levels. Instead, making a plan can protect your mental health in an economic recession since it is a healthy way to cope with stress and can help you move forward.
You may need assistance from professionals, such as a financial advisor or credit counselor, to move forward with practical and personalized solutions. It can also help you realize that your current position may not be as desperate as you initially thought. Once you have an action plan, act on it, one step at a time.
#11 – Set Goals
Once you have a plan, it is time to establish your priorities. An economic downturn can be an opportunity to see what truly matters to you instead of spreading your attention and energy on issues of lesser importance which can prevent you from managing the stress. Make a list of both short-term and long-term goals which you may want to accomplish during the economic recession and beyond. Removing mental hindrances is one of the best ways to cope with stress.
#12 – Practice Deep Breathing
People breathe without thinking about it. In situations of stress and anxiety, our breathing tends to accelerate, along with a faster heartbeat and constricted blood vessels. On the other hand, slowing down our breathing patterns by practicing deep breathing exercises to reduce stress can activate the parasympathetic nervous system and help you control the relaxation response. You can practice stress-reducing activities such as yoga and meditation to learn more about the different types of breathing and how to practice them.
#13 – Chase Your Dreams
It is easy to feel like you have nothing left to lose in an economic downturn, especially if you lose your job. However, it can also be an opportunity to reassess your life goals and professional activity. When you have a secure situation, you may often be lulled into a sense of comfort that prevents you from chasing other options.
However, if you have been toying with the possibility of a professional reconversion without feeling confident enough to jump on the deep end or to pursue new hobbies that have been put on the back burner for years, it can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow.
#14 – Manage Your Money
Financial stress can be all-encompassing. If you have been postponing setting up a budget and trimming out unnecessary expenses, you may realize that your income can carry you further than you were thinking. Therefore, sitting down with your family to track your expenses and decide how to allocate it can be a powerful way to cope with stress while adopting new spending habits that can help you achieve your long-term goals faster, such as buying a house or retiring early.
How to Ask for Help?
Managing the stress in an economic recession can be scary and isolating. However, remember that you are not alone and that you can undoubtedly find individuals around you to help you assess the situation and move forward. Here are some examples of people you can turn to when you feel overwhelmed.
Friends and Family
Your number one support network is your loved ones. Since they are often heavily involved in your life, they may be able to give you great pieces of advice. Talking it out with your friends and family is uplifting and a great exercise to reduce stress.
You may need to turn to financial advisors to help you get a good understanding of your financial situation and come out with an effective course of action.
Mental Health Professionals
In some cases, you need more than a feel-good movie and a pint of ice cream to help you get through the day. If you are having panic attacks, anxiety, or are having harmful thoughts, do not hesitate to reach out to mental health professionals to guide you.
The Bottom Line
Dealing with an economic recession can be scary and stressful. However, it should also be an opportunity to take care of your physical and mental health and maybe open the door to new opportunities. Overall, remember that you are not alone. Do not hesitate to contact us if you are considering using exercise to reduce stress or if you have any other questions. We will be glad to see you at the Hot Ground Gym.