The month of October is Financial Planning Month! This is the time for you and your family to check in on your finances and assess your situation, taking stock of where you are and making plans for what the year ahead will look like in terms of money. Doing a yearly financial planning session like this is a smart idea for just about everyone, but it’s also a seriously unpleasant task for many people.
Nothing is able to stress you out quite like money. If you’ve ever struggled with your finances, you understand. Money problems are very real, and so is the stress they cause. If your financial situation is affecting your mental health, hearing standard stress tips like “go on a walk” or “Try journaling” can be upsetting to hear. How is basic self-care supposed to help you when you’re trying to cope with debt or figure out how to pay all of your bills, especially when the answer is not always as easy as getting a second job? To try and help you with this issue, here are some ways that you can try to cope with and combat stress that’s related to financial problems. These tips might not fix the problem or the stress altogether, but use the ones that work for you, and they will help to make things easier!
Understand the Stress-Money Relationship
Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure does affect it. Lots of new research has been showing strong links between an individual’s financial situation and their general levels of happiness and stress, so it makes sense that being low on cash can make a person so upset. However, being stressed can also affect your finances, creating a vicious cycle that’s hard to break out of.
Stress can lead you to make decisions that harm your finances, like excess shopping, or drinking or smoking (or other substance use and abuse). While these things can help you to feel better in the moment, they only increase your stress down the line. Try to be cognizant of how your stress affects your spending, and look for healthy ways to cope with your stress without spending more money than you have to.
Track Your Finances Diligently
The first step to tackling the source of your stress is to keep track of all of your finances, and that does mean everything. Keep a record of all spending, even the most innocuous things like a snack on your way home, as well as all of your debts and all of your sources of income.
Look for places where you can control your finances. This will be different for every person in every situation. Maybe you can save money on gas by arranging carpools with friends and family, or buy your groceries in bulk to cut down on how much you spend on food. When you have all of your finances laid out in front of you, you should be able to find at least a few small changes you can make. Above all, be kind to yourself during this process. It’s easy to beat yourself up over small but frivolous expenses when money is tight, but you will only increase your stress without actually solving the problem.
Make a Plan of Attack
Once you have all your income and expenses on paper, decide what’s doable for you in terms of improving your finances. This means finding additional sources of income if your situation allows it, making cuts to your spending where you can, and being smart about how you pay off any debts you have.
Additionally, take a look at your debts and their interest rates, as well as how much there is to pay off in each individual debt. Sometimes it helps to prioritize paying off a debt with a high interest rate first, as this will prevent you from spending even more money in the long run. You could also consider refinancing loans. Find a strategy that works for you and your situation!
Money stress is still stress, and that makes it a mental health issue. You can do a lot of good for yourself by approaching it the same way you would any other mental health issue, and finding ways to cope with the feeling of stress even if you can’t eliminate the source right away.
If you are able to, get access to therapy or professional help. Speaking to someone who’s trained in mental health care can make a world of difference in how you feel, and they might be able to provide suggestions to improve your situation. If you simply can’t afford it, try to open up to any friends and family that you’re able to lean on. Even if they can’t help you financially, just having someone who can listen kindly and be a shoulder to cry on from time to time will really help you! It’s also important to prioritize time spent with your family and friends, even if you aren’t talking about any financial stress. Staying connected to people you love will help you to feel supported and hopeful.
When your finances are stressing you out, the problem can seem insurmountable, but with a little financial planning and some stress-busting strategies, you will be able to get through this! If you’re experiencing other problems on account of your stress, like depression or migraines, consider applying to one of our clinical studies to see a board-certified physician at no extra cost and get access to new medications and other treatments.