It's the End of the World 

Well, not quite. But folks are pretty anxious entering 2009.

The fresh slate of the New Year generally brings about feelings of renewed optimism and hope: if we gained too much weight last year, we'll sign up for a gym membership this year; if shopped too much last year, we'll pay off the credit card this year; if we didn't read enough last year, we'll join a book club this year. Yet entering 2009, our collective psyches seem rife with anxiety. Even with a popular new president coming on board, many people are worried about the economy, their jobs, sense of security, the environment — not to mention the myriad global conflicts taking place. In the über-conscious East Bay, all this tension seems to be heightened. We hit the streets of Berkeley and Oakland to find out what's on people's minds, how it's affecting them, and what — if anything — they're doing about it.

Amand Maharathi

Dentist-in-training, 35

What are you worried about? "I'm concerned about finding a job. No one wants to hire me. ... I'm also worried about the environment."

How is it affecting you? "My stress is pretty high. I have $300,000 in student loan debt. I might have to go into forbearance. ... I've probably lost a few pounds. I was 165, now I'm 140."

What are you doing about it? "I stay stressed out — that's how I handle it. I don't feel there's much I can do right now. Some of the other residents owe $500,000."

Steve Michaels

Ph.D student, 28

What are you worried about? "I'm worried about genocide in Palestine."

How is it affecting you? "I don't sleep. I drink a lot. And I fight with my friends all the time about it."

What are you doing about it? "I'm trying to cut down on weed, booze, and coffee. I'm now taking walks. I stay silent and try not to vent too angrily."

Barbara Alperen

Gallery owner, 58

What are you worried about? "I'm worried about the economy, world peace."

How is it affecting you? "I'm not doing much about it. I'm trying to support the local economy, trying to circulate the money. Stress is not affecting me — not yet."

What are you doing about it? "There's not much I can do about it except visualize world peace. Try and stay positive."

Sadie Chanlett-Avery

Yoga instructor, 31

What are you worried about? "I'm concerned that the expectations on the incoming administration are a little bit too high. ... The economy is concerning."

How is it affecting you? "It's not really affecting me."

What are you doing about it? "I try to not get really caught up in it. ... I attend yoga classes. ... I try to go about living my everyday life without being panicked."

Salvador Molina

UC Berkeley student, 27

What are you worried about? "I'm worried about the economy. I graduate next semester, so I'm worried about student loans, getting a job."

How is it affecting you? "I think about it every now and then."

What are you doing about it? "I have day-to-day stresses so that takes up all my time. I'm just focusing on studying right now."

John Allan

Bus driver, 62

What are you worried about? "I'm not concerned about anything. I just feel pretty good about everything."

Carrie Shang

UC Berkeley student, 21

What are you worried about? "In 2009 I'm going to law school. I'm taking the LSAT in February."

How is it affecting you? "It kinda reduces my relaxation time. I normally travel during the New Year."

What are you doing about it? "I'm getting more organized."

Claudia Bayless

Works for UC Berkeley, 55

What are you worried about? "I'm worried about the economy. I'm 55 years old, I never imagined the economy would get this bad. ... It's a possibility that I may lose my job."

How is it affecting you? "It affects my sleep. I can't help waking up in the middle of the nights. My eyes are transfixed on the TV, watching the Dow Jones. I'm looking for something that will turn this around."

What are you doing about it? "My resolution is to exercise. Maybe turn the TV off."

Cydnee Bayless

College student in Atlanta, 21

What are you worried about? "As a student, I'm worried my degree won't be worth anything. Going to college was significant years ago. Schools are getting more and more expensive. This is my last year. I don't want to be struggling with a degree."

How is it affecting you? "There's nothing we can do in this situation. It's not worth putting all your thoughts into it. There's only so much we can do, then hope for the best. We have to go on with life."

What are you doing about it? "I try to do the same things I was doing. I still go to the movies. I go to the same restaurants. Those are the things that make me happy. I surround myself with people that make me happy."

Ashley Shaw-Scott

Business owner, 28

What are you worried about? "I'm worried about my business. I want to help it grow and I'm concerned about the economy. I'm trying to figure out how to create a product that people will need and want."

How is it affecting you? "I was having trouble sleeping. I'm holding all this stress in my neck. My boyfriend got me a massage but it didn't help."

What are you doing about it? "Writing my business plan. Generally, having a plan is going to help my stress."

Ngoc Nguyen

Journalist, 34

What are you worried about? "I'm really worried about the crisis we seem to be in the state budget and how everything's imploding. I'm worried about local budgets, too. Like San Francisco had to cut back on its Department of Health."

How is it affecting you? "I was talking to my husband about this. I'm concerned about our family. We both work in the media sector. We haven't had grand lifestyles. We saved money and live in co-op housing. So I feel a little buffered from this downturn. Savings and affordable housing really helps."

What are you doing about it? "Really the only thing is we've been spending more time at home. Just being more conscious and being with friends more."

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