Father of four Bruce Windsor was a church deacon and soccer coach. He's been married for 16 years, and his kids are 11, 9, 6, and 3. But the owner of a real estate company, facing mounting financial difficulties, snapped -- and tried to rob a South Carolina bank last week.
His actions were "out of character" for a man who has never been in trouble with the law before, friends and relatives said. His tearful sister, defending him as he stood before a judge, said, "He must have just snapped under the pressure."
In this recession, more and more people are being pushed to desperate acts. "We do not yet understand what Mr. Windsor's motivation and thought process was," says clinical psychologist Dr. Cara Gardenswartz, Ph.D. "But we can surmise that he had some of the personality traits or predisposition to 'snapping' given a stressful situation - even though these qualities had never been witnessed or realized before. And financial pressure (including his self-esteem as related to finances and/or familial or societal pressure) could be just the state of affairs to bring about these previously un-fueled traits."
MOST of us are under financial pressure. According to a survey in October by the American Psychological Association, 80% of Americans are stressed about their personal finances and the economy.
"People impacted by financial stress can exhibit anxiety, anger, panic attacks, concentration problems, sleep disturbance, sadness, fatigue, alcohol or drug abuse, isolation, or acting on impulse (which might have been the case with Mr. Windsor)," says Dr. Gardenswartz.
How to cope
During a financial crisis, it is important not only to survive physically (by having enough means to live and not losing one's savings), but also to take care of oneself emotionally to reduce stress, says Dr. Gardenswartz.
Dr. Gardenswartz's Top Ways to Cope with Stress:
Changing one's cognitions (e.g., trying to put things into perspective...."I am healthy") Helping others
Maintaining or initiating healthy eating and sleep patterns
Group therapy -- whereby people share similar experiences
"Also, spending time with your friends or family instead of isolating yourself can be very therapeutic," Dr. Gardenswartz says. "Finally, asserting your feelings when you are angry, instead of becoming combative, is critical. This is something Mr. Windsor would have benefited from. And having a little bit of hope ('this will get better') goes a long way."
Do you ever feel like you're going to snap under all the financial pressure?