The Financial and Mental Health Effects of A Pandemic and What You Can Do About It

WATCH: How to manage your mental health and handle the financial stressors that come with the COVID-19 pandemic with Dr. Robi Ludwig. 

BY: Dr. Robi Ludwig

Dr. Robi Ludwig, Psy. D is a nationally-known psychotherapist and award-winning reporter based in Manhattan. 

The global pandemic of 2020 has sent a shocking and unexpected jolt through society. It has limited personal freedoms while threatening us physically and emotionally. This invisible, viral enemy has also created an economic freefall impacting the American job market, which has not been seen since The Great Depression. 

COVID-19 has not only generated a palpable fear regarding our health and well-being, but it has also caused overwhelming job losses. As of April 23th, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits in the past five weeks has reached 26 million. These massive layoffs have contributed to many individuals and families staring at a future filled with extraordinary financial fears and concerns.

The Emotional Toll of a Financial Freefall

As a psychotherapist in New York City, ground zero for the COVID-19 epidemic, I see firsthand how these monetary worries can wreak havoc on the psyche.

Financial pressure is associated with a horrifying feeling that one cannot make his or her financial ends meet. Two of the most common side-effects of this type of financial stress are depression and anxiety.

According to the research done in this area, financial stressors also cause lower self-esteem, reduced mental well-being, an increase in depression, hostility, and/or a persistent, cynical, or gloomy outlook on life. There is also a strong link between financial strain and an increase in alcohol consumption and suicide.

Great financial setbacks can also impact the body, causing an increase in insomnia, headaches, and stomachaches, as well as contributing to an overall decline in physical healthiness.

Finances and Family

Finances feel like a very private issue and are often associated with a person’s sense of success or failure. Because of this, many feel this type of hardship is confidential. The shame and self-denigration of financial setbacks often encourage social withdrawal from family and friends. It can also delay a person seeking therapeutic support and assistance. In fact, many people who find themselves in these circumstances blame themselves for being in such devastating straits. The feeling of being in control of one’s life disappears and is replaced with feelings of dissatisfaction; this can impact both marital and familial satisfaction.

Persistent financial pressures have also been associated with increased pessimism, irritability, and more punitive and less nurturing interactions with children. This may have a trickle-down effect on children, getting them to absorb the negative emotions and outlook that their parents experience. Exposure to extreme negativity and events, in the most severe cases, can create toxic stress for children, which can psychologically impact them for years to come.

Finding Opportunity During Hardship

The good news is, despite these fiscal setbacks, adverse events can initiate personal resiliency– one that can open up new opportunities and possibilities. 

Having the right attitude, support, and emotional resources can make all the difference between facing a very real difficulty with a positive attitude rather than a negative one, and converting it into a triumphant situation.

For example, economic hardship can lead to positive changes like learning how to better manage one’s finances or finding a new and improved job or career. In fact, many companies right now are using this time to seek out top-notch workers who are currently in transition and/or unemployed.

Taking steps in the right direction is always the best way to move forward successfully. While it’s important to grieve and give yourself time to adjust to your new normal, it’s equally as important to focus on what your next step is going to be. It’s best to think of this time as a temporary setback, as opposed to a permanent one:

  1. Creating a plan and figure out a financial survival strategy until you get that next job is key.
  2. Fixing and updating a resume and networking with new potential contacts or employers are all proactive ways to segue into your new life chapter.
  3. Opening up to family and relying on the right support systems, including mentors and therapists, can build up an inner self-confidence needed to move forward with a successful mindset to create a hopeful future.

Dr. Robi Ludwig is a nationally known psychotherapist and award-winning reporter. She received the 2020 Best of Manhattan Award in the Mental Health Practitioner category by the Manhattan Award Program. Dr. Ludwig has been appearing on broadcast media since 1997 and is sought after for her psychological insights on a wide range of topics. She is currently the Executive Producer and Host of a Facebook Live Show called Talking Live with Dr. Robi Ludwig on Facebook Watch right in the heart of Times Square, where she interviews prominent and pro-social personalities of the day weekly. Her most recent book Your Best Age is Now is published with Harper One book and made its debut in April of 2016. Her book, ’Till Death Do Us Part: Love, Marriage and the Mind of the Killer Spouse, written with Matt Birkbeck is published with Atria books. It came out March of 2006.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author.