Ever been too nervous to check your bank balance? So have countless others. Financial stress is a real hardship, and one that can take over our thinking. When money is tight, it impacts every aspect of our lives from simple pleasures like grabbing a meal with friends, to big, lasting decisions like where we’ll live or what kind of education we’ll pursue.
If you’re feeling anxiety about money, these are a few strategies that can help.
1. Know your balance.
For many of us, this is the hardest one. But to have a better relationship with money, we need to face it. Think of your bank account like a garden. If you never tend to the plants, they might grow, but they also might need your help if they’re going to take root. The best way to take care of a garden is to tend to it, keep an eye on it, and keep making adjustments to the shade, the watering, and the plant food while your plants grow. Your bank account is similar. If you’re afraid to check it, do a breathing exercise first, or check your balance with a trusted friend nearby. And then check it every day. It can feel scary, but facing that anxiety actually results in less fear.
2. Track your spending.
This goes hand-in-hand with knowing your balance. Now, I know what some of you are thinking: these things give me anxiety, they don’t fix it. But over time, these things will give you control, and that feeling will empower you.
Many of us dealing with financial stress are already tracking our spending, and that’s great, but that doesn’t mean it stops being a source of stress. Take a moment after keeping tabs to thank yourself. I am proud of myself for doing this. I am proud of myself for being thoughtful and conscientious.
Saying these things might feel a little hokey. You might even roll your eyes at the idea! But financial management is often a high-paying job, and it’s one most of us are expected to do for ourselves with no help and no pay. Show yourself a little gratitude for showing up.
3. Recognize your financial stressors and reactions.
When considering what stresses you out about money, you might think, “money! Money is what stresses me out!” Go a little deeper. Is it not being able to pay the bills? Is it not being able to keep up with your peers? Is it parental pressure? We also need to examine the reality of our circumstances: where we live and play, how we grew up, what access to resources we have, and how safe we feel. If we don’t feel safe, it can be really difficult to manage stress. It’s important to understand what exactly is causing the stress so you can make a plan. A plan can be simple — maybe it’s where you can reduce spending, maybe it’s calling each institution (bank, utilities, credit cards, loans, etc.) and asking for an updated payment plan. If it makes you anxious to even think about doing these things, that’s normal, but taking these steps will reduce that anxiety in the long run.
4. Review your coping mechanisms.
It’s important to make sure your coping mechanisms aren’t making things worse. When we’re stressed out, a lot of us tend to turn to things that really aren’t that helpful like retail therapy or smoking. Both of those coping mechanisms can add up financially over time. If you find yourself turning to a mechanism that isn’t serving you, try swapping it with something else. This is old hat advice. Everyone knows it, but if you haven’t tried it yet, it’s worth a shot.
The next time you find yourself panicking about money, try activities that help you process the nervous energy you’re feeling. Try doing ten pushups, taking a jog around the block, meditating, writing down ten things in a journal that you’re grateful for. Find a solution that works better for you for processing your anxiety.
5. Avoid money pits.
It’s a given, but it’s a hard one. If you can skip activities that require spending, skip them. If you have friends that always peer pressure you into that second drink, skip them too. If there’s any superfluous spending in your budget, where does it usually go? Knowing where we trip up can help us change our habits.
Take the time to set realistic expectations about what you can afford. Be real about how to live within your means, knowing it may be different than it was before, and will probably be different in the future. Find gratitude for what you do have and that you’re taking steps to make your financial future brighter.
And you’re right: this part is hard, so when you succeed, remember to thank yourself.
6. Make one decision at a time.
Money decisions are exhausting. That overwhelming feeling is exactly why we should only make one financial decision at a time, when possible. Sitting down to overhaul your money habits in one evening is optimistic — be prepared for this kind of grand plan to maybe not be a huge success. After all, money habits are still habits. They’re hard to change. Think of them like New Year’s Resolutions. If you just make one, it’s easier to keep. Make a whole bunch and well… it might be hard to keep any of them.
7. Get support.
So many of us struggle under the weight of financial stress. You are definitely not alone! Talking about money has been considered taboo, and that perception has only made financial stress more challenging to manage. If there’s no one in your life you feel comfortable speaking to about your financial concerns, there are many support groups you can turn to. There are even Chat Groups in Sanvello. Just head to the Community section, and search for “money” in the Chat Groups to find a group that’s right for you.
As we mentioned earlier, you can also contact your bank, utility company, credit card provider, and more to work out updated payment plans. Many employers also offer financial counseling as part of their Employee Assistance Programs — financial counseling can help with budgeting, strategies for paying off debt, cutting costs, and more. It’s difficult to put aside our shame and fear, but when we do, we can save ourselves a lot of headache down the line.
At the end of the day, money stress is still stress. And the best way to manage stress is through practical self-care and support. Even when things are tight (or especially when things are tight!) we must find ways to take care of our minds so we can be calm and clear when we need to make decisions. The most important thing you can do for your financial wellbeing in the future is to invest in your emotional wellbeing now: meditate, journal, practice gratitude, and be proud of yourself for the work you are doing.