Do you find yourself checking your Facebook, Twitter, and every other social media site known to man every time you go to check your bank account? Does opening your wallet lead to a full blown cold sweat? If this is the case, you may have financial anxiety.
Don’t worry, because you’re not alone. Financial anxiety is incredibly widespread. In one informal poll done by About.com seven in ten people responded that they are very stressed about their financial situation. Typing financial anxiety into twitter gets long strings of commentary about how terribly anxious people are and how the global financial problems are only making it worse.
Here I am going to take a slight diversion and say that if you think that you may have a generalized anxiety problem or depression you should see a professional. Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression are very real and very treatable problems that should be taken seriously and treated professionally.
Financial anxiety is the fear and worry felt over one’s financial affairs, ranging from the size of one’s bank account to where to invest one’s money. The world-wide financial situation has led to widespread feelings of unrest and instability that can extend into full-blown anxiety if left unattended. The signs of financial anxiety are akin to the signs of any other type of anxiety: distraction, constant worry, restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, muscle tension, headaches, sweating and nausea. However, these worries and fears are caused by and associated with financial concerns.
Financial concern can lead to anxiety in anyone, but the widespread panic that is presently ensuing goes above and beyond the common jitters in anyone with a waning bank account. In today’s hyper-connected world, we are constantly assailed with information, ranging from the inconsequential to the globally significant. And on top of the disorientation caused by such an information-overload, so much of it seems to be bad news. How can a person possibly stay positive with such a deluge of bad news? How can a person work around or even with financial anxiety?
One idea is to cut down on the amount of information you are looking at. Sharon Begley in her Newsweek Magazine article “I Can’t Think” looks at the effect that this deluge of information has. Informally called twitterization, this overload of information causes people to make worse decisions than if they had limited information or no information at all. Normally, we would suggest for someone to investigate and do research prior to making big financial decisions; as Natalia Jones points out, this is a good way to alleviate financial anxiety and feel more in control over your situation. However, there are other things to consider, like the source of this information and its tone. If everything you’re hearing is negative, there is not much hope for a positive outlook.
Much of anxiety is about feeling out of control and uninformed. A good thing for everyone to do, but especially for the financially concerned, is to develop a budget. On one side, look at how much money you make monthly, averaging it if your income is not fixed from month to month. On the other side, list all of your monthly payments, divided into the necessary (housing, food, electricity, etc.) and the unnecessary (clothing, eating out, etc.) and note which of these costs are fixed (the same each month) and which are variable. By doing this, you can see all the transactions that occur during a month on one piece of paper. Also, if you can, look at your variable costs and see what you can cut from them. While this may not take into account the unexpected, it will give you a better grasp on the expected and more control over your budget.
When we are faced with anxiety-causing problems, we often revert to actions that have helped us in the past. But if the situation you’re currently in is different from the one that you developed those reactions for those strategies will no longer work. Instead, try doing something new. If you lose your job in an industry that is being downsized or outsourced, you probably won’t be able to find a job in that field easily or at all. Instead, find a different industry to go into, preferably one that is full of vacant positions, such as engineering and health services. If neither of these appeal to your tastes, try something you’re passionate about. If you are enthusiastic about doing something you will be more willing to work hard and sacrifice at it. In a troubled economy it is time to try something new, go back to school, and follow your dreams.
If you take these measures you may still find yourself feeling anxious. There are numerous measures that you can take to keep calm. Breathing exercises and meditation can help to alleviate all types of anxiety, including those caused by financial woes. Another method of handling financial anxiety is putting things in positive terms and determining what you do and don’t have control over. Accepting that you cannot control everything, particularly those global problems that have caused financial concerns for so many people, can help you feel more in control over your personal situation. Focusing on your successes, from saving a little bit each day to making a hard financial decision, can make you feel better about where you stand and about the progress you are making.
Author: Mallory Avery
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