How to Reduce Stress and Anxiety Tied to Money
It’s human nature to experience stress as it’s the body’s reaction to a challenge.
But how we perceive or react to a challenge is what determines how stress will affect us.
Generally speaking, stress can be categorised as good or bad.
Good stress, like a home improvement project, can trigger excitement and be a source of motivation.
On the other hand, bad stress, such as job loss and unemployment, can wreak havoc on the body’s mental and physical wellbeing.
When we give in to stress, we are vulnerable to its effects on our body, mood, and behavior.
The most common effects of stress include pain, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, digestive problems, issues with weight, reproductive problems, anxiety, depression, insomnia, irritability, and poor behavioral patterns such as drug and alcohol abuse.
The causes of stress are vast, stemming from perfectionism, pessimism, rigid thinking or mental health conditions — internal factors — and major life events, work, family, or finances — external factors.
Not surprisingly, money and finances have remained the top stressor for Brits for years, according to the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), whose findings are consistent with the belief that financial stress significantly impacts our health and well-being.
1 in 5 adults (22%) in the UK reported ‘not having enough money' as their primary cause of stress.
Overall, 14 million people live in poverty in the UK, with rates recently beginning to rise.
But there’s no need to stress over these facts.
Clinical psychologist, Jodi J. De Luca, Ph.D., says on how to reduce stress:
“Whatever the stressor, we can always cultivate some level of control by coming up with a list of options and solutions that will assist in managing the circumstances. It’s a good first step in coming to a place where we can manage our stressors with a sense of purpose and positivity.”
Assistant professor, Joe Gladstone, UCL School of Management, says on how to reduce stress:
“It's not surprising that money stresses us out because there was no evolutionary pressure on us to ever get good at managing these kinds of resources (unlike food).”
How To Reduce Stress and Anxiety Tied To Money
With the above in mind, lets now consider some practical and meaningful tips for handling financial stress:
1. Place Your Problems in Perspective
Stress is, relatively speaking, a short-term occurrence, being that it’s the body’s response to conflict.
It’s when stress becomes excessive or ongoing — also known as stress buildup — that it can increase the risk of suffering from anxiety.
The bigger problem is that anxiety can compound existing worries and stressors causing them to snowball.
When this occurs, the mind begins an endless war of “what-if” questions — Moving between what might happen in the future and worrying about past decisions or mistakes.
This type of thinking is counterproductive.
You don’t know what will happen in the future and you can’t change the past. If you’re not consciously living in the present you’re robbing yourself from joy; especially financial joy.
A good starting point in handling financial stress is through mindfulness.
Apply the concepts behind mindfulness to your financial stress management by feeling, facing, and then freeing your worries.
Begin to observe your worries by identifying the source of your financial stress.
Is it low-income? Poor spending habits? Crippling debt?
Next, let them go.
What this means is not to engage in negative thinking. For instance, if you aren’t the breadwinner in the family, beating yourself up won’t improve your financial situation.
Much like it won’t do any good to blame your spouse for bringing their student-loan debt into your relationship.
Let past mistakes go, and use the present moment to learn from them.
From there, stay focused on what you can do to change your present financial situation by listing out all of your possible options, creating a plan and committing to it.
2. Choose Your Path
In order to fully execute a financial plan, it must be realistic for your unique needs and goals.
Otherwise, it will not be attainable.
By way of example, spouses may agree on why they need to manage their finances (e.g., inability to keep up with current bills).
But they can be on an entirely different page when it comes down to how they should manage their finances.
Not surprisingly, money is a significant source of conflict for many couples, and differing priorities is a likely culprit.
As I’ve said before, most goals in life require a compromise or trade-off.
Knowing this forces us to realise that what we prioritise as essential is important.
Related posts: 7 Non-Essentials Holding Your Future Hostage
For couples, a sensible suggestion to lower your financial stress is to generate a list of financial priorities.
Then, put ticks next to considerations you both agree on and question marks next to items up for compromise.
When compromising, it can be helpful to keep in mind the greater goal.
If you both want a bigger house or to take a dream holiday, use your goal as a buffer against the disappointment of giving things up.
From there, couples can begin to do things like create a budget that works for them.
The key to a successful budget is to be realistic.
For example, it wouldn’t be wise to base a budget off of the assumption that you might get a pay rise or a better job — in other words, that you will bring in more income down the road.
Again, focus on what you can do in the present moment, like areas where you can cut costs.
Luckily, modern day technology is continuously advancing, making it easier than ever to save money.
For example, see the latest money saving tools in our best resources section.
Other examples include advances in telemedicine, which help to cut costs by ditching the brand name for alternatives like generic versions of the pill or even invisible aligners and braces via a subscription.
Regardless of how you choose to save money, it’s crucial to hold each other accountable for sticking to your budget and revisit and adjust it as needed.
Related post: 5 Ways To Motivate Yourself To Budget Consistently
3. Help Your Future Self
Try to imagine yourself in old age right now.
How does life look if you carry on as you are?
And how would you like life to look when that time comes?
No doubt you'd want a somewhat comfortable life.
Given your knowledge today that concerns about money have negative effects on your wellbeing, it has never been more important to prioritise saving money.
The reality is that your future life is connected to the present.
But rather than worry about it, why not look after your future self by taking small steps today?
Don't be one of those who leaves it too late because they're only considering today.
Yes, your finances might be very tight today, but that narrative does not change without saving money.
You may have to make hard decisions about your lifestyle choices but it will eventually be to your benefit.
Dream of a lottery win is not what will make that change happen.
Action and sacrifice will, and this will give you greater clarity, confidence and reduce stress about the future.
Related post: How Much Money You Should Have Saved By Age
4. Seek Help
A support system is one of the most effective tools for how to reduce stress.
The Mental Health Foundation remarked that those who have someone to turn to when they need emotional support reported lower stress levels and better-related outcomes than those without.
Relationships represent the missing piece in the wellbeing puzzle.
It’s not uncommon to become overwhelmed when keeping up with bills and tackling debt.
The uneasy feeling of not knowing how to become debt free or start your journey to financial independence is enough to send you into a stress-induced spiral alone.
Trusted and experienced friends or family members, charities, and even your service providers are useful resources for those who find it too stressful to go it alone.
Loved ones can discuss what worked for them or mistakes they might have made on the money journey.
Organisations such as Step Change or Citizens Advice Bureau can provide expertise, and even talking directly to creditors like credit card companies or collection agencies can help you set up debt payment plans that work for you.
Alternatively, I can offer you guidance on how you can face your challenges, achieve your goals and move forward in your financial life.
So feel free to get in touch.
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What practical things have you done to reduce stress and anxiety in your life?
Do please share this post if you found it useful, and remember, in all things be thankful and Seek Joy.