The best reaction is action.
By Jenny Hoff, Feature image by Elisa Ventur
Watching what you spend and being aware of what you buy are fantastic money management skills. But when that awareness turns into anxiety and every nonessential purchase creates guilt and stress, it’s time to take steps to curb the apprehension so you control your money, instead of the other way around.
Make a plan.
The best thing you can do to relieve financial anxiety is to make a budget. A plan gives you freedom to make nonessential purchases, to know you are preparing for the future while also meeting today’s needs. If just the thought of creating a detailed budget makes you nervous, you’ll be relieved to know that a budget can be as simple as writing out three columns: How much you need for your fixed costs every month (rent, mortgage, car payments, insurance, school loans), how much you need for variable costs (groceries, gas, entertainment, clothes, coffee, etc.) and how much you need for a rainy day fund.
Take one hour to write out how much you bring home a month post-taxes and calculate how much is realistically needed in each category. Hang that piece of paper on the wall and let your financial reality live in that plan instead of in your head 24/7.
Avoid catastrophic thinking.
Think of all the times you assumed the worst and it didn’t come to pass. Depending on your financial situation, there may be bills you can’t currently pay, wants that you can’t fulfill or even an emergency depleting a hard-earned savings fund. But everything can be figured out. There are free services for financial counseling, budget apps and abundant opportunities to make more money. When you find yourself spiraling toward catastrophic thinking, take one small action in the opposite direction. This could be as simple as googling a free financial counseling program or selling an unused item in your home. You want to remind your brain that the situation is not hopeless.
The best way to avoid the worst-case scenario is to seek help. Whether it’s from a licensed professional or even just getting advice from a friend, speaking out your fears and getting some solutions will help turn that mountain back into a molehill. While you want to avoid catastrophic thinking, you also don’t want to ignore the situation until it gets worse. There are nonprofit organizations that can help create a budget, repair bad credit and offer solutions to break bad financial habits.
Move your body.
Exercise not only improves your physical health, but your mental health as well. Even just taking a walk will elevate your serotonin levels, which will improve your mood. You don’t need to hire a personal trainer or join an expensive gym to reduce your anxiety; just get your body moving, work up a bit of a sweat, and you’ll find yourself feeling much more capable and in control of your situation.
Financial anxiety is common, and if the thought of managing your money makes you feel out of control, know you are not alone. By taking small actions in the right direction, you will redirect your brain from a state of helplessness to one of empowerment.