How To Manage Financial Stress


So a friend of mine from college decided to do what I do for a living: help people. Only instead of helping them the way I do, he helps people get out of debt and determine if they should go into banruptcy or if there’s another way out. Personally, I think that’s pretty dang cool, especially considering the Economy we’re in.

As a result of our recognizing we have the same focus (you know, helping people) we talked about doing a bit of cross-blogging to bring home similar ideas on how to manage the same problem. Him with the finances, and me with the mental and emotional stress.

OK, so let’s assume you’ve got money problems. Heck, I’ve got money problems myself, and yet my wife somehow manages to make things work out well in the end (fortunately for me). However, when you have money problems, its all you think about. The feeling is overwhelming, and with everything that comes with money, there are also the related areas: where you live, what your family eats (or if they do at all), gas in your car, inability to find a job. All of these things contribute to feeling financially overwhelmed, and if you don’t keep your wits about you, it could affect these other areas of your life.

So here are some methods you can use to manage the stress of feeling financially overwhelmed. Bear in mind, this is to manage the stress, not the financial situation itself. They may seem like the same thing, but they’re not. How do we tell the difference? Let’s break down how your brain processes information, shall we?

See, your brain takes in information, processes it, sends it to your Core Value System. This is all the stuff you believe about what’s right and wrong with your life, and with the world. Once that information is sent there and tested, its sent to your Emotional Control Room. This takes all its cues from the Core Value System, and you start feeling whatever emotion is connected with that belief. If people charging you late fees on your card because you were 2 days past due is wrong, you may start to feel anger, or frustration.

Now that we know the process of how you start feeling something, now we can apply it to these stressors. Let’s get you out from feeling overwhelmed, to feeling like you can at least manage the emotions of your situation. Remember, sometimes you can’t change the situation, but you can change how you feel about it or how much you think about it.

1. Don’t think about these problems all the time. When you think about nothing but problems, you don’t leave room for anything else. Furthermore, you allow the feelings associated with these problems to affect other areas of your life, including how you communicate with family and friends.

2. Set aside an hour a day to think about the financial issues, and then choose to think about something else. By setting boundaries with your thought life, you get rid of the “all or nothing” attitude. You can’t not think about the financial concerns, because they are very real and affect you in a dramatic way. If you think about them all the time, this causes undue stress which can cause heart problems, anxiety and panic attacks. So we need to make time to think about it, so you can organize your thoughts, and then go about your life.

3. Live and Learn, or think about the choices you made that contributed to this financial difficulty, and see what you can do to change them. We have some influence on our financial situation. For example, my wife and I bought our house right before the housing market fell. We can’t get out of it, and we realized that we would have been better off in a lot of ways if we had stayed in our apartment and waited a year or so. Write down these mistakes, not to stress you out, but to look at them in a thoughtful way so you don’t make the same mistake again. Its like that person you dated that you thought was “the One,” but then they did something really crazy or stupid that made you run screaming. You don’t want to make the same mistake there, and you don’t want to make more bad financial mistakes that put you in the hole even deeper.

4. Use the stress to your advantage. Take an hour a day to destress (alright, I know I’m asking you to take a lot of time, but much of this takes time. And how can you have time if you don’t take time?). Sit down and write, talk to a friend, or excercise. Do something that gets your creative juices flowing, or the blood flowing, either way. All that built up stress needs a release, and some of the best music, art, and literature are made through hardship.

This is just stuff I do to manage what I have. I have to do these things myself, because if I don’t, it will show and I’ll start transferring my stress to them, and they have enough of their own.

To manage the functional element of financial stress, you might want to go to a guy who knows what he’s talking about. Check out my friend Jim Kutkowski, who is an expert in managing financial debt for people, and giving them solutions that work best for their situation. Check out his post to get the other side of managing financial hardship.