Earlier this year, in January, the World Bank warned of a recession in 2023, saying that global growth is likely to slow down in the face of inflation, escalating interest rates and the disruptions caused due to the Ukraine war.
While the debate on whether there will or won’t be a recession continues, the fear of it appears to have a significant impact on mental health. This is warranted, of course. Recession brings concerns like unemployment, reduced income, questionable welfare support and unprecedented debts which can lead to a sense of insecurity and uncertainty among individuals. Additionally, the fear of recession may also aggravate pre-existing mental health conditions or lead to an increased dependence on substances to cope. A body of research suggests deteriorating mental well-being, a spike in cases reporting depressive symptoms, individuals engaging in self-harming behaviour, and increased suicide rates have been previously reported during and following recession periods such as the Covid-19 pandemic or 2008 depression.
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Anxiety about losing one’s job is often paramount, leading to considerable distress and despair. This, in turn, can manifest in different ways: physical symptoms like sweating, palpitations or tremors; emotional red flags like persistent sadness, reduced interest, hopelessness or even a disruption of biological functions like sleep, appetite and sexual desire.
However, it is important for one to stay calm, and stable and be capable of finding solutions by thinking differently in order to sustain and sail past this period. While feeling anxious and depressed is natural, it is also crucial to be able to manage one’s emotions and symptoms and not let the emotion get the better of them, which leads to impaired thinking and poor decision-making. Some of the ways you can manage your feelings better include
1. Create an emergency fund
Since the primary source of distress is an economic or financial crisis, saving for an emergency fund may help individuals be more secure about debt or financial setbacks. Speak to a financial advisor to streamline income and savings.
2. Have a secondary source of income
Be mentally prepared for job loss or demotion and other adversities that the recession may bring and consider backup employment/ income options.
3. Share your worries
Share the concerns with close ones and family members, as keeping them in the dark will be worse for your mental health.
It could be a life-altering event, so worrying is only normal. Take your time to accept the changes a recession may bring.
5. Know that this is temporary
Relax and know that this will pass. Keep talking to your family and friends. Do not bolt and keep dealing with them alone. Discussing, and writing your thoughts down will help gain perspective too.
6. Plan your finances
Make a detailed analysis of your assets and liabilities. Plan your financial path better.
7. Talk to your employer
Discuss with your HR or company superiors. Hopefully, you can arrive at a solution for now and avoid feeling anxious about what is on their mind.
8. Have a healthy lifestyle
Regular exercise and diet will also help you maintain a better balance. Walk, hit the gym, dance or do yoga--it doesn’t matter--but ensure that you move a little every day. Also, ensure that most of your nutrition comes from whole, unprocessed foods.
9. Avoid toxins
Avoid maladaptive coping strategies like alcohol, tobacco or narcotic substances. While they may offer temporary relief, they will, over time, worsen things and lead to unnecessary dependency.
10. Indulge in hobbies
Keep your hope intact by participating in some hobbies and relaxing activities.
11. Get enough sleep:
Ensure that you get 6-7 hours of quality sleep every day.
Take up a part-time or online course, look up growth videos or try to increase your professional skill set by opting for in-house training programs, if possible.
13. Focus on your own situation
Don’t panic about the news of high inflation and a struggling economy. The news provides general information as a whole.
Simply learn how to manage your own situation better.
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14. Stop thinking negatively
Try to think through the situation logically. Don’t assume the worst is unlikely to happen.
15. Learn healthy ways of coping
Invest in therapy, if required.
Moulika Mandal, assistant professor of psychology at FLAME University; Dr Minakshi Manchanda, associate director, psychiatry, Asian Hospital; Dr Paramjeet Singh, senior consultant psychiatrist, PSRI Hospital; and Dr Sneha Sharma, consultant psychiatrist, Aakash Healthcare, contributed to this story.
Divya Naik is a Mumbai-based therapist.