Calming your worries about finances is easy to say and difficult to do, but first, try not to panic. Staying calm will help you think rationally about your finances. So take a deep breath and try the following suggestions.
- Turn off the news. While it's important to stay informed, it's also possible to take in too much information. If the newspaper, television, or Internet news is focusing on the economic crisis, turn your attention to something else. Don't get caught up in the hysteria, especially with the late-night TV news. You don't need this extra reminder just before you go to sleep. Instead, allow yourself to wind down and close out the day calmly without that last jab of anxiety.
- Face the facts. It may seem easier to pretend that everything is fine, but you need to know how the economy is affecting you. Ignoring bills or retirement account statements is not a healthy way of dealing with the problem and can actually cause more stress. So sit down and identify problem areas such as high credit card debt, a depleted savings account, or job insecurity. Also take stock of your monthly expenses, both necessities and luxuries.
- Make a plan. Once you know where you stand, write down your action plan. Maybe it includes cutting spending on non-necessities, updating your résumé in case you need to look for a job, or talking to your bank or credit card company about payment options or interest rates.
- Seek professional financial advice. Assessing your finances can be overwhelming, so don't be afraid to contact a credit counselor or financial planner if you need help.
- Don't focus on the problem Once you've put your plan into action, stop dwelling on what might go wrong. Remind yourself that you've done everything you can to take care of your financial future.
- Remember your strengths. Although financial problems can seem hopeless, look back on other times when you've faced challenges. Knowing that you had the strength to overcome these past hurdles can make your current situation seem less overwhelming.
- Be healthy and thrifty. Exercising can be a fantasticand freeway to relieve stress. Go for a walk, and invite a family member or friend to go with you. Dinners at home can be less expensive and healthier than restaurant meals, and cooking with others can be an enjoyable activity.
- Reach out to friends and family. When faced with a stressful situation, it's often helpful to realize that you're not alone. Try to get together with friends and family regularly. You don't want to dwell on the financial crisis, but talking to others does help lend perspective, and you may even get some good ideas on how to weather the storm.
If you find that you’re still feeling a great deal of stress about your financial picture, you may want to speak with a mental health provider to help you through this time. Counselors can teach you a variety of stress-reduction methods, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation techniques that aim to change negative ways of thinking and your body's response to stress. You can then draw on these techniques when any stressful situation threatens to overwhelm you and jeopardize your mental health.
You don't have to let financial concerns get in the way of receiving help. Many mental health professionals charge on a sliding scale, meaning your fee is based on what you can afford. In addition, federally-funded health centers provide care at low prices to people with no health insurance. A pastoral counselor at your church, synagogue, or mosque is another form of less expensive help.
It is very important to seek help if you feel the stress has triggered a depressive episode or worsened depression or anxiety. If you are having suicidal thoughts, seek medical help immediately by calling your doctor, 911, or the toll-free, 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK.