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Staying up in a down economy

A kid doing a flip into a pool.

Yesterday I got this note from a reader, and instead of sending my reply back to just her, I thought I’d share my response here because I’m sure she’s not the only one wondering how to navigate these tough economic times.

Hello Kristen,

I enjoy reading your blog. I literally have it filed under “Happy Blogs” because your post are always cheerful. I admire your ability to stay focused and disciplined about frugal living and homemaking and your wonderful pictures. My question is, what do you think about the financial crisis? How do you stay so calm and optimistic when it seems like the future looks bleak for America?

Before the crisis, I was very focused at work and at home. I cooked healthy food for my family, regularly exercised, stayed focused at work and was generally happy and felt blessed. Over the past two years I have become a mess. I started reading what caused the economic mess we got in as a country and now I worry all the time. I want to get back to the happy way I was before but I just can’t. Do you have any advice?


First off, I have to say that I totally love that you have a “Happy Blogs” file…that’s awesome! Hanging around happy people is definitely a good way to ward off the blues…happiness is kind of contagious.

And I’m quite honored to have made it into the Happy Blog file. Yay!

Something that struck me when I first read your email is that you started reading about the economic mess, and that plunged you into a state of despair and worry.

While I don’t necessarily advocate a head-in-the-sand approach to life, I do think that sometimes we consume more news than is good for us.

You’ve probably noticed that most of the news you read/see/hear isn’t good news….bad news is more sensational and interesting and it just flat-out sells better.

So, if you absorb a lot of news, you’re probably going to feel a little bit depressed. A constant feed of depressing news will not lift your soul, and sometimes being a little bit uninformed is a very healthy thing.

Not only is a lot of news bad news, a great portion of it is beyond our sphere of control. Sometimes, we need to hear bad news so that we can prepare ourselves (a tornado is coming) or so we can act (sign a petition, vote for/against xyz).

But a lot of the bad news we hear isn’t anything we can act on or fix. It just frustrates/depresses us and we are no better off for having heard it.

I personally think that a lot of the economic news over the past few years falls into this category. The over-arching problems and underlying causes aren’t something most of us can fix, so hearing about them does nothing but make us feel like the sky is falling.

So, here’s my advice for you: Stop reading about the economy.

Just stop, cold-turkey.

The economy will do what the economy will do, and throwing yourself into a state of frozen depression isn’t going to help things a bit.

In fact, that’s the opposite of what will help.

Suppose that things really are as bad as the media says they are. Suppose it’s a worst-case scenario type of thing. How should you respond?

I’d say that you should focus at work, cook healthy food for your family, exercise, and focus on your blessings…the same kind of stuff you should do if the economic sky is not falling.

If your financial house isn’t in order, I do think it would be wise to work on fixing that, but I’d offer that identical advice no matter what the state of the economy.

Although I purposely keep myself from consuming a lot of news, I do occasionally read articles about how food prices are going to go up or about how gas prices will rise. And sometimes, a momentary wave of panic rides over me.

But then I just remind myself that the best thing is to keep on with the frugal living that I do…I should keep on living within my means, keep on saving, keep on shopping second-hand, keep on cooking, keep on conserving gas, keep on packing lunches, and keep on trying to support local businesses.

Beyond that, there’s not much I can do, and worrying over the state of things is just a waste of energy.

I don’t know what your spiritual beliefs are, but since you asked what keeps me up, I’ll share that my faith buoys me up in hard times. I know God loves me, I know that He’s working good in my life all the time (not necessarily ease, but good), and because of that, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the future. I know that God will give me the grace to handle whatever He sends my way, so I just rest in that. It’ll be ok because someone who loves me perfectly is taking care of me. 🙂

I also have some great contentment tools under my belt, and while I use them now, I know that they’ll be even more helpful/necessary if economic times get crazy hard.

If you’ve missed my contentment posts, you may want to give them a read

That got kind of long, didn’t it? If you’re the type to scan through things and read only the end, here’s the Cliff’s notes of my advice:

Stop feeding yourself a steady diet of bad news about stuff you can’t control.

Instead, focus on what you ought to be doing.

(which is probably exactly the same thing you should be doing even if all the news were good).


Readers, what do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Do you have advice for Gail?

p.s. Just to clarify, I don’t think all news is bad, nor do I think it’s wrong to watch/listen to news. But, as with all things we consume, I think it’s wise to consider whether or not it’s helpful. The answer won’t be the same for everyone, but for me, lots of news = not helpful.

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Monday 18th of July 2011

I'm reading this post a little late, but I wanted to comment and say that I very much agree with you, Kristen!

I've entirely stopped watching the night-time news. Morning news is so happy and uplifting (all those cute little stories, fun news shows, etc!) and night-time news is just so bleak and depressing (murders, economy, accidents, etc...). That is just NOT what I need to hear right before bed.


Saturday 16th of July 2011

I agree with the idea of not immersing oneself in the bad news about the economy.

I previously have a finance/economics background that I have since left the corporate world and am now focussing on simpler things in my life and what is really important to me.

I do listen the a few minutes of news on the radio, and skim the headlines online, but all up this is only about 5 mins a day if that.

This contrasts with the hours that I was spending watching all of the news, and then the detailed post mortems on the economy in specialised programs.

Gail (original emailer)

Friday 15th of July 2011

Thanks for all the suggestions! I am taking them to heart.


Friday 15th of July 2011

I think this is just the post I needed. I've been feeling extremely unsettled the past few weeks and like Gail, having a hard time with focus and motivation. Now, looking back, I realize I have probably been subjecting myself to news overload and negativity. I think I do much better with the "ostritch approach". I didn't watch the news or read the papers for a long time, and never missed it so I don't know why I started again. If anything really important happens, someone will mention it. Most of it is stuff that I cannot do anything at all about, other than all the good things this blog promotes, so why am I stressing myself to the point where I cannot do those good things? I'm going to go find something I can do something positive about. Like hang some laundry.


Friday 15th of July 2011

I agree do not feed yourself the bad news. However, you have to remain alert about the true condition of our nation. Seek God and follow his instruction and be found in his will. Trust the honest intuition of your heart.

I encourage families to invest in gold and especially silver. Our country could be heading or is heading on the road to inflation. We need something solid not just the commodity to back up our dollars and sense. Stock up on food have a pantry at home or purchase shelf life food. Have a filter. Sounds like an emergency, we do not know what road the country is heading to? Could food shortages come to America? Could tap water become expensive? Could we see a rise in farming, gardening, and home produced goods?

do not be stress, stay calm, cool, and collective.

Hard times can be a doorway to a brighter future.

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