How to deal with financial anxiety

Financial Anxiety

Benjamin Franklin once wrote that only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. It’s also tempting to conclude that they may be the things that most worry us – but you’d be wrong.

Death, and our health more generally, may be important to us, but there’s something we are more afraid of:

Money.

No matter what list of ‘things we worry about’ you look at, money is consistently near the top. We all have families, relationships and are surrounded by crime and foul weather, and yet it is the decimal places in our bank accounts that really make us sweat the most.

It’s actually no surprise. Debt is a heavy burden, bills are high, job security is low, and the world is an even tougher place if you’re in financial strife.

But money worries are taking an increasingly hefty toll on the mental and actual health of young Australians, who are facing a world with a volatile economy and an uncertain future.

Start to sweat when you click on that app to check your bank balance? Tax time keeping you awake at night? Christmas decorations trigger more thoughts of ‘where am I going to find the money?’ than ‘deck the halls with boughs of holly’?

Here are seven things you can do to face up to your fear.

Get active

Exercise is not only good for your blood pressure, cholesterol and waistline; it’s also great for relieving stress.

No matter what’s going on in your life, working out boosts your mood and can help put things into perspective. It’s also a brilliant way to indulge a hobby without spending too much money, as most of us already have a pair of trainers near the back door.

Talk about it

Just like an ostrich plunges its head in the sand, many of us go into a state of silent panic at the sign of financial stress. But a silent debt problem is still a debt problem, while being open and talking to someone close about it could be the start of getting yourself back in the black.

Get help

While talking with a friend is always better than bottling it all up, often the advice you need is professional.

Money may be big in your life, but don’t forget you’re not an expert – and you may be over-blowing the problem in your mind. There are plenty of professionals you can seek advice from – and you’d be surprised how even calling the free National Debt Helpline or getting in touch with a financial counsellor can make everything seem so much better.

Keep swimming ahead

All too often, a little bit of stress about an unpaid bill or anxiety about tax time can start chipping away at our psyche and put our daily routine out of whack.

But it’s when you lose your routine that money worries can really start to snowball. An out-of-character extra drink to deal with the worry can turn into a drinking problem; skipping meals can open up a path to bad health; and staying home instead of seeing your mates can close the door to an important stress-relief valve.

And most importantly, performing badly and losing your job or your relationship really isn’t going to help at all, is it?

Don’t apportion blame

Because our financial lives can be complicated, it can’t all be smooth sailing all the time. But when things do go wrong, the easiest thing to do is blame either ourselves or those around us.

And it’s that sort of thinking – ‘this always happens to me!’, or ‘why on earth would you do that?!’ – that is purely destructive. Setbacks can often seem like the end of the world, but instead of freaking out, ask yourself ‘what have I learned from this?’ Or ‘what can I change?’

Get your priorities straight

As we’ve suggested, when you’re worrying about money, you tend to lose sight of what really matters.

At the end of the day, even if you’re completely bankrupt but you’re alive and healthy, you’re already doing a whole lot better than an awful lot of unfortunate people.

Prioritising your finances is also a great way to deal with, rather than dwell on, a problem. Remember, having a roof over your head and keeping your job and family are the top priorities, while the holiday you had planned for six months’ time can easily be delayed.

Budget, save … and worry a little bit

Finally, it’s time to just get real. If you’re worried about money, it could be that you’re in a bit of a pickle – and that might actually be your fault.

Are you overspending? Sit down and figure out a daily budget – and then stick to it. As you come in under budget, put the extra away as savings and start to feel those money worries slip away, day by day.

While worrying excessively about anything is not good, balancing your money against a healthy level of concern is actually good for making sound spending, saving and investment decisions.

So, stop associating your money with “fear” and replace it instead with “respect” – and plan carefully and confidently for a prosperous future.

Here at Clover, we’re dedicated to helping Australians like you feel empowered about your money, so take our free financial health check to learn how much you should spend, save and stash in 5 questions.

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Also published on Medium.