7 Positive Ways to Manage Financial Stress In Hard Times

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Last Updated on March 31, 2021 by Rebecca Lake

When your financial stress is through the roof, it can make you feel pretty lousy.

Being worried about money all the time can seep into everything you do. It can affect your physical and mental health and make life, in general, feel more challenging.

Trust me, I’ve been through it more than once. And I learned that there are two paths you can take when money stress rears its ugly head.

You can either try to ignore it and hope it goes away. Or you can come up with some positive (and proactive) ways to deal with it.

The first option isn’t a great one. And it can lead to more money problems in the long run.

Being positive and taking action can feel like a more difficult choice. But it’s the way to go if you want to improve your financial situation.

And that’s something you want for your family, right? Because financial security is a great feeling.

So if you’re looking for some ways to ease money stress, these tips can help.

how to manage financial stress

How to Manage Financial Stress When You’re Worried About Money

1. Pinpoint what’s causing your money stress

Sometimes, financial struggles or worries happen because of things we can’t control.

2020 is a perfect example. The average person doesn’t expect a global pandemic to suddenly come along and hijack everyday life.

But it happened and as a result, a lot of worrying about how to pay the bills because they’ve been laid off from work. Add in the possibility of a recession and it’s money stress all around.

And financial anxiety can happen even under normal circumstances. The first step in managing it is figuring out what’s causing your stress.

For example, it could be:

  • Feeling overwhelmed by debt.
  • Learning how to manage your budget and track your spending.
  • Being behind on the mortgage or other bills.
  • Experiencing a drop in income that makes it harder to live within your means.
  • Trying to rebuild a poor credit score.
  • Not having any emergency savings as a safety net.
  • Worrying about what your retirement will look like (or if you’ll even have one).

Once you know what’s stressing you out you can work on the next step.

Related posts:

7 Ways to Pay Down Debt Fast (So You Can Start Saving Money)

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2. Figure out what you can fix

If you’re overwhelmed by multiple money problems, take a deep breath.

Freaking out won’t solve the problems and it won’t make you feel better, either. Here’s what you need to do instead: focus on what you can fix and let the rest go for now.

There are some things you just won’t be able to do anything about. Like which way the stock market is moving or what’s happening with the economy.

So zoom in on what you can do right now to improve your finances.

That includes things like:

  • Tracking the money you’re spending every month.
  • Making a budget if you don’t have one.
  • Facing up to how much debt you have and what it’s costing you in interest each month.
  • Brainstorming ideas for ways to make extra money.

At this point, you just need to figure out what you can do. Knowing what’s within your reach can help you feel a little more in control of your financial life when you have money anxiety.

3. Prioritize and do one thing at a time

When you have money struggles, you may not know what to do first. Or you might want to try to fix everything at once.

But that can be overwhelming. And if you’re already stressed, you don’t need to add to your overwhelm.

So go through your list of things that are causing financial stress that you can do something about. And then prioritize which ones are most important for you to tackle first.

For example, if you’re behind on bills figure out which ones you need to get caught up on right now. Then look at your budget to see what you can afford to pay toward them.

If your biggest source of money stress is low income, you could start researching different ways to make money outside of your regular job.

Having a priority list to follow keeps you focused. And addressing your biggest financial stressor first can make working through the smaller things easier.

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4. Give yourself a checklist to follow

Checklists and to-do lists are so helpful. When you have a list of things you need to do in order you don’t have to think about it. You can just follow the plan.

If you have one money priority or goal you’re working on, break down what steps you need to take.

For example, say that you’re struggling with credit card debt. Your checklist might look something like this:

  • Stop using your cards so you’re not adding to your debt.
  • Make a list of your cards, including the balance and APR.
  • Figure out the minimum payment for each credit card.
  • Go over your budget to see how much more you can afford to pay each month, on top of the minimum.
  • Consider transferring your credit card balances to a card with a 0% APR to save money.
  • Decide whether to use the debt snowball or debt avalanche method to pay your cards down.
  • Figure out how long it will take you to pay off all the debt.

When you break things out step by step, it’s easier to see what you have to do next. And that can help ease your financial stress since you’re not scrambling for ideas.

5. Find the positives

When hard financial times hit, you might feel hopeless or worry that things will never get better. Or you might be blaming yourself over past money mistakes.

None of that helps with managing stress associated with your finances, though. And really, it could just make it worse.

So instead of dwelling on the negatives, be on the lookout for the bright spots. 

For example, get a notebook and keep a running list of things you’re grateful for, even when times get tough.

Celebrate every financial win you have, whether it’s big or small. Paying off $100 in debt or saving $50 when you’ve never managed to save a dime before are both reasons to toot your own horn.

Develop a positive mantra you can use as a reminder to yourself that you won’t let financial stress get to you.

These are little things but they can make a big difference in how you look at your financial situation. And changing your perspective to highlight the good things can make the bad things less intimidating.

6. Take care of your mental, emotional and physical health

Stress — whether it’s financial or otherwise — can be terrible for your health.

It can affect your body in so many ways and it can also take a toll on you mentally and emotionally.

If money is causing you stress, then it’s super important that you don’t neglect taking care of yourself while trying to take care of your finances.

Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Eat healthy. When you’re stressed out, it’s natural to want to indulge in junk food. But stress eating isn’t great so try to stick with healthy, energy-boosting foods instead.
  • Meditate. Meditating can help calm your mind and get centered. Pick a few simple meditations to start and try to relax and tune out the noise for 10 or 15 minutes each day.
  • Exercise. Exercise can be a stress-reliever and it can help you stay healthy. So even if it’s just taking a walk around your backyard, get your body moving daily.
  • Protect your sleep. When I say protect your sleep, I mean make getting good rest a priority. Go to bed earlier and sleep later if necessary. Do whatever you have to do to wake up feeling refreshed.
  • Journal. Writing down what you’re feeling can be a good way to relax. And it can also help you get perspective on what’s stressing you out with money.

If you need more self care ideas, try these tips.

7. Look for help with managing financial stress

At some point, you may hit a wall where your money anxiety is just too much to deal with. And when that happens, it may be time to call in help.

The kind of help you look for can take different forms.

For example, if you need financial assistance to pay the bills or buy groceries, you might consider government programs for people who are struggling.

Or if you need help working out a plan for managing your budget and debt, then you might look for a non-profit credit counselor to work with.

And sometimes the help you need might just be a friendly ear who can listen to your troubles.

Whatever kind of help you need, don’t be afraid to seek it out.

What Are Your Best Tips for Handling Financial Stress?

Do you have a strategy for keeping money stress to a minimum? If so, head to the comments and tell me about it.

And don’t forget to pin and share this post if it helped you!

Read these posts next:

7 Smart Money Tips for How to Survive a Recession

9 Terrible Budgeting Mistakes That Are Costing You Money

21 Things to Stop Buying to Save Money Every Month

About Rebecca Lake

Rebecca Lake is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance, freelance writer and homeschooling single mom of two. Since 2014, she's paid off nearly $100,000 in debt and grown her net worth to seven figures. Her work has appeared online at top personal finance websites, including Forbes Advisor, Bankrate, Investopedia, The Balance, CreditCards.com and U.S. News & World Report. Find out more.

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