Experiencing financial stress is not at all uncommon, and growing up, I clearly remember that most of the issues the adults around me faced were due to stressful financial situations. Many things contribute to financial stress and anxiety — mortgages, student debt, stagnating wages, a competitive job market — the list goes on and on. If you never address the insidious and underlying causes of stress, it’s bound to get worse. CNN Money explains:
Despite an improving economy, nearly 90% of Americans surveyed by the American Psychological Association said the level of stress they are feeling about money has either remained the same or gotten worse in the last year, according to the group’s annual Stress in America report.
Learning how to deal with this stress can be a long and tedious process, but it doesn’t have to be. If you equip yourself with strategies to help ease tension, you can learn to channel that stress into something productive. I’m no expert, but these are three most useful strategies I’ve used in the past, which help me deal with financial stress in my own life.
-Talking to my husband.
Whenever I’m feeling stressed out about money stuff, I find that talking things out with my husband and my friends always makes me feel infinitely better. Since Joe and I share finances, we can usually talk through a long-term and short-term plan for any financial stress we’re experiencing. Sometimes, I have the tendency to keep my fears and anxieties bottled up (which leads me to spill them out like word vomit as we’re trying to fall asleep). But, the 15-20 minutes I take to explain why I’m feeling a certain way always helps. Also, my friends keep me honest about my financial failings and motivate me to make real changes when I’m feeling the most financially vulnerable. It’s a good system that’s worked well for me over the years, and I think that practicing open, honest, and frequent communication to those closest to you is the best way to devise a plan of action.
-Doing something active.
A lot of times when one feels stressed, it’s common to experience a suffocating feeling where your chest feels tight, you get anxious, and your heart rate becomes elevated. (Just typing that is making me sweat!) For me, this typically happens because I can’t change something immediately — there’s usually not a course of action to relieve the stress right then and there. While I’ve gotten better at taking a step back, making a concrete plan of action, and then waiting patiently for the situation to resolve itself over time, I still get the feeling that I need to do something productive. I’ve found that going for a run, taking a yoga class, going for a walk, lifting some weights, etc. gets my mind off the problem and makes me feel much better.
-Setting a few small reachable goals.
This is perhaps the most useful step of handling financial stress — making a firm plan of action. If I identify a problem in my financial life, instead of wasting time stressing over it unnecessarily for days/weeks/months on end, I vocalize a solution to someone who can keep me accountable. The goal I set is usually small; This way, it’s likely that I’ll succeed and that pattern of success will snowball into a bigger and more monumental life change. Rather than sobbing as you flip through your credit card statements because you spent 1/3 of your monthly income on coffee, map out a concrete way to adjust spending for the next month. If you’re worried about the possibility of losing a job and vital income, apply for part-time weekend or evening work, and diversify your income.
Below are some excerpts of awesome advice for dealing with financial stress taken from articles written on the subject. Be sure to read each article in full, as they’re filled with more resources that can help you overcome whatever financial burden you’re dealing with. Take a look at these eleven tips straight from the experts.
1. “Though it may sound cliché, keeping a positive attitude and using positive language can reduce your stress response to financial issues in your life. Never say that you can’t increase your income or that you should cut your spending, for instance.”
2. “The first step to overcoming financial problems is to identify the underlying issue that’s causing the financial difficulties. Financial problems are usually a symptom of a bigger issue. To come up with solutions that work in the long run, take the time to identify the real source of your financial troubles.”
3. “To lower financial stress, set a budget for each day and reward yourself. Ask yourself: ‘What is the one thing I can do that will give me the longest-lasting uplift for the least amount of money?”
4. “If you are really struggling with getting a handle on your budget and spending issues, do not be afraid to get outside help. You can take classes on basic money management and investing that will help you plan out a budget and do the things you need to succeed financially.”
5. “Equip yourself with information. As simplistic as it may sound, experts say your stress will diminish once you estimate how much money you have for retirement and how much you’ll need. You may be pleasantly surprised and find out you’re in better shape than you think.”
6. “Ignore the Joneses. Even if you make the same salary as someone else, there are myriad differences in a family’s cash flow with things like debt, number of kids and marital status setting everyone apart. Focus on what you can afford, what your goals are and things that are important to you, like time spent with family, etc.”
7. “Make it a group project. Every hard task becomes easier with the support of friends and family, so share your goals. Leaning on your relationships can also help keep you on track. There’s no better stress reducer than spending quality time with loved ones.”
8. “Take care of yourself. Now is not the time to neglect your physical and mental health. Maybe for financial reasons, you need to cut out that biweekly yoga or tae kwon do class for a little while, but that doesn’t mean you can’t practice at home on your own.”
9. “One of the most important ways to feel more financially secure is to build an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses. Ideally, you want enough savings in your account to cover six months or more of essential living costs.”
10. “The best advice I can give to people in a similar situation is to prioritize what matters to you and see if you can’t come up with lower-cost alternatives that help reduce your monthly expenditures while still letting you enjoy life.”
11. “Celebrate financial successes. By far, one of the best ways to reduce money stress is to see the bigger picture. People lose sight quickly of mountains they’ve already climbed. Take some time to reflect on previous times you’ve made it through, and both big and small victories.”
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