These days it seems as if everyone is worried about money and paying the bills. Nothing tops financial stress when it comes to making people feel anxious, powerless, and stuck. If money problems plague you, here’s help.
You can get a head start on stress and anxiety management with these action steps. They may not feel as good as winning the lottery, but they will ease your pain.
- Do you know how much money is coming in each month? Add it up, and write it down. Many people hide from the facts about income and outgo. You can combat your anxiety by taking control, but first you need information.
- Do you know how much money is going out each month? Put a business-letter-sized envelope somewhere in plain sight on your desk or telephone table. Every time you buy something, put the receipt in the envelope. When the first of the month rolls around, list the receipts on a piece of paper according to type: food, drugstore, pet supplies, and so forth. Then list your rent and utility bills in a separate column, and provide a place for credit card expenses (you can itemize these or not, as you choose). Add up the amounts in each column. Save these sheets for each month, and you will have a record of your expenditures in different areas. You need this information if you want to cut back on expenses. Again, relief from anxiety comes when you take charge.
- Create a plan for reducing the cost of living. Don’t buy coffee out; instead take a thermos or a coffee maker and supplies to the office. Carry a sack lunch and eat it in the park. (Better for your health than fast food!) Revisit the library for free videos and books. You don’t need to own copies of everything. Consider replacing your land line phone with a contract-free cell phone. Scrap your cable service. Stick with clothes you can wash rather than dry clean. If you really must watch television, see what programs you can access online. Throw out those tempting merchant catalogs as soon as they come in the mail. Rather than buy new, visit Craig’s List and consignment shops. With a little ingenuity, you can save a bundle.
- Team up with friends and neighbors. Share what you have that they need. Get what you need that they have. Money doesn’t always have to change hands.
- If financial disaster seems inevitable, and you worry about losing your house, your car, and your dignity, create a backup plan. Where can you live in a pinch? The scheme doesn’t need to be ideal. By definition, it will be used only when all else fails. The knowledge that you have a Plan B will boost your sense of control. The known is always less scary than the unknown.
- Whom can you ask for help? Figure out which friends and family members can supply encouragement, baby sitting, a place to stay overnight, or other essentials. Make sure you are ready to reciprocate when people offer you help. We must reach out to each other, because we’re all in this together.
- Join a church, book club, and/or support group. You need a place where you can talk about the pressure, the stress, and the fears. The moment you share these things, everyone listening is right there with you. We have all been to this frightening place you are describing! You are isolated and alone only when you are keeping your feelings to yourself. Get moral support. Find things to laugh about.
- Take care of your body. Stick with natural, unprocessed foods. Avoid recreational drugs and alcohol, which add to your anxiety. For stress relief, get lots of aerobic exercise. If you can’t afford a gym membership for strength training, build your muscles by doing housework and work around your yard.
- Don’t forget to reward yourself when the going is rough. When we finish one task, many of us flog ourselves into doing more, getting it done faster, starting the next job without looking back. But this is bad management! We all need moments of stocktaking, times when we can notice what we have accomplished and pat ourselves on the back. You probably offer your child congratulations and hugs for hard work well done. Good self-care means you must do the same for yourself.
- If things go wrong, and you make mistakes, take heart. We learn not from our successes but only from our mistakes. Absorb the lesson and move on. You are human. Forgive yourself for errors. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to your own five-year-old child.
- Have faith that things will work out and that you will survive to see better times. Avoid stressing out over things you cannot control.
- Help others whenever you have a chance. Whatever your financial situation, someone else has it worse than you. The upside of stress in difficult times it that it brings people together.