According to a survey the American Psychological Association released late last year, nearly two out of three Americans say they are significantly stressed by finances and the partial government shutdown is just making matters worse with no end in sight. That stress, and the lack of resources over time, can not only adversely affect people’s health, but lead otherwise rational people to make emotional, irrational decisions.

On Jan. 11, 2019, the APA issued a statement calling for an immediate end to the partial government shutdown because of the deleterious effect it is having on the economic security and mental health of federal employees and contractors, as well as their families.

While psychology may not be able to solve financial problems faced by furloughed workers, it can offer some helpful advice on how they can cope with the anxiety associated with the shutdown.  That, in turn, can help them feel less stressed and ultimately make more rational decisions about their finances. 

APA’s Director of Research and Special Projects Vaile Wright, PhD, who is also a licensed therapist, can discuss how financial stress affects decision making, as well as provide strategies to cope with it.

Some examples:

  • Maintain healthy routines – if your usual routine during the week includes going to the gym, cooking meals for your family and getting enough sleep, keep that up. Don’t abandon it because you are not reporting to work.
  • Stay active – volunteer in the community, tackle a new task around the house, take advantage of free or discounted opportunities being offered to furloughed employees (especially those in the DC area).
  • Don’t isolate – social support is an important buffer to stress and anxiety and, for many, the office is a primary source of social interaction. 

The APA also has online resources that furloughed feds may find useful:

Managing Your Stress in Tough Economic Times

The Great Unknown:10 Tips for Dealing with the Stress of Uncertainty

Face the Numbers: Moving Beyond Financial Denial