Are you insanely worried about money? Does worrying about paying the bills and tackling debt keep you up at night or lead to arguments? If so, you are not alone.
I’ve been there
In my early thirties, I was consumed with financial stress. Money worries were on my mind 24/7. For a long time, I rarely felt relaxed. My worry really began to overflow when I faced my financial struggles head on: I was spending more than I made, I still had student loan balances, I received an unexpected large tax bill that I couldn’t afford and I had to figure out how to live on a lower income following a career change.
How I dealt emotionally
I’ve written many times about how I declared my own financial independence and the specific behaviors I changed in order to achieve it over the past twenty years. What I haven’t written about so much is how I emotionally weathered those rough, early years of cutting my expenses, growing my income and tackling debt without losing my mind!
Here are six ways I stayed resilient. Try the one which intrigues you — or all of them in combination for a powerful boost:
1. Walk it off
During the period where I was struggling financially I walked every day for hours, rain or shine, to burn off my nervous energy. As I was young and single at the time, it was easy to just head out the door. Walking became my go-to strategy whenever I felt overwhelmed.
When I walked, I would usually start off ruminating about my problems, but after twenty minutes or so I found an easy rhythm and became more mindful of my surroundings. I walked for errands, for exercise and to spend time in parks. Eventually, I literally walked my way out of debt by giving up my car.
2. Practice yoga for strength, flexibility and acceptance
My big splurge back then was a 90 minute vinyasa class once a week at a beautiful yoga studio. Each class cost $20, so that was 40 percent of my weekly $50 entertainment budget, and it was worth it. At home, I practiced rounds of sun salutations to build strength, hip and shoulder openers to create flexibility, inversions for perspective change and relaxation poses for acceptance.
As my body grew stronger and more flexible, I found that I also became more emotionally resilient. I still practice most days, which helps me keep my sanity regardless of what life throws at me.
3. Meditate to foster kindness and compassion
I’d practiced yoga before, but I’d never tried meditation. Feeling stressed all the time seemed the perfect reason to learn how to do it. I tried a few classes, but what really worked for me was simply sitting quietly in a chair at home and paying attention to my breath for about 20 minutes per day.
4. Process by putting it on paper
When my financial stress was at the highest points, I sometimes found myself bubbling with resentment. I was irritated with myself for letting the situation get out of hand, angry at clients who had not paid their bills and generally mad at the world for not living up to my expectations. Blaming yourself or others is never an effective motivational strategy, though.
Inspired by a book by Julia Cameron about jump starting creativity, The Artist’s Way, I began a journal writing program. For nearly two years, I wrote several pages in school notebooks every morning, writing about whatever I was thinking or feeling at the moment. I also used the questions in the book to prompt more thoughtful responses.
It’s worth noting that I’ve never gone back and read what I wrote – I was content with getting it all out on paper so could leave it behind me.
5. Say your prayers
Prayer is personal, and what feels most meaningful for one person can be different from another, depending on one’s spiritual tradition and beliefs. I can only tell you what helped me.
Despite 16 years of Catholic school, it wasn’t until I hit the financial skids that I developed a daily prayer practice that was personal and connecting. Don’t underestimate the power of asking for help, and for giving thanks for what you do have.
What I found the most helpful was asking God for wisdom and insight, so that I could make wiser decisions, and for resilience, to weather the financial storms.
6. Seek community
The Beatles had it right: we get by with a little help from our friends. The right traveling companions in life can help you in your journey to financial independence. As I wrote in this post, I formed a group with other self-employed friends to support each other in changing our financial habits. Because we each had different financial challenges and skills, we encouraged each other, gained inspiration from each other’s strengths, and held each other accountable.
Financial peace takes time
Going from financial stress to financial peace takes time. I’m financially independent now, but it didn’t happen overnight. Those early years of significant financial behavior changes were a struggle, but they were also deeply transformative.
These practices I’ve described are things that worked for me in supporting my journey. As our blog editor Kelley Long wrote, your money attitude can keep you poor. The opposite is also true — the right money attitude, along with the right financial behaviors, can make you financially independent.
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