Understanding financial fears in times of crisis

How can you understand and deal with the feelings that are evoked due to financial uncertainty?

With the continued spread of the Coronavirus putting our oldest and most vulnerable at risk and with more and more of the world’s economy being shut down because of the virus, mental health and finance has been brought to the fore.

Many people will start, or have already started, feeling concerned or anxious as the shutdown progresses. This is not surprising. It touches upon our own survival instincts in the face of uncertainty.

Financial uncertainty, crisis or loss can be like grief, and when we grieve there is no right way to do so. The experience can be unfamiliar, unpredictable or chaotic at times. Although there is the occurrence of identifiable feelings such as shock, denial, anger, fear, disbelief, or acceptance, there isn’t an identifiable linear order to cope with these feelings, and this is what appears to be difficult for most people. There is no formula to teach a person how to overcome the feelings financial uncertainty can evoke.

The initial reaction stems from an unexpected reality and places a person in a position where conflict arises between ‘what is’ desired and what ‘there is’. We may feel that we have lost control over our reality and our lives and the more we try to control it, and resist accepting it, the more the shock, fear, anxiety, and other feelings will be present in our mind. What we resist, persists!

The fear of letting go and consequently not having control over the situation can shake a person to their core, and people have different ways of reacting to their perceived loss of control.

The professional literature refers to them in the following way:

  1. “Emotional Withdrawers” who turn inwardly and withdraw from talking about their true feelings, will not connect as much with friends or their social platforms and contacts; during this time of shut down they will not even connect with others online, phone or on what’s app groups, etc.
  2. “Emotional Out-warders” who turn outwards and tell anyone who will listen about their feelings: how they feel, their concerns, what to do or not to do, ask for advice; in this case, during the shutdown we connect with others online, phone, or what’s app groups, etc., even more than normal. Sometimes in an obsessive manner.
  3. “Emotional Runners” who run away from the situation, and are most likely in denial, who have difficulties acknowledging it. No matter what your reaction mechanism is, it is important to recognize it and ask yourself why it is that you are acting this way? What is it you are avoiding or afraid of seeing, feeling, or acknowledging?

Let’s understand the dynamic that takes place at the subconscious. A person’s identity is formed partially by their level of financial stability. With the financial uncertainty that we face, the survival part of our identity is called into question. Therefore, we must redefine our financial identity.

Redefining the world as we know it requires the “letting go” of many preconceptions that challenge our sense of safety. If a person is unable to accept these sudden changes (i.e. I do not accept reality as it is and I want it to be different), depression, anxiety and other challenging mental states will emerge.
It is therefore important to understand all these feelings and be aware that they can be an integral part of the process that will help us “land safely”.

It is also important to remember to act opposite to panic or fear, which is a knee jerk reaction. We must NOT think negatively about the future. We must stay centered and use all the tools that can help us be positive.

Hence, as time passes it may be helpful to reach out and seek professional help. A professional can help you recognize and make sense of all these feelings that may surface. They can guide you to better understand and deal with one of the most important life mechanisms – SURVIVAL!

Useful advice and further information

How can you help your children cope with Corona pandemic?
How do you reduce stress during times of financial uncertainty?
Coping with stressful times

We are here to better help you navigate these troubling times with tips and practical tools for reducing stress around reminding and improving relationships.