Stress occurs when life events surpass our abilities to cope. It causes the body to produce greater levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which in large amounts weakens the immune system, placing us at greater risk of contracting viruses. In addition, stress may cause changes in appetite (i.e., decreased food intake or cravings for fatty or sugary foods) and decreased sleep, which further compromise the immune system. Have I convinced you of the importance of managing your stress yet?!
If you’re like me, apart from your health and the health of your loved ones, the biggest thing on your mind right now is your financial stability! Here are some tips for managing stress related to finances during this difficult time.
The key is to balance being proactive in changing the situation, and calming the thoughts that are contributing to your stress.
Let’s start by taking a problem-focused approach that centers around the problem and entailes physically doing something to change it. Being proactive in changing your situation will give you a sense of control, empowerment, and accomplishment! Keep in mind that I am not a financial advisor and that the main point is to be proactive in changing the situation! Here are some examples of problem-focused approaches to managing financial stress during this time.
● Research state and federal benefits that are or may soon be available to you. There are currently policies that are active or being proposed that are related to unemployment, sick leave, businesses or individuals, as well as the suspension of mortgage debt, evictions, and some types of student loan and medical debt, to name a few. Here are some good websites to explore to get you started:
○ Department of labor DOL.gov
○ U.S. Small Business Admin. SBA.gov
● Do things that will benefit you or your business now and/or when the circumstances are resolved. (e.g., Establish a social media presence; create a marketing plan; update your resume; create a financial spreadsheet, business plan, or list of people/companies for networking)
● Improve the management of your current bills. Contact each company and inquire about options (e.g., grace periods, skipping a month, smaller payment).
● Negotiate with creditors. Learn what your options are by picking up the phone or chatting online.
● Cancel unneeded memberships, and cut down on takeout or delivery foods.
Once you're done being proactive to change the situation, it’s time to put it out of your mind for a moment until you're ready to pick it up again. An "Emotion-Focused" approach centers around the emotion and often requires you to change your thinking. Here are some tips:
● Accept what you can't control. Develop your own acceptance statement (e.g., "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger," "What will be, will be,” “everything happens for a reason,” “This too shall pass”). Acceptance doesn’t mean that I agree with the situation or give up. It simply means that I am acknowledging reality or what is happening, because I recognize that fighting reality only intensifies our emotional reaction. I suffer because I think “It should or shouldn’t be this way,” “That’s not fair!” or “Why me?!.” Pain is physical, but suffering is mental.
● Reframe- It's not about what happened, it's about how I choose to frame it or view it. That’s right, I have the power to actively choose how to view a situation. Often, I don’t recognize this choice and simply believe the automatic thought that occurs. By changing the way you look at something you can change how you experience it. Challenge yourself to highlight positive sides; avoid seeing only the negative; view the situation as a challenge, consider obstacles as opportunities, and/or create a narrative that describes your struggle AND your triumph.
● Meditate- The benefits of meditation are many and well supported by research. Meditation has a variety of neurological benefits – from changes in grey matter volume to enhanced connectivity between brain regions. Furthermore, studies report that meditation helps relieve levels of stress, anxiety and depression, and improve attention, concentration, and overall psychological well-being. Getting started is easy, there are many types of meditations to suit everyone, as well as free apps, youtube videos and online information.
If you feel that financial stress is becoming too much for you to handle alone, please seek help! Mental health professionals can help you get through periods of stress, anxiety or depression