Managing Your Money-Related Stress

As talk of falling housing prices, rising consumer debt and declining retail sales bring up worries about the nation’s economic health, most of us feel additional stress and anxiety about our personal finances starting out a new year.  Money is often on the minds of most Americans. In fact, money and work are two of the top sources of stress for almost 75 percent of Americans according to the American Psychological Association’s 2007 Stress in America survey. Add to the mix headlines declaring a looming economic recession, and many begin to fear how they can handle any further financial crunch.

But, like most of our everyday stress, this extra tension can be managed. While there are some unknown effects in every economic downturn, our nation has experienced recessions before, and has always rebounded. However, the mental health professionals at the LIFELINE Program can recommend a few proven strategies for managing money-related stress during tough economic times.

Pause but Don’t Panic
There are many negative stories in newspapers and on television about the state of the economy. Pay attention to what’s happening around you, but refrain from getting caught up in all the doom-and-gloom which can lead to high levels of anxiety and bad decision-making. Avoid the tendency to overreact or to become passive. Stay focused.

Identify Your Financial Stressors and Make a Plan
Take stock of your particular financial situation and what causes you stress. Write down specific ways you and your family can reduce expenses or manage your finances more efficiently. Then commit to a specific plan, and remember to review it regularly. Although this can be anxiety-provoking in the short-term, putting things down on paper and committing to a plan can reduce your money-related stress a great deal.

Turn Challenging Times into Opportunities for Real Growth and Change
Times like this, while difficult, can offer opportunities to take stock of your current situation and make needed changes. Think of ways that the current economic challenges can motivate you to find better ways to deal with stress. For example, take more walks. It’s an inexpensive way to get good exercise. Having dinner at home with your family may not only save you money, but help bring you closer together. Consider learning a new skill. Take a course through your employer or look into low-cost educational opportunities in your community. The key is to use this time to think outside the box and try new ways of managing your finances and life.

Professional Money Advice
If you are having trouble paying bills or staying on top of debt, reach out for help by calling your bank, utility, mortgage or credit card company. Credit counseling services and financial planners are also available to help you take control of your financial situation.

In tough economic times, some people are more likely to relieve stress by turning to unhealthy activities like smoking, drinking, gambling or emotional overeating. The strain can also lead to more conflict and arguments between family members. If your continuing efforts to effectively deal with money-related stress don’t seem to be working, you may want to talk with a LIFELINE counselor before the problem gets worse. Remember it’s free and confidential, 1-800-284-7575.

Call LIFELINE 24/7 at 1-800-284-7575.  They are ready to help!