Stress is an incredibly broad term; the technical definition is “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.” However, this definition does not reflect the negative connotation of the term in today’s society. The mental strain of stress can very quickly begin to physically affect people suffering from stress, manifesting in such ways as high blood pressure to stiff necks. In fact, doctors theorize that approximately 90% of doctor visits are due to stress-related conditions. What may surprise many people is that, despite the variety of ways in which stress affects its victims, there is one major stressor that is attributed as the source of stress for 72% of adults: money.
Unfortunately, constant stress can lead to an impairment of critical thinking and decision-making skills. Psychologists Jane Raymond and Jennifer L. O’Brien found that people who are stressed are “more likely to bear in mind things that have been rewarding and to overlook information predicting negative outcomes.” Stress produces irrational behavior, which can negatively impact your financial situation. However, there are ways to get rid of your money stress:
Talk About It
Many people are embarrassed about money stress despite the fact that it’s a widespread issue. According to Lynsey Romo of the Journal of Applied Communication Research, “communication can help people cope […] during tough financial times.”
- Choose a Confidante: If you haven’t yet established an honest, open dialogue about your financial life with someone you trust who you know won’t judge you, demean you, or dismiss you. This person doesn’t necessarily have to be a money wizard – here, the important thing is discussing the financial stress itself, which will give you the opportunity to acknowledge and explore the source of your stress.
- Set Aside Time for This Conversation: A discussion about your money stress deserves time and attention. Actually set a date with the person you have chosen to have a conversation with as few interruptions as possible in a safe environment where you can openly communicate with them.
Create a Plan
Once you’ve had a discussion that shares your stress with another person, it’s time to take the next step in getting rid of your money stress. For many people who are stressed about money, the problem seems too big to even begin to conquer, and so develops unchecked until it actually is too late.
- Identify the Major Stressor: Instead of reaching that point, gather all of the information you can about your financial situation. What’s the heart of your stress: debt? Bad credit? Spending too much money?
- Get a Clear Overview: To be able to address this stressor, you have to know exactly what tools you have to work with. How much money do you actually have? What’s your monthly income? What minimum payments could you make to start addressing your debt or credit? What spending could you cut?
Be Realistic About Time
Many excellent plans to get rid of money stress have been undermined by unrealistic expectations about how the amount of time it takes to address financial stress.
- Make it Part of Your Daily Schedule: Trying to squeeze in time to just think about your money into a full day of work, family, and hundreds of other demands on your time can make financial stress into a bigger monster than it actually is. Set aside time at a certain point in the day that is solely for money. It can be a short period – 15 minutes or so – but giving yourself a time to start and then finish dealing with finances will stop it from overwhelming the other parts of your day.
Be Kind to Yourself
American poet Niebhur authored the Serenity Prayer that’s now popular with many twelve-step programs. However, its application to money stress can also be incredibly beneficial.
[Read: Getting Financially Organised]
- Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change: There are certain things about your financial situation that you cannot control; such as the amount of time it takes to change your credit score, sudden unforeseen expenses, and others. Think about an aspect of your money stress, and consider honestly whether or not you can impact it. If the answer is no, let it go.
- The courage to change the things I can: On the other hand, there are many things you can impact. Changing your lifestyle to positively impact your financial situation takes effort and can be frustrating. Allow yourself to feel this frustration, but comfort yourself in the knowledge that what you’re going through will eventually be rewarding.
- And the wisdom to know the difference: Stress is often the result of trying to control things we cannot and not taking action on things we can. Be kind to yourself and take time to actually think about your stressors so you can tell the difference.