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Calming Financial Anxiety

by Sarah McMurray Steps for Better Finances Getting rid of Money Stress Facing up to problems

Calming Financial Anxiety

Level 4 Lockdown with less than half a day’s notice. I hope you’re over the adrenalin-fueled rush to re-organise your next few days, and that you’re beginning to see what the next few weeks may be like.

As we look to the near future, we can find our anxiety rising over some fairly calm and rational-sounding accounting questions – “Can I make the payments I’m committed to?” or “Will I get the income I was relying on?”

The questions may be calm and rational, but their deeper meaning is purely emotional. At a very basic level, money represents our security and our survival. The mere hint that either of those are threatened can understandably make us uncomfortable, anxious, or even outright terrified.

Thoughts like “I might have to sell the house” stress us out. No one enjoys dealing with uncomfortable feelings, or uncertainty, so the typical response is to push the thoughts away.

Which sadly, doesn’t help. Your brain knows you need to solve this problem, so it will helpfully wake you at 3am to freak you out with doomsday scenarios. At least, that’s what my brain does.

It turns out that our brains are pretty hopeless at sorting out long-term, abstract threats to our survival when there’s not much detail to work with.

We need as much concrete, certain information as we can find.

If you’re fearful about your money situation, your first step is to gain clarity. Find your numbers:

  • Expenses
  • Income
  • Debts
  • Savings
  • Money that you’re owed

And record what you find, dates and totals, all in one place.

Some of these numbers will be imprecise. That’s OK. Estimate income on the low side, and expenses on the high side.

I can completely understand why people avoid this task. Finding the numbers you need isn’t always straightforward, it can be tedious to record them, and then when you’ve finally got them all in place, they may tell you something unpleasant.

Keep going. Ask for help with the task. Take lots of breaks. Just keep going until it’s done.

Once you have clarity, no matter how bad your financial picture looks, your brain will stop waking you at 3am and start figuring out the things you can do to improve it.

And you don’t have to do that alone. I’ll be putting ideas and resources in my next blog posts.

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