Financial stress is real, especially when you’re unemployed or struggling to make ends meet. While the economy is rebounding, we’re still seeing a national unemployment rate of 8.9% and rising energy costs.
So it’s not surprising to hear that money is one of the leading causes of stress. Does financial stress have you down? Here are a some tips from the American Psychological Association to help you manage your stress:
Managing your stress in tough economic times
Money is on the minds of most Americans. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2010 Stress in America survey, over three-quarters of Americans (76 percent) cite money as a significant cause of stress. And while the economy appears to be becoming healthier, personal financial problems still worry many Americans.
But, like most of our everyday stress, this extra tension can be managed. There are healthy strategies available for managing stress during any difficult financial time for you and your family.
The American Psychological Association offers these tips to help deal with your stress about money and the economy:
- Pause but don’t panic. There are many negative stories in newspapers and on television about the state of the economy. Pay attention to what’s happening around you, but refrain from getting caught up in doom-and-gloom hype, which can lead to high levels of anxiety and bad decision making. Avoid the tendency to overreact or to become passive. Remain calm and stay focused.
- Identify your financial stressors and make a plan. Take stock of your particular financial situation and what causes you stress. Write down specific ways you and your family can reduce expenses or manage your finances more efficiently. Then commit to a specific plan and review it regularly. Although this can be anxiety-provoking in the short term, putting things down on paper and committing to a plan can reduce stress. If you are having trouble paying bills or staying on top of debt, reach out for help by calling your bank, utilities or credit card company.
- Recognize how you deal with stress related to money. In tough economic times some people are more likely to relieve stress by turning to unhealthy activities like smoking, drinking, gambling or emotional eating. The strain can also lead to more conflict and arguments between partners. Be alert to these behaviors—if they are causing you trouble, consider seeking help from a psychologist or community mental health clinic before the problem gets worse.
- Turn these challenging times into opportunities for real growth and change. Times like this, while difficult, can offer opportunities to take stock of your current situation and make needed changes. Think of ways that these economic challenges can motivate you to find healthier ways to deal with stress. Try taking a walk—it’s an inexpensive way to get good exercise. Having dinner at home with your family may not only save you money, but help bring you closer together. Consider learning a new skill. Take a course through your employer or look into low-cost resources in your community that can lead to a better job. The key is to use this time to think outside the box and try new ways of managing your life.
- Ask for professional support. Credit counseling services and financial planners are available to help you take control over your money situation. If you continue to be overwhelmed by the stress, you may want to talk with a psychologist who can help you address the emotions behind your financial worries, manage stress, and change unhealthy behaviors.
More information about the 2010 APA Stress in America Survey is available.
This tip sheet was made possible with help from APA member Nancy Molitor, PhD.
Updated November 2010
Financial stress can really weigh you down. A few helpful tips I’d add are to:
- Think Positive – I know it may be hard not to dwell on the negative, but I encourage you to think positive. Having a positive mindset can really help you turn things around.
“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.”
– Willie Nelson
- Appreciate What You Have – Outside of money issues, I’m sure there are many people and things you have to be thankful for in your life like your family/friends and health. Thinking about what you have to be thankful for always seems to make the situation a little better.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
– Oprah Winfrey
- Take Control of Your Money – Sometimes we think that the answer to our money problems is more money, but that’s not always the case. Have you ever heard of the saying “More Money, More Problems”?
Besides, if the answer to financial problems was more money, please tell me why so many lottery winners end up financially worse off (Really, tell me this – please respond using comments below). Despite winning millions of dollars, their dream of winning the lottery turns into a living nightmare when they’re left broke or have to file for bankruptcy.
On the other hand, you have those earning modest incomes—retiring with millions of dollars put away. Is it how you manage your money that really matters? I believe so. Could it be that it’s not how much you make, but how you spend it that really counts? As a financial coach, I enjoy helping my clients improve their money management skills, so they can have more peace of mind.
Read my blog post How to Gain Control of Your Money, for some tips on how you can take control of your money.
Do You Have Any Other Tips for Dealing with Financial Stress?
Photo: Amy McTigue