If you’re stressed about money, rest assured you are far from alone. In fact, a recent survey from Northwestern Mutual identified money as the leading source of stress in America — with 44 percent of respondents attributing their anxieties first and foremost to finances. To put this figure in perspective, consider the fact that significantly fewer respondents cited personal relationships (25 percent) and work (18 percent) as the leading stressors in their lives.
The survey also dug deeper into specific aspects of money stress, including:
- The rising cost of healthcare
- Unplanned financial emergencies
- Unplanned health emergencies
- Level of savings
- Planning for retirement
It’s entirely normal to be concerned about finances, but serious problems can arise when that tension starts to affect other areas of your life — or perhaps even causes you to avoid confronting your financial situation head-on.
Here are three tips for dealing with financial stress effectively to help you make prudent decisions and keep financial worries from leaking into other areas of your life.
Get a Clear Picture of Your Financial Situation
Debt expert and Freedom Debt Relief co-founder Andrew Housser recently linked to an article about coping with financial stress — and one of the major takeaways from it is the power of knowledge. Money-related anxiety can in turn fuel denial, which in turn energizes anxiety even more. One important step in quelling financial stress is taking control, and you can only do so if you have a realistic idea of your income, expenses, debts and savings.
The article recommends setting aside an afternoon to “take stock of your complete financial situation,” including income, assets, savings, expenses and debts. This is also an ideal time to identify some pain points you’re experiencing — like lack of a budget, overspending in certain categories, lack of an emergency fund and more.
Think about how difficult it would be to build a house without a blueprint. Well, taking stock of your financial reality is the first step toward being able to come up with a plan. Knowing these important details about your personal finances will empower you.
You may find it helpful during this stage to meet with a certified credit counselor. This trained professional can help you compile all this information and create a workable budget, as well as set money-related goals.
Find Personal and Professional Support
Dealing with money worries can feel downright isolating at times, which is why it’s so important to seek out support — both personally and professionally.
Is there someone trustworthy in your life you could talk to about money stress? Although it can feel very daunting to open up about financial anxieties, it’s often helpful to know others can relate to what you’re going through.
Similarly, consider accessing mental health services if possible. Many therapists are skilled in addressing issues related to financial distress, including its impact on mental and physical health, relationships and more. If money is tight, you may be able to find a local mental health professional who sets fees on a sliding scale.
Limit Your Exposure to Financial Anxiety Triggers
It’s generally helpful to limit your exposure to unnecessary financial anxiety triggers during this time — such as social media posts of other people on luxurious vacations or online shopping accounts. Anything that tempts you to overspend or throw your budget out the window is counterproductive to your empowering money management efforts. Limiting your exposure encourages you to stay on track and avoid needless stress flare-ups.
Dealing with financial stress effectively will not only help you feel better but will also allow you to focus on what’s really important: coming up with a financial plan and acting on it.