Is financial stress bogging you down lately?
We all go through financial problems every once in a while. Over the years, people with long-term financial stress even spiral down to depression. They get sucked up with the feeling of unhappiness, self-pity, anger, or even self-guilt.
I had hard days when I needed to go back and live with my parents to sustain my daily needs. I was in my late 20s, on a job hunt, and broke. During those times, I feel left out whenever I see my friend climb up the career ladder.
And so depression creeps in silently. It fed on my anxiety and self-doubt more than ever. But there’s hope for all of us.
Can Financial Stress Affect Your Health?
A headache you get when you think of your financial instability is not an imagination. In the January 2016 edition of Psychology Science, a research team discovered that the anxiety on money issues is enough to cause physical pain.
Without money in your pockets and empty bank accounts, your life choices are greatly restricted too. Your cognitive function is clouded.
The common signs of depression are:
- Persistent sleepiness
- Difficulty to sleep or oversleeping
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Difficulty to remember
- Significant decrease in energy
If you are going through most of these, then you must fight them off with the following tips. Mind you, these are all free.
While studying mental health back in college, it struck me that the first step to conquer depression is acceptance. Something so simple, yet most people could not grasp.
Accept that there is something wrong and you need to get over it.
Why do you need to get help if you are not accepting that you need it? Acknowledging that there is indeed a problem to solve is a giant leap. From this, you can then explore various ways to solve your money issues.
Kelly G Wilson Ph.D. shared that acceptance was the birthplace of possibility.
Let go of the past. Whether you got scammed, lost on casino multiple times, got robbed off of all your money, spent every cent for a hospital bill, now is the time to accept your current situation.
2. Open Up
Some people would rather isolate themselves when they have serious financial problems. Choosing to isolate oneself is common to people who are ashamed of their financial situation. However, doing so will only make others misinterpret their behavior.
It is normal to feel awkward when talking about money issues as it makes you show people your weakness. But talking can help you tame your financial depression.
Open up to your family or trusted friend.
Diane Barth, the author of Unlock the Creative Power of Your Mind, mentioned that talking about things helps us put words on what we feel. This way we share the burden.
3. Run, Walk, and be Active
Not all of us are fond of exercise, but there is already enough research telling us that we need it. Regular exercise relieves your financial stress in three ways:
- When you exercise, your body releases the chemicals called endorphins which trigger a positive feeling. Endorphins interact with the brain receptors and reduce the perception of pain.
- Exercising can take your mind off of your worries. You get busy and enjoy what you are doing that you tend to forget what was nagging at the back of your mind.
- You also get to socialize with other people. My mom goes to Zumba lessons to meet up with her friends. It is an opportunity to have a change of environment.
4. Avoid Scams and Quick Fixes
Yes, you are down, perhaps broke to the last peso, but do not make it worst with a quick fix. When you are financially depressed, you get tempted and swindlers will take advantage of it.
Desperate people are “kapit sa patalim”. They will grasp anything that will give them quick financial fix. This is how poor Pinoys get scammed.
What you need to do is to take control of things that you can. Focus on what you have right now. Create a realistic budget and find other legal sources of income such as selling snacks, prepaid load, and candies. You might earn little by little, but at least the returns are real.
5. Turn Off Your TV
No, it’s not only to save your electricity. It is to save your sanity from economic depression you see in the news and tempting products in commercials. In addition, watching too much TV makes you inactive.
Financial psychologist, Brad Klontz said, “Spending too much time in passive activities, such as watching TV, will make you depressed.”
Or it can be the other way around, depression can lead people to binge watch. It is much like the chicken and egg situation.
When you watch too much TV, you are losing the chance to exercise or catch up with your friends. Have time to talk with the friends you trust and ask for moral support in times when you need it the most.
Spend time with a good listener and you will be relieved on how much burden would be lifted from your shoulders.
6. Get Organized
Have a regular day and time when you will check your bills and adjust your budget. Put all of the receipts, payslips, bank statements and other important documents in one place so you will know where to find them.
If you have difficulty following your budget to the last cent, then you have to recreate it and put some adjustments.
Save directly to your bank account if you can’t control your spending urges. Also, now is the time to cut your credit card if you think that it temps you to buy what you don’t need.
7. Upgrade Your Budget to Spending Plan
The spending plan is also a list of your expenses. The only difference is that it makes you focus more on your savings and how you consciously spend your income.
Yes, you may already know by heart how much you usually spend on a certain need, but it takes a pen and paper to help you adjust your spending habit and maximize it towards a bigger purpose.
Do you know why it is hard to maintain a budget? Because there are three types of expenses: fixed, flexible and discretionary.
Fixed expenses are the ones which don’t change much such as your house rental. Flexible expenses change depending on your needs and want like groceries and prepaid load. Movie watching, going to concerts, eating out, and buying new clothes is discretionary.
Overall, most of your expenses depend on your self-control. And of course, you will need a spending guide.
So, how do you make your spending plan?
- List everything. Include how much you have to put aside for your savings. Do not think about your income first. Just list everything and the expected amount you have to spend on it.
- After getting the sum of all expenses, reflect if your income is enough. If not, you have to lower the amount or just cross out some of your flexible and discretionary expenses. In case that you can’t let go of these expenses, then you have to increase your income.
- Trade off some amount if you can’t afford certain items on the list. You may have to give up some things or buy less expensive alternatives just to afford the more valuable stuff.
- Review your plan every two weeks or monthly. Keep it flexible as much as possible and adjust it based on your income and changing expenses.
Fight Off Money Trouble
When we deal with something that makes us feel afraid or anxious, we only have two ways to react: fight or flight.
However, for us who have to provide for our families, we can’t afford to sulk too long. One way or another, we have to get by without sacrificing the needs of our loved ones.
The financial journey is not going to be an easy ride. Learn from your mistakes, get new money habits, and keep yourself on track to avoid more financial problems.
Reach financial stability through reading, useful financial tips, and inspiring success stories. Finally, put the money lessons you have learned in action. See where it takes you!