Money is a leading cause of stress in Australia. In fact, almost half of Australian adults list money as the leading cause of stress in their lives. Research has found that financial stress can happen to anyone, at any income level, and for those people who suffer prolonged levels of stress it can have lasting consequences on mental, emotional and physical health.
Learning to handle financial stress in healthy ways is very important and will have a positive and lasting impact on not only your health and wellbeing but also your relationships, feelings of self-worth and happiness.
Due to the taboo nature of talking about money it can often be hard to admit to or ask for help when it comes to managing money stress. It seems many people would rather bury their heads in the sand or ignore the elephant in the room, rather than face the issues causing the stress in the first place. But the 'do nothing' approach often makes things worse, financially, emotionally, mentally and physically!
There are many simple techniques that will help you to manage money stress. These include recognising and changing the habits and behaviours that contribute to your financial stress, taking back control and learning ways to manage stress once it has occurred. The following tips may support you to look after your mind, body and finances, as well as reduce stress and its impact on your health and wellbeing.
1. Identify what’s stressing you out
Get clear on what is stressing you out exactly when it comes to your relationship with money. Is it a lack of income, over-spending or impulse buying, carrying too much debt, arguing with a partner about money or lacking knowledge to make sound financial decisions with your money.
Often expectations (whether projected or real) of yourself or from others can also impact and lead to feelings that you’re not quite measuring up? Awareness is power here! If you can work out what it is that is stressing you out, then you’re well placed to work out how to address and deal with it.
Money stress is often a result of overwhelm and a feeling of being out of control with your finances. If you can take back control, then it will help to reduce the level of stress experienced. Focus on small steps that you can take today, in the present moment that will start you on a path to taking back control. If you’ve been ignoring the situation, start to pay attention, if you’ve been overspending, see if you can find just one area of your spending you could cut back on. Small but consistent steps will begin to create a more positive future.
2. Establish structure
If there is one thing that money loves – it’s structure. If you can give your money a system and a have structure around managing it (and if you can then automate it, even better!) then you are more likely to stress less with day-to-day management of your finances.
If you are constantly shifting money from one account to another, forgetting to pay bills, or spending on things you really shouldn’t, money becomes more complicated and stressful to manage. But by having structure in place it can be very reassuring knowing that you have a system in place to manage your money (and get out of your own way).
3. Practice self-care
Go easy on yourself. If you’re in a situation which is causing you stress, no amount of beating yourself up will help you work through it and quicker or easier! Instead try to make peace with the past, and focus on what it is you can do today to create a new and less stressful financial future.
When we are stressed we sometimes say things in our head, over and over, that just add to our stress. This unhelpful self-talk might include things like: ‘I cant do this', or ‘I’m useless’, or “What’s the point” or ‘It's not fair'. Try more helpful self-talk like ‘I'm coping well', “I’m making progress” or ‘Calm down', or ‘Take a breath'.
4. Reach out and connect with others
So often when we are suffering, we find it hard to reach out. The saying, “a problem shared, is a problem halved” is one to keep in mind. Often when you’re in the middle of a stressful situation it can be hard to find a solution as you’re too deeply involved to see the options or a way out.
Reach out, ask for help, see what solutions and support others can offer.
Spending time with people you care about, and who care about you, is an important part of managing ongoing stress in your life. While you may not feel completely comfortable sharing your money situation with others, it’s important not to ‘bottle up' your emotions or let them overwhelm you.
5. Prioritise relaxation and wellbeing
Make sure you are eating healthy food and getting regular exercise. Make time to practise relaxation which will help your body and nervous system to settle and relax. You could try meditation, or use an app, practice yoga; or make time to absorb yourself in a relaxing activity that you enjoy such as walking, swimming, gardening or listening to music. Where possible avoid using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs to cope as these will just mask the stress, and may even amplify it!