Whether you are nervous about the current economic state of the world, feeling overwhelmed at work while worrying about losing your job, or just generally stressed about money, you are not alone. Financial stress is something that I believe plagues us all at points in our lives. From the first time on our own as a college student, to an unstable relationship or marriage, to the holidays, or having to provide for family… money is the constant. Heck, I can recall points in my life where money worries were making me ill with anxiety! So today we are going to look at what is financial stress, symptoms of it, and tips to improve your mental health during financially stressful times.
What is financial stress?
Financial stress can be defined as the state of worry, anxiety, or fear around your current financial situation or the overall economy and is typically accompanied by some sort of physiological response (think your flight or fight response).
Examples of financial stress and symptoms you may be experiencing:
Mentally, financial stress could look like difficulty focusing or brain fog. You may constantly think or worry about potential financial impacts too. Like worrying about losing your job or how you’ll pay the bills if X and Y happen.
Emotionally, financial stress can look like general melancholy, loss of interest in things, or a short fuse, as in you’re quick to lose your temper.
Physically, financial stress can look like difficulty sleeping or breathing, increased headaches or muscle tension, clenched jaw, tightness in the chest, heart racing, general fatigue or brain fog, and so much more.
It all really comes down to how you handle stress and how those symptoms typically present in you; more on that in a minute though!
11 Ways To Cope With Financial Stress And Anxiety
Acknowledge + reflect
Sometimes one of the best things we can do for anxiety, stress, or other mental health struggles is to simply acknowledge them. Take some time to write down everything that keeps floating around in your head. Whether that’s a narrative you’re telling yourself like, “I’m so overwhelmed at work, I’m definitely going to lose my job,” or the pit that develops in your stomach when you think about checking your bank account. Really take some time to dig into this and feel free to add to it over a few days.
I’ve also found that it can help taking this information to someone, like a therapist or trusted person in your life. Sometimes having a witness to your anxieties or worries can help alleviate them. Just make sure if you do share with someone in your life, you let them know you aren’t looking for advice or feedback, just a witness right now.
Lastly, use this exercise as an opportunity to reflect on how you deal with stress related to money. Are you someone who overspends? Emotionally eats? Picks more fights in your relationships? Pay special attention to that last one as the effects of financial stress on families can be a lot.
Face the facts
The reality is, when we worry about something, we often put ourselves through it more times than we need to. What I mean by that is we live through the anxiety/fear every time we think about it, talk about it, and finally, if it eventually happens. Notice I said if… just because we worry about something, doesn’t mean it will happen.
So instead of putting yourself through unnecessary suffering around the thoughts of things that *could* happen, focus on the facts.
This could mean acknowledging the fact you haven’t lost your job. Or it could be checking all of your accounts, reviewing expenses, and pulling your credit profile to get a clear and accurate picture of where things stand.
Make a plan
Now that you are clear on your financial worries and the facts of your situation, it’s time to make a plan forward. I like to look at plans like this as little acts of self care where you’re future self will thank you. The goal is always to alleviate stress, reduce risk, and move you towards your financial goals. Below are a few ideas to get you started on an action plan to break the vicious cycle of financial anxiety and move towards being more fiscally responsible.
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One surefire way to reduce financial worries is to increase your income – but not increase your spending. You can do this by checking out these passive income strategies from Lexington Law, starting a side hustle, or in your traditional career.
If you want to stick with your traditional career, you’ll either need to ask your boss for a raise or start looking for a new job. Either way, I suggest reading this article on job benefits that relieve financial stress from Lexington Law, and keeping them in mind when negotiating with your current employer or a potential new one.
If you ask for a raise, make sure you have solid reasoning like how you’ve helped increase the company’s bottom line, gone above and beyond your defined roll, or reference achievements that have historically gotten raises in the company. Do not ask for a raise just because “you need it.”
Looking for a new job is another way to increase your income. Typically, the best time to get a new job is when you’re already employed. This will give you negotiating power for a pay bump. With that said, 2020 has left the workforce a little upside down, so read this post for more tips on looking for a job in the current climate.
This is my go to whenever I’ve felt financially stressed. I think when we feel anxiety or stress we crave a sense of control in our lives and we have the choice in how we spend our money. If you feel unsure about what to cut from your monthly budget or ways to reduce your spending, I have an entire series with tips for saving money on everyday items to holidays to major life events you can check out here. Personally, I suggest starting with: How To Save Money On Groceries Every Month On A Tight Budget since I find food shopping to be one of the easiest areas to overspend – especially when we are already stressed.
Make one financial decision at a time
Just because you know all of the facts and have a plan, doesn’t mean you need to take action on them all. Focus on making one decision at a time so you don’t feel overwhelmed into inaction or back slide on your progress.
Swap your thoughts
When it comes to financial stress you really want to take a total body approach here. Earlier we talked about the different symptoms from the mental toll, social toll, and physical toll that can happen when you’re stressed about money. A regular mindfulness practice can help with the mental load.
The mind is a powerful muscle that we can flex and train, just like any other muscle in the body. When we allow our minds to race and tell us negative stories, we strengthen that part of it. However, we can practice swapping a negative thought for a positive one and begin training the mind to relax and focus on the now instead of a potential future. Because at the end of the day, that’s where anxiety lives: the future.
Like i said, we are taking a total body approach for improving our mental health during financially stressful times and exercise has been shown to boost our feel good endorphins and alleviate stress. Even if you aren’t interested in getting a gym membership, simply going for a 30 minute walk outside or having a daily dance party can help.
Engage in generosity
Generosity has been shown to improve your overall health by lowering the risk of depression and anxiety, reducing the stress hormone cortisol, and triggers feel-good chemicals like endorphins, dopamine, and oxytocin to make us happy. The simple act of giving – whether it’s your time, thoughtful care packages, or money – can go a long way in improving your mental health when dealing with hard financial times.
I won’t sit here and pretend to know what you are going through. What I can say is this: whatever you are going through is valid. That’s why I had you acknowledge it as step 1. With that said, I know a lot of people, myself included, need the reminder sometimes that there is always someone out there who has it worse. So, even if it feels impossible, find some ways to practice gratitude for all that you do have. Remind yourself about your values, skills, relationships, or whatever it is that gives your life meaning and celebrate that.
Originally Published by: theconfusedmillennial.com