Tips for Managing the Emotional and Financial Stress of Foreclosures


Disasters and tragedies of any kind such as floods, hurricanes, illnesses, accidents and financial dilemmas all have the potential of making people feel a loss of control. When we no longer feel a sense of mastery over our lives, we tend to get depressed and helpless. The recent mortgage crisis and its cascade affect on other industries such as real estate, construction, bank loans and retail businesses has made many of us feel that we’ve been dealt a very bad hand—and are stuck with it. Here are some quick tips for dealing emotionally and financially with today’s economic crisis. In no way is this advice a substitute for financial and mental health counseling—two actions that I highly recommend.

Dealing with Financial Disasters

1. First and foremost—FORGIVE yourself. Conduct an actual Forgiveness Ceremony with your closest friends and family members. Write down your and your family’s positive attributes and read them out loud to everyone. Then add that you forgive yourself, your partner, life, fate and, if you believe in any kind of Supreme Being or Power, forgive him too. Remind yourself that very few of the wisest pundits foresaw this economic problem—so how would you expect yourself to have seen into the future? If you don’t forgive yourself, you will remain immobilized—which is the real foe.

2. Get your brain and emotions into what I call “Disaster Management World-View.” Make a list of your positive characteristics and skills. Make another list of the things for which you are still grateful. When you watch disaster survivors on television, you see someone standing in front of the remains of their homes. There is usually nothing left but rubble and an upturned bath tub. You also hear most of the survivors saying things like “Well, at least we have each other.” Or, “We’re alive and that’s what counts.” Get a perspective. People do recover. They might have to move, live with less and re-adjust their dreams, but they can do more than survive—they can also thrive. Crises have a way of challenging us to break out our best.

3. Review your finances and see where you can cut back, if possible. Some families cut back on vacations, dining out or buying fun but unneeded things.

4. Think outside the box regarding your interests and skills. It’s easy to get into a rut and think that because you worked in job area X, you have to look in that field for work. Make a list of your skills, talents, accomplishments, education/training and interests. Read the list to friends and family and see what other industry sectors they think might be a good place to look for a new line of work. Often times, we can’t view ourselves accurately. Seek free or very inexpensive career counseling by contacting your local Chamber of Commerce and see what they suggest about your background. They might suggest, for example, a new line of work or more training. Many communities have an organization of professional retirees who want to help by reviewing your work history and offering advice. Family Service agencies also offer sliding fee assistance.

5. Remember what I call the “Three P’s” of gaining control of bad situations.

Pro-action: DO something. Talk to someone. Devise a new plan instead of relying on your old behavior. Re-using the same-old-same-old techniques that haven’t worked will make you feel helpless, anxious, angry and depressed. The best cure for those ills is taking the reins and devising an action plan.

Persistence: Contact your lenders, bank, credit unions and credit card companies. Don’t take the first set of “no’s.”

Pinnacle: Don’t waste your time talking to the low person on the totem pole. Go to the top of the food chain as far up as possible. Identify who can make a decision. If you took the first step—Pro-action—then you will have come up with a new payment plan, an explanation of what you are doing now to cut back on expenses or any other actions that might convince a lender or creditor as to why YOU are someone they should help.

Dealing with the Emotional Fall-out of Financial Disasters

1. Get positive and grateful. Make a list of your positive characteristics and things that matter and for which you feel grateful. Get your priorities straight.

2. Don’t use the same, ineffective methods of handling this stress. It won’t work if you do them louder or more often. A failed strategy will only lead to the same failure. For example, if yelling, sleeping all day or withdrawing hasn’t produced any effective changes, they probably won’t in the future either.

3. Develop an action strategy. Seek emotional counseling—if for no other reason than to use as a “sounding board.”

4. Know the signs and symptoms of serious emotional problems in yourself and others. Disasters turn everyone into what I call The Feeling Cops. If something is bothering you, it is your job to TELL others. If you observe problematic behavior in others, it is your job to ASK the person about it. The next step is to DO something about it. Be on the lookout for increased anxiety, depression, sleeping or eating too much or too little, increased substance abuse, arguing, fighting, hitting and thoughts of suicide. During hard times, domestic violence, couple problems and substance abuse occur more frequently. Seek counseling or medical help immediately—even if your partner doesn’t want to.

5. Work as a team with your spouse/partner. Blaming yourself or someone else is not useful. Treat everyone in your family the way you would want to be treated. Tell your children that things will change, but that you will all be okay. Children can be very resilient if they know their parents love them and will care for them.

I wish you the very best. This article also appeared on the National Association's award-winning consumer website

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Author's Bio: 

LeslieBeth Wish is a Psychologist, Clinical Social Worker and author who is nationally recognized for her contributions to women, love, relationships, family, career, workplace, and organizations.

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