COVID & Unemployment

Worrying comes with costs

Kristin Schwab Nov 5, 2020
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A woman turns away in frustration after arguing with a Trump supporter at a pro-police rally in June in Torrance, California. David McNew/Getty Image
COVID & Unemployment

Worrying comes with costs

Kristin Schwab Nov 5, 2020
Heard on:
A woman turns away in frustration after arguing with a Trump supporter at a pro-police rally in June in Torrance, California. David McNew/Getty Image
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What’s worrying Corrie Leech these days?

“What am I not worried about?” she said.

Leech, 34, lives in Chicago with her husband and two daughters, a 3-year-old and a six-month-old — yep, a pandemic baby. And having a new baby has heightened Leech’s worries about COVID-19 and climate change.

“In the middle of the night when I’m feeding my daughter, there’s definitely been moments where that’s all I can think about,” said Leech. “And you’re doing this loving thing; you’re feeding a baby. But you’re looking down and not thinking about that love. You’re thinking about, ‘Oh my god, I’m sorry for bringing you into the world.'”

Not being present or in the moment is one of the main ways worry takes its toll. And there’s a lot of taking going on these days, thanks to the pandemic, economic crisis, uncertainty and a whole lot of other things weighing on people.

“You know there’s a budget that you have in your mind for mental energy that you can devote to different things,” said Frank Schilbach, a behavioral economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “And if you worry a lot about things that are out of your control, then you have fewer cognitive resources available for other things in your life.”

Worrying actually hijacks a piece of your brain, which can lead to sleep loss, careless mistakes at work and even physical exhaustion. But worry also serves an important purpose.

“Thinking about what might happen in the future is an incredibly adaptive thing. It is very human and very natural for us to respond to threat and prepare for threat,” said Lizabeth Roemer, a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts Boston and co-author of “Worry Less, Live More.”

Worrying forces us to problem solve. But, of course, not all problems are solvable. And just telling yourself to stop can actually make it worse. “We worry and worry feeds upon worry and then we want to not worry so we try not to worry and now we’re worrying about worrying,” said Roemer.

How did we get here? Some of it’s wiring and some of it’s habit, said Roemer. “We learn it from being modeled if folks in our families worried a lot.”

So what can we do about it? Some people practice mindfulness, others exercise, said Sonia Bishop, a professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley. There are also studies that show actually scheduling a half hour to worry can help you focus outside that time block. And if none of those works: “If you’re busy occupying your mind with something that’s very cognitively challenging,” said Bishop, “then you literally can’t engage in worrying.”

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

Give me a snapshot of the labor market in the U.S.

U.S. job openings in February increased more than expected, according to the Labor Department. Also, the economy added over 900,000 jobs in March. For all of the good jobs news recently, there are still nearly 10 million people who are out of work, and more than 4 million of them have been unemployed for six months or longer. “So we still have a very long way to go until we get a full recovery,” said Elise Gould with the Economic Policy Institute. She said the industries that have the furthest to go are the ones you’d expect: “leisure and hospitality, accommodations, food services, restaurants” and the public sector, especially in education.

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

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