How to Cope with Financial Stress

With all the news lately about Wall Street, the Stock Market, the housing crisis, and so on, it seems like a good time to talk about Financial Stress.

The truth is: Everybody worries about money, at least, everybody I’ve ever met. Either we don’t have enough of it and we worry about how to get more, or we have too much and we worry about what to do with it.

In our culture, money is value, money is power, money is status, and money is success. Money also represents security in the minds of most people. And, not surprisingly, it’s also the single biggest cause of arguments between couples.

Money is a loaded subject any way you look at it. Always has been, and probably always will be. So while a certain amount of financial stress is to be expected, recent events have really compounded our stress.

The United States of America as a nation has enjoyed one of the highest standards of living in the world. We have also been very generous about sharing our wealth with those less fortunate at home and around the globe. But now, as the nation’s financial crisis touches all of us in one way or another, it is hard not to be afraid for our personal as well as national futures.

The housing market is in trouble and many mortgages are higher than homes are currently worth. Major corporations are downsizing and thousands of jobs are being lost. Is it a Recession? Another Depression? The news is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week, and it seems like none of it is good.

With all these very real problems and all the financial stress and anxiety they produce, what can we do to cope?

Practical Advice:

First of all, recognize that there is a boundary between what you can have some control over and what is beyond your reach. It may even help to write a list so you can see it in black and white.

    If there are prudent steps you can take to increase your financial security, take them.

    Set up a family budget and stick to it. (I searched on-line and found this site that explains how to set up a family budget. (Note: This link will open a new window.) There are other sites, too, of course, but I kinda liked this one.

    Choose more carefully what you spend your money on. My mother always used to ask the question “Is it critically important?” as her litmus test for whether or not to buy something, and she was known in the family as “Old Resourceful Jodie.” We always had what we needed and managed just fine without everything we wanted.

    Enlist the whole family to help with grocery shopping and meal preparation instead of buying expensive pre-prepared foods or eating out. Here are some ideas about how to talk with your children about money. Practice making do, instead of buying new. (I can hear people already wailing "But what about the holidays?")

Emotional Advice:

Once you’ve taken whatever action you can take, let the rest go. Quit watching every newscast, quit reading every article. Change the station from talk radio to soothing or even energizing music.

Now, I know that’s practically blasphemous to say out loud in our media saturated country, but I’m convinced that it does more harm than good to stay connected every moment. Most of the information in the media is way beyond the influence of us regular folks, and if anything really significant happens, we’ll hear about it.

Staying “plugged in” only keeps our stress levels elevated. Remember that our fight or flight reflexes kick in whenever we feel threatened – and that absolutely includes financial stress. But once we’ve done whatever lies within our power to do, then to stay in a heightened state of anxiety only floods our bodies with stress hormones. We’re “all keyed up with nowhere to go,” and that is really hard on us physically.

So be protective of yourself and go on a news diet – get really picky about what you allow into your mental space. Is that piece of pie worth the calories? Is that report worth the stress? Exercise your options to choose what you take into your mind as well as your body.

Physical Advice:

Play. Take walks, go dancing, toss a football, enjoy some private time with your partner. Allow your body to connect with the physical world by hiking some trails and viewing the changing seasons. Remind yourself that the trees and the mountains continue to stand and the seasons continue to turn regardless of the changes that happen in life. This is one of those “seek the bigger picture” moments.

And also, be especially kind to your body. Really make the effort to eat right and get enough sleep so that you’re not reaching for quick pick-me-ups that let you down hard when they wear off. If you don’t already, consider taking a daily multivitamin as extra nutritional insurance.

And, lastly, remember that "this, too, shall pass."

Brought to you by:

A Better Day Counseling Services & Paula Sharp, LCSW

Serving Boise, Eagle, Meridian and Treasure Valley, Idaho

Located at: 1414 W. Franklin St., Boise, ID 83702

(208) 344-4343

In the Heart of Boise, for Good!

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