By Hanniz Lam
Thinking about your money situation can be nerve wrecking especially if you don’t have much of it and have many bills to pay.
It can make you feel like the sky is falling down on you but chances are, it will not.
Here are 5 tips to help you cope with your financial stress.
1. Know you are not alone
When we feel alone our stress increases. If you’re are stressed about money it’s important to know that you’re not alone. Speak to your friends and ask them how they sort their finances out.
There’s a good chance that a friend who seems worry-free has even more worries than you and together you could even build a routine to get your finances in order.
Talk to people who can help you out, not bring you down even further.
2. Take a time-out
When we are anxious our minds can make the situation seem worse than it really is. It is important to take a break and clear your head. Building in some activities to initiate a relaxation response are important for your mental health.
This might include talking a walk, listening to music, reading a book, or taking some time to do some deep breathing. Doing breathing exercises can help lower your heart rate, decrease your blood pressure, lower your stress hormones and help you think clearly.
3. Avoid catastrophic thinking
“I have credit card debt. I’m a failure. At everything.”
“I lost my job. I’m going to be poor. Forever.”
When our finances feel out of control it’s easy to slip into catastrophic thinking, where we think irrationally about what is likely to happen and who we are. These exaggerated thoughts create stressful emotions. To minimize the negative impact of irrational worries you need to keep things in perspective. This is where the next tip can come in helpful.
4. Think about the worst-case scenario
“Hanniz, what are you trying to tell me? First you suggest I avoid catastrophic thinking and now you’re asking me to think about the worst-case scenario?” you scream.
Hear me out. While your financial situation is most likely not life-threatening, your financial stress can be. This exercise helps you face your fears straight on. Taking a hard look at the worst-case scenario can help to put things into perspective. It can help you think logically about the situation and what steps you can take to remedy the situation.
For example, if you lost your job, what would happen next? If you had to move in with your family or friends, then what would happen? Keep following the chain of worst possible outcomes. For most people, fleshing out the details leads them to realize that the situation, while uncomfortable and possibly inconvenient, is not life-threatening and that they could eventually get back on track.
5. Ask for help
Our anxiety soars when we lack confidence in our ability to face a challenge. This is common in the realm of personal finance, where many of us lack basic financial literacy.
If your financial anxiety is making it difficult for you to manage your life you may benefit from help. Consider working with a mental health and/or financial planning professional to help you cope with your anxiety and make progress on tackling your financial challenges.
I came across this article yesterday about how one Sabahan who came from a poor family had to give up his studies at 14 years old to take care of his family. He left Sabah in pursuit of better opportunities in Kuala Lumpur only to find out how competitive it was to get a job.
Despite putting in all the hours, he future seemed bleak until one day…