Ask a therapist: “How can I cope with anxiety about the government shut down?” (answered by Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFT)

Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFTToday, we continue our popular series “Ask a Therapist” with one of our therapists, Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFT answering a question on many of our minds: “How can I cope with anxiety about the government shutdown?”

The government shut down is all over the news, but what does not seem to get talked about is the effect is has on the psyche of the American people. We talk about the economic effects. We talk about the people that are out of work as result. We don’t talk about the anxiety it provokes in many Americans.

I have had many clients over the past few weeks bring this up in session. Many of them feel crazy for bringing it up and express concern that they might be turning into “conspiracy theorists.” Historically when a shutdown has happened, we eventually pull through and the shutdown ends. However, it is incredibly anxiety-provoking because no one has any certainty about this fact. We don’t have research and evidence regarding the systemic effects of the shutdown. Rather, we see these issues as they arise and hope enough people are still at work to tackle them. For many of us it can feel like, what’s next?

The reason that something like this is so anxiety provoking (not to mention infuriating and depressing) is that it hits deep against our sense of control. For most of us, the shutdown is completely out of our control and most people don’t feel comfortable with that. We all label some people as “control freaks” but in my experience as a clinician, most of us get very anxious when we are trapped in a situation over which we have little to no control. My suggestion is to break down the feeling of lack of control so that it is not so black and white. There are many things we can do for ourselves to cope with this difficult time.

Yes, there is little we can do as individuals to end the shutdown; however, this does not leave us powerless to how we can cope with it. First of all, we can control what we choose to listen to. For many people, this might need to allow themselves to find one or two sources and intentionally partake in media coverage so that they have some information. For others yet, this may be a great time to go on a media hiatus because listening is too anxiety-provoking altogether. Secondly, we need to take steps to help ourselves feel safe. We must first recognize this perceived threat of safety as incredibly reasonable and warranted. It is understandable that people are currently questioning whether or not we are safe from scares such as food borne illnesses and terrorists. These folks might feel better buying a fire safe box and getting documents in order, having an “emergency bag” prepared, or even taking a “wilderness” class.

The most essential thing is for people to know that they are not crazy for feeling scared, anxious, or hopeless and ready to flee to the hills. This is a big deal. We each need to be gentle with ourselves and brainstorm small ways to increase our feeling of safety and control.

~ Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFT

Kendra is a therapist at The Catalyst Center. Her specialties include:

Interested in learning more about Kendra or booking a free consultation with her? Kendra Doukas, M.S. LMFT can be reached by calling the Catalyst Center main office at 720-675-7123 or by emailing us directly at