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It's not about money.
I'll repeat. It's not about money.
I know. You came to an article looking for ways to deal with your money anxiety.
But before you can deal with your financial anxiety, you first need to deal with your anxiety anxiety.
It's a hard thing to hear.
But I'm going to make it easier for you.
Because when you address the underlying mental health issues going on, the other types of stress, like money stress / financial stress, start to fade away.
Black Friday (And Saturday, And Sunday, and...)
I've lived with anxiety for as long as I can remember.
And there's nothing that jacks up my anxiety like financial worries.
Not having enough money to do what I want to do has a way of amplifying all the other pressures in my life.
And I've noticed, the older I get, the easier it is to get buried under a financial burden.
I was lucky to not have any debt after undegrad, but graduate school? That's another story. The pressure is real.
Add to that all the societal pressure to spend as much money as possible--and you have a recipe to become majorly stressed about money.
Black Friday seems to get bigger every year. More deals, more saving, more joy to be had by all!
All you have to do is sign away your rights to any income you might earn in the next six months!!
Something that seems to good to be true probably is.
Why do we fall into the trap of buying our way to happiness only to end up with massive amounts of credit card debt and and increasingly precarious financial situations?
One, we're human.
Two, humans have a funny little thing called mental health.
Stressed About Money? Join the Club Nobody Wants to Be In
If you talk to a financial expert about your money, you're going to get financial solutions.
And I don't know about you, but I've never been able to approach money in a calm and collected way.
There was very little financial education when I was going to school, and depending on who I talked to about finances, I would get very different advice.
Financial experts will tell you to plan for the long term. Focus on goals, financial goals. Have a financial plan. Build an emergency fund that can last you for 3 to 6 months.
That's great and all, but it assumes a certain level of financial knowledge to begin with.
And the major problem is this: we're not financial creatures.
We're human creatures.
A financial planner might be great at her job, but if she can't address the underlying feelings you have about money, you're going to be missing a key component of what drives your fears and your decision-making.
Consider these scenarios and think about how they might affect a person's thoughts and feelings about money:
1. Living paycheck to paycheck
2. Having more than $50,000 in student loans
3. Losing your job and having to worry about caring for your family
4. Having a chronic health condition that requires needing health insurance and regular appointments / procedures from the rest of your life
Number four is personal for me.
With my heart condition (which was not brought about anything other than being unlucky to have certain genes), I'm in the chronic condition club. And, financially speaking, that can really add up.
And I'm sure you, or someone you know, has experienced one--or ALL--of these scenarios.
What kind of pressure would that put on a person?
I think you're starting to see my point.
But okay fine, what's a person to do about all this money stress?
The answer? Focus on the basics and get to the root of your mental health.
Mental Health = Financial Health (Questions to Consider)
I run the risk of oversimplifying what is a serious issue for many people.
Financial problems and money anxiety are nothing to joke about.
But if you're worrying about your financial security, you have to stop to think about where that worry is coming from. Money worries blend with other kinds of worries, and they can wreck any attempts to attain financial stability.
And so, rather than demand that you do certain things to get your act together, I'm going to pose a few questions.
These are questions I've asked myself, and I find that asking questions is a softer way to treat my financial stress than the judgment imposed by financial goals and debt payments.
Consider it a new-age form of financial counseling. :)
1. What am I spending my money on?
Yes, financial counselors might ask you the same question, but a mental health counselor could also ask you this and be looking for something entirely different.
The point of this question is to get you to discover where your money is going. That's so you can identify categories and trends.
2. Why am I spending my money on those things?
The next step is to be curious about why you're spending your money the way you are. Why this purchase and not something else? Why restaurants and not groceries? Why drinks and not games or books?
Asking these questions will help you identify what you value. Money talks, and seeing where your money is going can teach you about what you view as important, even if it's not how you would describe yourself or your identity.
3. What did my family teach me about money?
Ahhh, the family. The source of much discussion and analysis in therapy sessions worldwide. But have you ever considered what your family taught you about money, its value, and whether or not you should go after it with all you've got?
Whether you realized it or not, your family's action (or inaction) probably set the tone about your current actions and thoughts related to money.
4. Do I view money as a good thing or bad thing?
Think about this. Do you view money as good or bad?
This was an eye-opener for me. Before I could ever truly create something of value online and ask for money for it, I had to get over my fear of doing that. I had an irrational belief that asking for money online meant I was a sleazy marketer or a con artist. And yes, there are many people like that on the Internet, but there are MANY good, values-driven entrepreneurs as well.
As soon as I addressed my fear, my ability to create value online improved dramatically.
5. Why do I want to have more money?
This last question may be my personal favorite. It keeps me grounded. I frequently ask myself this question over and over until I get to the root causes of my drive to earn money.
Because money can't buy happiness. Even if you had a million dollars fall on your lap right now, you'd still have your mental health to worry about.
You'd be the same person, with the same feelings and thoughts. Just more money.
My anxiety has never gone away just because I had a good paycheck one month. If anything, I felt overwhelmed by the need to worry about more resources and how I was going to manage them.
Asking this last question, Why do want to have more money?, and then asking it again, should help you get to the root of it all.
Because that's what it's all about.
Money is just a tool. It can get you a few nice things, but it can't solve your deepest fears and anxieties.
That kind of work starts and ends with you.