Let us pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears
While we all sup sorrow with the poor
Stephen Foster (1854)
Make no mistake. America is spiraling downward toward a major Depression. Seventeen million people have already lost their jobs, and the unemployment rate will undoubtedly rise later in the year. Many unemployed people won't be able to pay their rent or make their mortgage payments. Laid-off workers who had employer-provided health insurance will lose it and find they can't afford to pay for it themselves.
Financial stress has mental-health consequences and people who have suffered financial setbacks will be understandably depressed. Thus, if you are one of the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs or a substantial part of their retirement savings, you need to pay close attention to your own mental health.
First, if you find yourself slipping into clinical depression, let your doctor know. Depression is a fairly common malady and is treatable. Your family physician can prescribe an antidepressant that can alleviate this medical condition.
Second, get some physical exercise, but don't overdo it. You don't need to run a marathon to get the benefits of physical activity. Just take a walk or ride your bicycle. Exercise is a proven way to reduce stress and depression, and relief is usually immediate.
Third, pay attention to what you eat. If you are down on your luck and scraping by on unemployment checks and food stamps, you may need to cut your food budget. But try to continue eating foods that you enjoy. A good meal, especially a meal shared with family and friends, helps relieve depression.
If you are pinching pennies, you will probably stop eating in restaurants. But you can buy a cheap grill and broil hotdogs in the backyard. You can also learn to cook inexpensive food so that it tastes delicious. I once swore I would never eat collard greens, but my wife cooks them so well that greens taste like a gourmet dish.
Fourth, don't neglect relaxation. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, people went to the movies, which provided cheap entertainment. Today, a movie, a soda, and some popcorn will set you back about fifteen bucks.
But a Netflix subscription doesn't cost much, and you can see a new movie every night of the week. Don't cancel that subscription to cut costs unless you are desperate.
Fifth, take up a hobby. If you are poor, you will probably not take up golf or skiing. But you can plant a small garden, even if it is nothing more than a potted tomato plant by your back door. You will find it immensely satisfying to grow and eat vegetables you grew yourself.
Finally, remember that the financial hardship you are experiencing is not your fault. You are the victim of twin evils: corporate greed and the coronavirus.
If you've been laid off precipitously, told to clean out your desk, and walked to your car by a security officer, you have not lost your human dignity or the capacity to live a rewarding life. Do everything you can to take care of yourself and your family, and remember to manage your mental health.
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