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Deep dive into how money troubles can actually trigger PTSD

(FINANCE NEWS) Research indicates that PTSD isn’t exclusive to those who have witnessed violence, and many people are triggered by something as common as financial woes.

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Overwhelmed and in too deep

“You know, if it wasn’t for my in-laws, I don’t know what we would have done,” Pete began. “Her cancer, even with the benefits, has cost us at least half a million. That, plus the kids..,” his voice trailed.

“If it wasn’t for the fact that my life insurance didn’t pay off on suicides, I’m not sure that I’d be here now,” he chuckled nervously.

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Clouding the mind

We were supposed to be having a one-on-one meeting to discuss recent performance, but it was clear that Pete’s mind wasn’t really there. Generally a man of few words, this was the first time that he’d ever been personal in conversation with me, and his attempt at lightheartedness was flat. Despite his best efforts to the contrary, it was clear that he was burdened.

“Can I ask you a direct question?” I asked.

“Sure.”

“You okay?” The silence lingered for a moment, and he responded, “Yeah, I’m good, I’m good.” The repetition seemed more an effort for Pete to convince himself than it was to answer me. We moved on to the business before us, but as he left my office, I turned to my computer and sent him an email, thanking him for our meeting, and making sure he knew of the company’s employee resource plan, which could provide him access to licensed therapists which he could speak to confidentially, and for free.

Financial stress equates to physical and mental concerns

It’s been well-established that downturns or upheavals in personal economic conditions can be a significant stressor. The threat to the ability to care for your needs and those of your family, whether the threat is immediate or foreseen in the future based on current conditions, can cause us to experience a gamut of emotions and lead to inhibited decision making. An extended perception of threat to economic viability can have real physical consequences, as well.

In a 2011 article published in Health Social Work, authors Bisgaier and Rhodes identified correlations between poor health and adverse financial circumstances in a study of over 1,500 emergency room patients.

Patient reactions were examined across five categories of economic need: food insecurity, housing concerns, employment concerns, cost-related medication nonadherence, and cost barriers to accessing physician care.

Nearly half of all patients surveyed identified one or more financial concerns, and nearly one-third reported identifying with two or more categories of economic deprivation.

Furthermore, a significant relationship was found linking the number of financial circumstances and indicators of ill health in the patient: poor/fair self-rated health, depression, high stress, smoking, and illegal drug use. Beyond the critical point that individual concerns related to financial security are relevant to physical health, mental health concerns are often an undiagnosed byproduct of financial stressors as well.

Effect on the entrepreneur

The entrepreneur often bears a dual-edged burden, as the success of their business is often inexorably linked to personal financial success.

Everything the entrepreneur has invested—time, reputation, not to mention leveraging personal resources—can be lost during periods of economic instability, and the stresses that face small business owners during these times are significant.

Even a booming economy is no guarantee that the entrepreneur’s own business will benefit from the rising tide, as the Small Business Administration has identified that the survivorship rate for small businesses over a five year term is only a 50/50 proposition.

Living daily in these circumstances can lead the entrepreneur to be at risk for an unexpected problem: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

What is PTSD?

When we think of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), we often associate it with professions who have frequent or prolonged exposure to traumatic situations, such as first responders or military personnel.

While those two groups often do face a very real challenge with their ongoing exposure to stressors that can lead to troubling symptoms, it is by no means an exclusive fraternity. PTSD is different than your reactions to dealing with day-to-day stress, and it’s also different than your reactions to dealing with a single traumatic event, such as a severe downturn in your business or a bankruptcy. Stress in those situations is normal and you should expect that your behavior and emotions may change over time as you deal with them.

That’s not what PTSD is, nor is it a manifestation of another physical illness or medical condition, or a reaction to outside stimuli, such as prescription medication, alcohol, or drugs.

How it’s triggered

Defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as meeting the diagnostic criteria of exposure to death, either actual or threatened, a serious injury, or a sexual violation, PTSD stems from exposure to these scenarios in which the individual either experiences the event personally, witnesses the event personally, or learns of it occurring to a family member or a friend, or has ongoing or extreme exposure to details of the incident that are troubling.

Regardless of which type of event caused the manifestation of PTSD in the individual, the outcomes are noted to be significantly impactful, making the ability to interact socially with others or to work challenging at best and impossible at worst.

While some experience symptoms soon after the traumatic event, it’s important to note that not all do. For some, the symptoms don’t begin until months or years later, when they are triggered. And it’s important to note that symptoms can come and go over time, and their intensity can spike and wane, depending on the external stimuli you face. For example, you may experience an increase in symptoms or severity when you’re feeling tired or stressed about other things entirely, or when you have an unpleasant reminder of the situation that you’ve faced.

Deeper into the effects of PTSD

Psychiatrists have identified four major areas of symptomology associated with PTSD: re-experiencing, avoidance, negative cognition/mood, and arousal. Depending on with of these areas, or which combination of them, you’re dealing with, individuals can experience a gamut of symptomology.

For some, there may be nightmares and flashbacks about the incident or series of incidents that led to the financial concerns. For others, they become avoidant of situations and/or individuals that they associate with the events in their mind. In some cases, this avoidance can transform into an addiction to work or to activity, as it allows the individual to keep their mind engaged on things other than their financial condition.

Depending on the root cause of the trauma, it is not uncommon for personal beliefs about self and others to change, and a loss of trust can occur, for self, others, and systems. Hyper-aroused states are also common in some individuals as a response; always looking for reoccurrences of the situation may manifest itself if a lack of ability to sleep or concentrate, or in a mood shift towards irritation and anger.

These shifting moods are addressed in the current DSM-5, which notes that individuals suffering from PTSD can vacillate between the “flight” and “fight” modes of response.

Finances and PTSD

There’s always an antecedent to behavior; it’s highly atypical that an individual responds to a situation in a totally unpredictable way. So, when looking at how individuals come to face financial trauma, there’s the issue of what caused them to be in this position in the first place, and then the issue of how they’re left to deal with it.

It’s tempting to label those who are going through financial misfortune as being the product of their own poor choices and decision-making—and some undoubtedly are—but we can all think of incredibly talented, hard-working people for whom a life circumstance or factors within their field of industry have caused a problem to arise.

Once people have begun to experience the effects of finance-induced PTSD, its harder still for them to have the necessary capital to bounce back quickly.

This does not make them lesser, despite the temptation to invoke the stereotype of pulling one’s self up by the proverbial bootstraps.

It makes them our neighbors, who could use our support as they deal with things they never imagined themselves facing, doing the best they know how to do with the resources at hand. Because of the intrusion of the effects of finance-induced PTSD, the individual often isn’t at their optimum when dealing with the business side of things: their debt and how it’s structured, how they need to arrange their lives to deal with the situation at hand, or how to get back to work when they’re facing an unsure employment situation.

Audrey Freshman conducted a survey of victims of the Madoff Ponzi scheme in 2012. In her research, published in Health and Social Work, over half of the respondents met baseline criteria that would put them in line for a possible diagnosis of PTSD according to DSM guidelines. A substantial loss of trust in financial institutions was noted by 90% of the respondents, and nearly 60% reported high levels of anxiety and depression.

How to get help

Remember, if you or a loved one are dealing with either financial concerns or the symptoms of what may be Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, you don’t have to deal with them alone.

It’s hard and uncomfortable for some of us to reach out for help about something as personal as our own financial situation, especially when it’s messy, or our health, especially when we’re honest with ourselves that things aren’t what they ought to be.

But by doing so, by seeking information and assistance, you’re allowing yourself the gift of recovery, both fiscal and physical, and can transition forward from this rough patch.

For financial support, especially for the small business owner, the United States Small Business Association is a great resource. From their website, you can find your local chapters, and make an appointment to see a local advisor, who can provide assistance across a range of topics. For personal finances, there are a myriad of late-night TV ads and Internet popups offering credit counseling or debt assistance.

While it’s tempting to have help right at your fingertips, make certain that anyone you talk to is certified as a credit counselor either through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Financial Counseling Association of America. Both of these organizations are creditable and certify other agencies to provide accurate, timely assistance without steering you towards one preferred solution or another.

For your personal health, your healthcare provider is the best first stop for you to discuss your physical or emotional health. Beyond the doctor’s visit, however, your support network who can be there for you is a crucial lifeline to recovery: people who you trust, who you know well and who know you in return, and who you can count on to give advice and support in your best interest.

If you feel that your situation may require more immediate help, there are other easily accessible and confidential resources for those who need them:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 either by calling 1-800-273-8255 or by going to their website at http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ and engaging in an online chat.

For those who prefer texting options with qualified crisis counselors, the Crisis Text Line is available 24/7 by texting “Go” to 741741.

As always, if you think you’re in danger of self-harm or suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

With the holidays approaching, many struggles with finances can be felt more intensely. In the spirit of holiday gift-giving, give yourself the best gift of all—peace of mind and a sense of health—by taking care of you, so that you can deal with the situations that have arisen.

#PTSD

Roger is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds two Master's degrees, one in Education Leadership and another in Leadership Studies. In his spare time away from researching leadership retention and communication styles, he loves to watch baseball, especially the Red Sox!

Business Finance

First impressions matter – how to win over investors immediately

(BUSINESS FINANCE) Impressing investors is nerve-wracking, but these tips can help you to nail your first impression.

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Going in for your first pitch meeting with investors can be nerve wracking—especially if you haven’t yet met these investors in person. Fortunately, if you land a solid first impression, you can set the right tone for the meeting, and make the rest of the presentation a little easier on yourself.

But why are first impressions so important, and how can you ensure you make one?

Let’s start with a recap of the benefits of a strong first impression:

  • A reputation framework. Our brains are wired to make quick judgments about our surroundings. Accordingly, we tend to judge people based on our first interactions with them, with little opportunity to change those initial judgments later on. If you strike investors as a smart, likeable, and capable person early on, they’ll see your pitch deck in a whole new light.
  • Memorability. First impressions stick with people. If yours stands out from the other entrepreneurs pitching these investors, they’ll be more likely to remember you, specifically, and therefore may be more likely to eventually fund your project.
  • Personal confidence. If you know you’ve nailed the first impression, you’ll feel more confident, and as you already likely know, confidence makes you a better public speaker. You’ll speak more deliberately, more passionately, and with fewer mistakes.

So how can you make sure you land this impression?

  • Arrive in a nice vehicle. Show up in a luxury vehicle, or at least one that’s been recently detailed, sends a message that you’re already successful. This isn’t a strict necessity, but it can speak volumes about what you’ve already achieved, and how you might look when you drive to meet your future clients.
  • Dress for the occasion. Along similar lines, you’ll want to dress nicely. You don’t need to have ridiculously expensive clothes, but you should wear standard business attire that fits you properly and has no signs of wear. It’s also a good idea to get a haircut, shave, wear tasteful makeup, and make other small touches that improve your overall appearance.
  • Smile. Smiling is contagious, and it instantly makes you more likable. Don’t force a grin (or else you’ll look like a robot), but do flash a genuine smile as often as appropriate during the first few minutes you meet your prospective investors.
  • Use your investors’ names. When you speak to your investors, try to address them by name as often as possible. People love to hear the sound of their own names, so it might help you win their favor. As an added bonus, it will help you reinforce your association with their name and face, so you eliminate your risk of calling someone by the wrong name later on.
  • Warm up with something personal. It’s tempting to get down to business right away, especially because your investors’ time is limited, but in most cases, it’s better to warm up with something personal—even if it’s only a few lines of a conversation. Tell a funny joke you heard earlier in the day, or share an anecdote about how your morning has been going. It makes you seem more personable and charismatic.
  • Find a common link. If you can, try to find something in common with each of your prospective investors. You might comment that you got your tie at the same place they did, or that you use the same type of pen. Look for subtle clues about their personalities, lifestyles, and hobbies, and forge a connection through those channels. People disproportionately like other people like them, so the more commonalities you can find with your prospective investors, the better.
  • Watch your posture. Your posture says more about you than you might think. Keep your back straight with your shoulders back, and walk confidently with your hands out of your pockets. This is crucial for projecting confidence (and feeling it internally as well).

If you can land a great first impression, you’ll set the stage for a killer presentation—but don’t think you’re out of the woods yet. You still need to make sure you have a fantastic pitch deck in place, and enough knowledge on your startup idea to handle the toughest investor questions. If this is your first pitch, don’t worry – it does get easier – but the fundamentals are always going to be important.

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Business Finance

Parody on capitalistic currency highlights cryptocurrency’s appeal

(FINANCE) This goofy parody showcases why traditional currencies are mocked while cryptocurrency solves some inherent problems with finance.

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In a video parody of capitalism by Hello Generic, actors poke fun at what makes capitalistic currency so principally ridiculous. While the parody itself is clearly geared toward traditional currency, it also inadvertently makes a strong case for cryptocurrency and why people are putting their faith into it.

In the video, the actors are stranded on an island on which they attempt to establish an economy. The first action that they consider is using coconuts as their form of currency—an idea that is quickly overshadowed by the notion of using seashells to represent the coconuts (clearly a jab at the idea of a federal reserve). The video then explores how easily concepts like inflation and debt can develop completely regardless of the wishes of the people; since the coconuts (read: gold) aren’t actually being used, it’s all too easy to grab a few more seashells than are backed.

It’s no secret that many people in America don’t trust the government not to screw up their money, which is why it’s also not surprising that so many people are turning to cryptocurrency as an investment vehicle.

Cryptocurrency certainly has its drawbacks – it’s volatile, unprecedented, whimsical, and subject to influence by completely unpredictable circumstances – but it’s also easy to see why some view it as safer than traditional money.

Since cryptocurrency is decentralized, one mustn’t worry about its value depreciating because of politicians or failing international relations, nor do people have to stress over its value becoming inflated or manipulated by governments.

Similarly, cryptocurrency has a definitive cap on how much can be sold. Since there is a limited number of cryptocurrency tokens available at any given time, borrowing more than is available isn’t even an option; instead of grabbing a seashell whenever you want to spend or buy more than you can, you’re rightfully stuck with your finite number of coconuts.

To make the claim that cryptocurrency is more stable than traditionally capitalistic currency would be absurd, but cryptocurrency is definitively less susceptible to the same problems that make our currency as unstable as it is. Given the government’s past usage of our currency (usage that has led to our country’s massive debt) it’s no wonder that more people are turning to a government-free form of finance.

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Business Finance

How small companies can compete with free shipping

(BUSINESS FINANCE) When running a smaller shop online, how can you compete with free shipping from giants like Amazon that can afford it?

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It’s hard enough for small businesses to compete with big retailers. But online shops also have to consider the additional cost of shipping. With stores like Amazon and Walmart.com offering very cheap or even free shipping, how is a smaller shop to compete?

Shopify, an e-commerce platform for online shops and point-of-sale-systems, posed this question to Thea Earl, product manager for Shopify Shipping. On the AskShopify blog, she offered some tips for managing shipping costs.

First, Earl points out that while “free shipping is an excellent marketing tool,” if you can’t afford to offer free shipping, it helps to offer a “really clear flat rate.”

Customers who think they’re getting a good deal may balk if they’re surprised by an exorbitant cost to ship. If you can consistently offer a flat rate, and let the customer know right off the bat, they’ll “know what to expect when they hit checkout” and won’t get sticker shock at the last minute, causing cart abandonment.

If you want to offer free or very cheap shipping, consider raising the prices of your products, even by a dollar or so, to help cover delivery costs. Note the ratio between the profit margin and the cost to ship.

Perhaps for highly profitable items, you can afford to absorb the shipping costs, while slightly raising the prices of less profitable products to offset the balance.

Lastly, Earl realizes that small business owners have no control over whether or not a carrier raises its prices to ship.

You do, however, have control over the packaging. Be smart about the types of packaging you use. Measure products and buy envelopes and boxes that are just the right size to save money on weight.

Paper and poly envelopes are lighter, and therefore usually cheaper than cardboard boxes. Also, Earl points out that most carriers have at least a few options for free packaging. Utilize these free options whenever you can.

And of course, you could always join a group like Shopify to take advantage of their bulk mailing partnerships with carriers like UPS, USPS, and DHL.

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