Coping with Financial Stress
There are plenty of good reasons to worry about money, especially in these uncertain times. We've all sat up at night, looking over bills or calculating expenses in our heads, wondering how to handle the present and plan for the future. Many Americans say that financial stress is a problem in their lives. Unfortunately, this worry can get out of control and can make things worse.
Financial difficulties are a leading stressor in society today, and this stress can have serious health consequences. Besides medical effects, stressing over money can cause depression and relationship problems. Financial stress can often be a cause of conflict in relationships.
Fortunately, you can fight back against financial stress. Here are a few ways to get started and stop letting money woes run your life.
Get a Handle On the Situation
It's easy to imagine the worst when you don't know what's going on. Sometimes financial stress is so bad that people will leave bills unopened and stop checking their bank accounts. This avoidance makes things much worse.
Instead of avoiding, schedule a dedicated block of time to figure out where you are and form a game plan. Take stock of your actual situation by compiling all your account information. How much do you owe? How much do you have? Facing facts is scary at first, but it's a necessary step to fixing the problem.
Make a Game Plan for Debt
Once you know how bad the problem is, don't despair. Plenty of people have faced financial ruin, including bankruptcy, only to bounce back into success. The important thing is to create a workable plan for your future. Before you decide how to proceed, consider contacting your debt holders to work out a payment plan with them. In some cases, you can even get your debt decreased by doing this. Then, focus on paying off the debts with the highest interest first.
Make a Budget
A lot of financial stress is caused by uncertainty, especially about the future. The easiest way to conquer this is to make a clear, consistent budget and stick to it. List your outgoing expenses and look for wasteful spending, then eliminate it.
You don't need to stop having fun, just set a budget for extras like entertainment and shopping. You'll find more stress relief from shopping within a budget than you ever did by overspending. Especially if "retail therapy" has been your go-to stress reliever.
The fact is, stress is a part of life. Even if you had no financial worries, you'd probably have something else to make you worry. Learning to deal with stress is a skill that will benefit you for the rest of your life. For many people, mindfulness techniques and even simple meditation can work wonders for their stress. You can learn about these techniques online for free or ask your doctor for recommendations. Other scientifically proven stress relievers include exercise, time spent outdoors, and time spent with loved ones, including pets.
Take Advantage of Free Help
There are many free applications and services available designed to help you with your finances and stress. Manage your budget and bills using one of the many free apps available for smartphones. Even if you don't have a smartphone, your local financial institution will have tools to guide you. Similarly, free apps, websites, and community groups can help you with your stress. Learning meditation skills and mindfulness can be done in your backyard or living room, at absolutely no cost, except for a little of your time.
Talk to a Professional
If your unpaid debt, tax liability, or other financial obligation is causing more stress in your life, don't hesitate to ask for help. And getting help doesn't need to cost you a ton of money. There are low-cost or free options available through nonprofits and your local communities.
If you feel like you are having trouble coping with the stress, and it is beginning to affect your health, talk to your doctor or someone at a local health clinic. They can provide you with resources for managing stress. You can also call free mental health hotlines that are available or join an online support group.
Stay Realistic and Be Proud of Yourself
Your money problems aren't going to disappear overnight. Even people with high incomes struggle to balance their budgets and worry about the future. However, with time and effort, you can get control of your finances. In the meantime, take a minute to congratulate yourself on how far you've come. Instead of sticking your head in the sand and avoiding your problems, you're facing them head-on. That's more than most people do, and it's something that should make you proud.
Remember, you're not alone. Everyone struggles with financial stress to some extent, even people with money. Luckily, by taking smart steps to manage your money and your mental health, you can beat the odds and get back to living your best life.