Money is one of the most sensitive topics in our society. People would rather talk about almost any other topic than have to disclose how much they make in a year. There is a lot of debate about how couples should share their finances with their partner and financial problems often result in divorce. Growing student debt and credit card debt has led many people to feel ashamed of their financial status and stressed out about money. With the economic challenges of COVID-19, millions of people worldwide are navigating a lot more uncertainty regarding their money. Unfortunately, this stress can lead to many mental health problems and even suicide.
There are plenty of articles out there offering advice about how to manage your money, but few talk about how to handle the stress associated with money. As you begin your journey with money, here are some tips to help your mental health along the way.
Find A Simple Start
If you do not know where to start with managing your money, I would recommend that you start with blogs that help you come up with a plan for your debt and simple ways to start spending less money. Over time, you may decide to pursue different money trends like FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early), minimalism, etc, but starting with more intense systems may only add to your stress and guilt.
The simplest solutions will start by having you examine how you spend money without forcing you to make drastic cuts to everything. This process of moderation will increase your awareness and comfort with your financial situation. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with the amount of debt you have, it can be helpful to look into plans that allow you to break up the debt into more manageable pieces. This mindfulness strategy is helpful for you to understand what you need to tackle right now and know that you do not have to worry about the rest of the debt. As long as you have a plan that you trust you can stick to, you can feel less stress and defeat by focusing on the weekly or monthly payments in more manageable pieces.
Understand Your Money Values
If you search the internet for “ways to save money”, some of the most popular advice will include packing your lunch, cutting back on lattes, or reducing spending on clothing. But what if you are someone who really loves eating out or fashion? This advice is well intentioned, but it can cause you to feel really guilty about the fact that these things are important to you. Instead of feeling guilty, take the time to understand why they matter. It is not vain to feel relaxed or find joy by spending money a certain way. Instead, ask yourself if there are other, less important things that can be cut from your spending. These things can also become rewards to motivate yourself for accomplishing small monetary goals along the way. Trying to make big changes without rewards will cause you to feel defeated or distract you from the amount of progress you are making, so it is important to find things that are valuable to you.
Pursue Options That Help You Feel Less Trapped
For many people, there is simply not enough money coming in compared to the amount you need to spend each paycheck. This is incredibly stressful, especially when you are forced to choose between life essentials. When you feel trapped like there is no solution for your finances, ask people for help. This can be a very vulnerable experience, but you may be surprised by the people that will support you. Ethical financial advisors can help you make decisions about how to spend your money. Friends may have options for you to increase the amount of money you make. Family may be able to support you until you have more options.
Along the way, it is important to watch for feelings of shame in asking for help. When these feelings come, talk to someone you trust about them. Find someone who can help you challenge the guilt that this is “all your fault” or that “things will never get better”. Find the people who will encourage you to keep trying even when you face more set-backs. The most important thing is that you don’t feel alone or like only you can solve your financial problems. These things aren’t true and the safe people in your life will help you understand this.
Of course, no therapist is going to be a financial advisor, but we can help you with shame, stress, and motivation. Call today to receive more support on your financial journey.
Written by therapist Elise Champanhet
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