Tips for Dealing with Financial Stress

December 24, 2013

 

Financial stress can affect anyone in any situation. In fact, for many, finances are the number one cause of stress. It can be emotionally and physically draining, leading to anything from depression to anxiety attacks.

For me, one of the most difficult things to deal with after my divorce was finances. Divorce alone can be a huge challenge, much less if you are dealing with financial stress on top of it. After living in a dual income situation with children, it was difficult to start over. I had to teach myself how to take care of my finances --  something I hadn’t done on my own for at least 13 years.

At 36, I felt like an 18 year old leaving home and I hated it. I was embarrassed that I didn’t know how to manage simple financial tasks.  I didn’t even really realize where I, personally, was financially. I needed to stop getting down on myself and find my financial independence. It wasn’t until I took mental control of the situation that I really made it work and was able to decrease my stress level.

Budget: I’m terrible at budgeting. I admit it. I was the queen of picking up food here and there without having a lot in the house and also walking into Target on a daily basis. Have you ever walked out of Target without buying something you didn’t need? I didn’t think so. I now have a budget for bills, food, kids, clothes, and fun. I also make meal plans for the week and keep away from trigger stores -- such as Target -- unless I really need something.

Daily check in: I started looking at my checking account on a daily basis. I know. Who doesn’t do this? Well, me. I didn’t do it. Now, I know what is in my account at all times and I see every transaction go through. In doing this, I was able to catch that I was being charged triple for an auto-pay health membership over two months. When I wasn’t looking at my account and I would overdraw it, I would assume that I overspent. Fortunately for me, they were beyond apologetic and gave me an immediate refund.

Focus on health: Why did I pay for a membership somewhere when I was on a tight budget? This is the only way I would get exercise. I am a lazy person. There I said it. I need LOTS of motivation to get me off the couch. In joining this studio, I was able to get a variety of workouts and, since I was paying for it and I could go when it was convenient for me, I did it. I felt great. My body felt better and I was learning how to eat better since one of the instructors is also a nutritionist. I have since temporarily cancelled the membership due to holiday budget and chaos but I can still drop in anytime for a very affordable $10. If I’m feeling run down, I just bring my stuff and go after work. This studio has turned out to be a great support both physically and mentally.

All around support: Look to your family and friends. As an extrovert, I need people around to keep me up. Don’t get me wrong, I love my alone time, but my friends and family also won’t let me wallow when it isn’t necessary. Surround yourself with good people who can be that positive push to get you back on the right track.

Write it down: If I am trying to sleep and my brain is working overtime, I have a journal that I write in. It used to be a hardback book and a pen. Lately I've been using an online version at livejournal.com. You can make it public, selectively public, or completely private. I write much faster with a keyboard than a pen and I can almost keep up with my train of thought. If I can’t sleep, I “purge” in my journal and find that it helps. Don’t stay up worrying about what you can’t fix today. Save your thoughts and work on them in the morning.

Get help: To some, “therapy” is a bad word. I don’t know why helping yourself should be considered bad, but it is for some reason. There are many resources around for getting the therapy or counseling you need. If your insurance doesn’t cover it, look up places that do a sliding scale to help those who are having difficulties with finances. Some places even offer one or two sessions for free. Whether it be financial stress or otherwise, it doesn’t hurt to check it out. These people are trained to help you sort out the issues and get you back on track.

Final Thoughts

Do I still get stressed? Of course I do. While it might be difficult depending on your situation, focus on the positive. Focus on the good in your life -- kids, jobs, friends, activities. Keeping an eye on the good things can help put everything else into perspective.