Each year, Financial Finesse releases a research report on Trends in Employee Financial Stress Research. Last year’s report identified that 83% of employees report some financial stress. If you are experiencing overwhelming financial stress and anxiety you should take action immediately. Check out this list of ways to deal with financial stress and anxiety.
1. Take a total wellness approach to dealing with the financial situation. It is important to recognize how you have dealt with financial stress in the past. If it has been with unhealthy behaviors, try a different approach this time around. Focus on eating healthy and get out there and exercise. Some people use prayer, meditation, and yoga while others may choose to focus on more intense exercise such as aerobics, kickboxing, or mixed martial arts. These healthy alternatives are better than unhealthy options such as overspending, neglecting bills or constantly hopping on the consumer debt treadmill.
2. Communicate with others about the situation. Whether you are trying to conquer a mountain of debt or feeling stress about sending your child to college without having to sell vital organs, it is important that you talk with others. This can be a difficult thing to do, especially if money talks were traditionally taboo in your past. It is particularly tough if the person you need to be having the money talking with isn’t on the same page with your financial plans. The good news is that any financial counselors, financial planners, financial therapists, and mental health professionals are trained to intervene when our financial lives impact other aspects of our well being. You can even reach out to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if available at your work to speak with counselors and in many cases, financial professionals.
3. Find hope (and fake optimism if you have to). Optimists are better planners. It’s hard to just flip the switch and create hope and optimism if it isn’t part of our cognitive makeup. This is the classic case of trying to “fake it ‘til you make it” or change your expectations and beliefs to help build self-confidence. Research suggests that smiling (even when you don’t really want to) can actually lower your heart rate and reduce stress. Another technique to find hope in a stressful situation is to create a gratitude list or simply try to visualize being stress free. Don’t feel like a financial expert? Fake it ‘til you make it!
4. Identify the source of stress and anxiety and take action to address the problem. What financial events are triggering stress? Is stress related to trouble making mortgage or student loan payments? Does filing your tax return create anxiety? Are you having trouble staying current with your bills or just not certain where you stand financially? Take some time to identify your money stressors. Creating a list of your goals and priorities is a smart step to take.
Create a financial life plan. Most people recognize the importance of a financial plan, yet not everyone takes the time to create even a basic plan. Part of the problem with the financial planning process is that it can seem overwhelming to have a list of 15-20 action steps we need to take on the path to financial freedom. The simple act of creating a financial life plan that focuses on the top 3 priorities can be an empowering way to overcome the inertia and procrastination that overly complex plans can create. Focus on the things that matter the most to you and tackle these items first, then create the next list of action steps. Asking yourself these 3 basic questions can help you prioritize your to-do list.
5. Setup a personal spending plan. The word “budget” by itself can create a sense of anxiety in most people, especially if you haven’t had success following a budget in the past. So throw the concept of budgeting out the window and focus on establishing (and following) a personal spending plan. You still need to track your expenses on an ongoing basis, but the empowering and often stress relieving part is telling your money where to go before the month begins (just don’t forget to track your progress).
6. Establish a plan to reduce your debt. If debt-related issues are stressing you out, take some action steps to find a solution that works for you. Proven solutions include creating a personal spending plan and freeing up extra money to apply toward debt payments. It may sound a bit simplistic, but a little awareness goes a long way. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by debt and avoid dealing with past due notices or completing a debt inventory to find out exactly where you stand. These 5 Steps to Getting (and Staying) Out of Debt also provides a good framework to attack debt issues head on. If debt is overwhelming, you may need to consider credit counseling or bankruptcy.
If you are experiencing just a little financial stress and anxiety, you are definitely not alone. The American Psychological Association’s Stress in America report identified money as a leading source of stress for adults. No matter how dire the situation may seem, the barriers that are getting in the way of progress (and likely causing anxiety) can be overcome!