How to Not Panic at Economic Alarms

by | Oct 14, 2008

Last week the vibration of a garbage truck set off a neighbor’s car alarm. The owner was away, and the alarm rang continuously for over an hour.
Now we live on a quiet street. The houses are fairly close together and are visible from the street. It was easy to determine that no theft or vandalism was in progress.
As a result, I knew there was no emergency. But my body didn’t get the memo. As the siren wailed and wailed and wailed, I got increasingly edgy. I tried to concentrate on work, but my brain was mush.
And that’s exactly what can happen to Accidental Entrepreneurs if we don’t have a strategy for responding to the alarming news about the economy.
The Alarm that Won’t Stop Ringing
The recent economic news is like an alarm that won’t stop ringing. Even if you discount the mass media hype, it’s almost impossible to escape the wailing sirens and flashing lights.
Try as you might to maintain your equilibrium, your nervous system begins to react. And before you know it, you can end up anxious and confused.
Meanwhile, your brain turns to mush. Whatever challenges you’ve experienced around running your business are amplified.
And then your mind does what minds do, it gathers evidence that supports the state of emergency. Pretty soon you’re convinced that your business is going down the tubes (or you’re wondering if you should be more worried).
Ignoring the Alarm Doesn’t Help
Trying to un-think fearful thoughts is like trying to unring an alarm. It doesn’t work. Even if you fool your mind into a posture of peaceableness, your body is likely to ramp up its stress response systems.
And since there is no way to halt the alarm, those stress responses keep on keeping on, depleting you mentally, physically, and emotionally.
And then you jump on yourself for freaking out. Well, maybe you don’t. I do.
Paying Keen Attention Helps
Oddly, the solution is to pay keen attention to the blaring alarm.
Instead of fighting your responses, investigate them. Examine your stressful thoughts from every angle as if they were fascinating objects of art.
How big are they?
How pervasive?
What is the color, flavor, and scent of each scary thought?
Turning your attention toward the alarm stops the war within. Instead of wishing the alarm would stop, you listen closer. This is not about liking or approving of what you observe. It’s about making peace with your experience.
How to Pull It Off
It’s one thing to say, “Turn your attention toward the source of stress.” Meditations teachers and spiritual masters have been saying that for millenia.
Doing it is a different matter.
Journaling can work, as can sharing your concerns with a support group. Articulating your feelings and getting them out where you can see them takes you a long way toward easing anxiety and confusion.
And sometimes it’s nice to have a tool to rely on when motivation and discipline are scarce. (Am I the only one who balks at spiritual practice when she’s anxious?)
For me, the tool of choice is The Work of Byron Katie™.
The Work is four questions and a turnaround. It’s demonstrated in the free audios and videos at You don’t have to spend a dime to learn it or use it, though you can hire a certified facilitator or invest in books, recordings, and workshops, if you wish.
The Work won’t turn off the alarm in the world around you. It won’t get rid of thoughts about the economy. It will free you of the stress and pain that come from believing that the alarm is real.
If you’ve noticed a higher level of anxiety lately, try jotting down your thoughts about the economy. Start with “I’m worried about the economy because…” Then record your pettiest fears. (The big ones, too.)
Question the thoughts related to this false alarm and you’ll find it a lot easier to ride it out until it stops.
If you want to do The Work but need a bit more structure, take a look at The Work on the Web. Use this code when you sign up: 119-1169.