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HEALTH: 4 Ways to Cope with Financial Uncertainty in a Pandemic

Gretchen Ferrao-Walker
·3-min read
Image: Travis Essinger via Unsplash
Image: Travis Essinger via Unsplash

Yashasvi Vachhani, 31, recalls feeling shocked when served with a two-months’ termination notice by her employer. “There were no feelers about the cuts before that. I grappled with anxiety and uncertainty because it's not the right market for new jobs at the moment,” she says.

In April, over 122 million people in India lost their jobs amidst the current Covid-19 crisis, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy. Now in its seventh week, the country’s lockdown continues to have a stark economic impact across industries and classes of society.

Financial uncertainties can add to the existing psychological challenge that the pandemic poses. While we cannot control the wider economic scenario, there are a few steps we can take to manage our emotional response to this situation.

01. It’s OK to grieve
Mental health professionals observe that job loss is akin to the grief of losing a loved one. It’s natural for those coping to go through emotions of shock, denial, anger, bargaining and eventually, acceptance. “I’m learning that processing this [loss] is not a one-time thing. Feelings ebb and flow; we have to deal with them as and when they come,” Vachhani confirms.

Staying aware of your feelings and acknowledging your hardship can be hard. “I often tell people to hold, accept and process the tension within; experience it fully and exhaust it,” says counselling psychologist Zankhana Joshi who offers closed-group listening spaces and circles via Tatvamasi.

While a lay-off tends to raise self-esteem issues, she points out that it’s one thing people needn’t worry about in this situation. “It [the lay-off] is not a reflection on anyone's individual performance. This is due to an external situation that everyone [employers and employees] is still learning to deal with.”

02. Take stock of your finances
It is also important to be practical while assessing budgets for the immediate future, says Shubika Bilkha, an executive coach and partner at leadership coaching company EdpowerU. For those still employed, using this time to build an emergency fund will go a long way in calming anxiety over financial uncertainty.

03. Make space for self-care
Finding a self-care practice that works for you will help break the anxious cycle of repetitive thoughts and allow you to explore something new.

Whenever you feel triggered, take a moment to practise deep breathing. A change in the pace of breathing is an effective strategy to calm the mind.

Vachhani has been incorporating a creative activity, unrelated to work, into her routine. “It adds value to my day. The job will go but this will stay,” she says. Online yoga classes and connecting with friends have also helped her during this period.

Joshi, also a dance movement therapist, says that activities like dance, painting and singing are cathartic. Exercise, meditation and journaling are some other healthy ways to work through your emotions.

04. Stay open to change
Finally, adversities of this magnitude can bring about significant shifts in individuals. When in survival mode, we find creative ways to problem-solve, says Joshi. People may change industries or reinvent their service offering to stay relevant amidst economic challenges. Joshi quotes philosopher George Gurdjieff, “From stillness, the dance arises” and explains that staying centered will allow you to recognize creative opportunities whenever they come along.