How I Manage Financial Anxiety During Tough Times
The pandemic was hard on everyone, but it’s hard not to feel alone in your struggles when they feel so big. After losing my job in March of last year and breaking up with my boyfriend — who moved out and stopped paying rent — I was in for one wild ride, and so were my finances. During this tough time, I had to find new ways to manage my financial anxiety and make ends meet.
Here are just a few tips that helped me endure this challenging season without losing my mind in the process.
Rethink the budget
When I feel myself starting to get anxious about my finances, the first thing I do is revisit my budget. Am I spending too much money on anything I’m not using or enjoying? Maybe I could save more or pay off debt quicker if I nixed certain spending habits. Sometimes, I realize I’m paying for streaming services and apps I no longer use, which could also free up some money. Regardless, rethinking the budget always helps me find more wiggle room and eases my worries.
For a long while, I wrote checks or made online payments to cover everything from rent to the cable bill. When a statement didn’t show up in the mail I’d panic. I also forgot to pay invoices a few times because life got busy and I got distracted. Well, it only took a few late fees and a lower credit score for me to switch to automated payments. Now, my bills are completely paperless and I don’t have to think about paying any manually.
Prioritize healthy eating
When the savings account is small and I feel like I barely have enough to make ends meet, it’s tempting to swing through the drive-through and enjoy a $5 meal. However, I consciously make the effort to buy groceries and make myself a meal when I have the funds to do so. Ultimately, this option is more affordable in the long term and allows me to choose healthier items than most fast food joints can offer. Plus, I know that eating well supports better mental and physical health, which will help me make smarter financial decisions in the end.
Schedule money check-ins
Whether I feel like I have my finances under control or not, I always schedule a monthly money check-in to reevaluate my budget and resolve any impending financial issues. This is especially important as I require access to a medication every month that continues to increase in price. Prescription drugs are becoming more expensive in general, with specialty Rx costs increasing by as much as 20% each year. Make sure you’re factoring in potential increases in areas like this when you do your budgeting.
Do a body scan
Whenever I notice myself worrying about finances, I do a quick body scan. This simple technique involves directing my attention to different areas of my body — from my head to my toes. Are there parts of me that feel tense? Maybe I’m experiencing aches and pains or an upset stomach as a result of my anxiety. Once I pinpoint these tension spots, I do another scan to consciously relax each one. While this exercise won’t completely eradicate pain or fix my finances, it does help me find a few minutes of relaxation so I can gain some mental clarity and refocus.
Find free entertainment
Sometimes, nothing can quiet my irrational fears or silence my worries. On these days, I turn to free forms of entertainment to distract my brain and force myself to relax. For example, I like to go to the art museum on Mondays because they offer free admission and the beautiful sculptures and canvases always help take my mind off things. Other nights, I’ll invite some friends over for a bonfire or a chill evening on the back patio.
On days I don’t want to be social or go out in public, I practice other forms of self-care. Maybe I’ll take a bath or paint my nails. Often, I’ll journal, practice yoga or go to the park to take a walk. Of course, these distractions won’t solve my financial troubles. However, when times are tough and you’ve done all that you can to ensure financial stability, taking care of yourself is the next best step. So I don’t feel guilty for prioritizing my mental health these days.
Get professional advice
At some point, I decided that I simply couldn’t manage my finances alone. The stress was just too much to handle on my own, so I talked to my bank and made an appointment with a financial advisor. He was able to point out the flaws in my budget and put me on a fast track to success. Of course, I still have anxious thoughts and uneasy moments. However, my mental health and bank account are much more stable nowadays.
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