In my counseling training program years ago, I learned that what people believe is more important, from a therapeutic perspective, than what they know factually. This is to say that what a person thinks is more important than what is true. So that brings me to today's CNN poll that says that almost 75% of Americans are somewhat or very scared about the way things are going in the U.S.
I would argue that this kind of national malaise is a case of self-fulfilling prophecy--kind of like Chicken Little saying "the sky is falling" and lo, the sky falls, and falls, and falls some more. What this might say is we don't have any confidence in ourselves and our ability to solve our own economic problems or maybe it is deeper than that--we want other people to fix things for us and don't have any confidence they can.
Either way, this thinking leads us to where it is darkest before it goes completely black.
So what to do? Acknowledge that we are in a hole and stop digging deeper:
1) We need to unplug ourselves from those folks who insist on telling us how to think and think for ourselves (I'm not telling you how to think--just offering a suggestion). Investors rely too much on advice from others rather than their own judgment. Maybe if folks ignored some of the "expert" adivse they are getting, the economy would actually turn around faster.
2) We need to invest in our country. Crazy notion, but buying savings bonds might actually be the sanest way to make sure your life savings don't compleely evaporate because other folks are panicking.
3) Support your community, taking a sort of "think global, act local" approach. It may be healthier to support those people around you who are struggling just the same as you are. We might not be able to take care of the whole world, but we sure can take care of our blocks, neighborhoods, and schools.
4) Learn from our own history, unlike the Great Depression, we don't have a Dust Bowl to contend with, so our green economy that feeds us and supplies us resources to deal with other problems is in good shape.
5) A good question to ask yourself when you are worried about things is "How is my life different today than it was yesterday?" If you find yourself saying, it is no worse than the day before, perhaps your angst is not called for.
6) Lastly, if you think things are bad, really bad, challenge yourself to identify 10 things that are going okay. For instance, when I was laid off last summer, I took great comfort in the fact I had a house, a great partner, the best dogs in the world, good friends, a guitar, a car that ran, feet that work if the car didn't, and so on.
In the mean time, let's try to have some faith in our fellow humankind, not give in to gloom and doom, and conserve our energies to fight the really important fights that are likely to lie ahead. Who knows, maybe the one-hit wonders Timbuk 3 were actually right.