Along with April showers (to bring those May flowers), April is also Stress Awareness Month, an entire 30 days dedicated to understanding how to cope with and seek out cures for anxiety and stress in America. It’s a nationwide effort to educate people on the common causes of modern-day stress, the health risks associated with stress, effective ways to handle stress and damaging stress misconceptions that have become typical in our society.
How Financial Stress Affects Americans
Financial stress plays a major role in why many folks are feeling stressed out. In fact, 73% of American adults rank finances as the number one stress in their life — even more so than their families, work and politics. That’s almost three-quarters of society whose biggest worry is their personal finances.
Finding Some Zen in Your Financial Life
Since Stress Awareness Month is all about increasing public awareness about the serious impact of stress, there’s no better time to dive into one of today’s most common stress sources. To help you enjoy a more zen-like financial state, here are a few ways to decrease financial stress and take calm control of your financial future:
Identifying FInancial Stressors and Making a Plan
Breaking out a pen and paper can be helpful in mapping out exactly where your financial stresses originate. Which money issues are the most anxiety inducing? Medical expenses? Car loans? Home repairs? By writing down these causes of financial stress, it might be easier to decide where to reduce or prioritize spending so you can manage your next steps with more clarity.
Once you’ve identified your financial pain points and outlined the plan, you can commit to reviewing it regularly and tracking your progress. This tangible check-in process can go a long way to soothing an overactive mind and make tackling your financial goals feel more manageable. And If you’re still having trouble keeping up with bills or paying down debt, you might want to consider contacting utility companies, banks, and credit card providers to ask about setting up a payment plan that works for you.
Creating a Budget
Once you’ve identified those key financial stressors, creating a budget based on the triggers and priorities you’ve already identified is a good place to start. Some simple steps to start this budget plan include:
- Establishing where your money comes from (sources of income) and goes (expenses and spending). Good news! You probably already did this step when you drafted your short-term financial plan.
- Accounting for all bills and spending including housing costs; recurring debt payments; utility bills like water, electric, internet, and telephone; and miscellaneous — albeit regular — expenses like groceries, entertainment costs, gas, etc.
- Choosing a specific budgeting method. There are several different budgeting methods to select from, so it’s really a matter of finding one you can stick to without a whole lot of fuss.
Making One Financial Decision at a Time
A key aspect of financial stress awareness is knowing when you need to slow down and take things one step at a time. Spacing out significant financial decisions like whether to refinance your car or dip into savings to pay off credit card debt will ensure you won’t be faced with too many major choices at once. That can test both your willpower and your patience. Making one decision at a time lets you smoothly lay out your financial plan and reduces the stress of being stretched too thin.
Setting Up an Emergency Fund
Setting up a rainy day fund is a way to set aside money in the event of an unplanned, one-time expense like a home repair or major appliance replacement. Taking it a step further, an emergency fund factors in three to six months’ worth of savings to cover longer-term circumstances like losing a job or a serious illness. Knowing you have the funds to account for unexpected emergencies or events may help you cut financial stress off at the pass and rest easy that you’d be adequately prepared.
Seeking Outside Help
There’s no harm in asking for help when you think you might be in over your head. For starters, a financial advisor can help you establish strategies to decrease financial stress, eliminate financial risk and even build wealth over time. This can make it much easier to feel in control of your finances which, in turn, can help eliminate financial stress altogether.
If financial stress has already taken a toll and/or you’re deep in the process of making major choices and changes, finding a financial therapist or counselor could empower you to develop positive and productive insights and next steps along the way. They can also offer coping strategies and lifestyle changes that might help you manage financial stress more effectively.
Finding Ways to Physically De-stress
Adding certain health and wellness practices into your daily routine can have a positive impact on your mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Mindfulness-based meditation, for example, has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. And yoga, another mindfulness-based practice, involves pairing movement and stretching with deep breathing to create a calming, full-body experience. It can simultaneously quiet a noisy mind and strengthen your back when it’s been bent over that budget for too long!
Even the simple act of going for a walk outside (Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating your mood and depression), hopping on your bike, or hiking your favorite nature trail can help you get your head out of your finances and into the less stressful here and now.
Tracking Spending & Financial Progress
By tracking your spending with a user-friendly app or software, you can keep up with your financial progress with the touch of a fingertip. And by following through with a plan for debt paydown, seeing the tangible progress you’re making toward your financial goals might make it easier to rest easy that you’re on the right track.
Send Financial Stress Packing
The focus on stress awareness this month can be a good time to learn from your financial pain points and implement habit changes to make them a little less painful. Remember that without April rains, May flowers woudn’t be so beautiful. By implementing a few of these financial stress-management strategies, you might just find yourself far away from the troubling thoughts of financial insecurity and closer to feeling financially stable.
Learn how Tally may be able help you achieve your debt-free goals