We all worry about our finances to some degree. Even if everything seems to be going great in your financial world, uncertainties over world events, “fiscal cliffs,” and issues like healthcare and retirement can make you worry. If you have other stressors like an uncertain job or no emergency fund, your worry meter can go off the charts. While some worrying can be productive and lead you to be cautious, too much worrying is bad for you. It can make you sick, not to mention unhappy and stressed. If you find yourself worrying about your money (or anything else excessively), you need to find ways to get it under control. Here are some ideas.
Make A Plan and Take Action
One of the best things you can do to control worry is to take action. Worry thrives when you feel out of control. Making a plan and taking action brings a sense of control into the picture which can make your worry seem more manageable. If you’re worried about not having enough money, go get a second job or find some other way to bring in cash. If you’re worried about making ends meet, find new ways to cut expenses. If you’re worried about retirement, open up an IRA or contribute to your 401k. If you’re worried about healthcare, open up an HSA. Figure out what you can do to fix whatever it is you’re worrying about and then do it.
Separate Fact From Fiction
Some worries are made worse by rumors, scare tactics, and news stories that only report half-truths. Take some time to really educate yourself about the issue that worries you. Read books and articles on the matter. Ask for some professional opinions. Don’t just settle for the first Google result you get when you search on the Internet. Look at a variety of sources and seek out those that are reliable and unbiased. Often, the more you know about an issue the less scary it seems.
Are There Options?
Ask yourself if this is something you can do anything about. We often worry about things over which we have no control. Worrying about what the government is going to do about healthcare, for example, is counterproductive. Unless you are an elected official, you have very little say in the matter. It’s the same with worrying about the “fiscal cliff,” the price of oil, or death. There isn’t anything you can do about any of it. If you must worry, worry about what you can control. You can’t control the government, but you can control how you save for your future healthcare. You can’t control the price of oil, but you can do things to make yourself less dependent on oil (move closer to work, buy a more fuel-efficient car, etc.). You also can’t control (or avoid) your death, but you can take out life insurance and make a will so that those you leave behind are protected.
While burying your head in the sand and pretending that your worries don’t exist isn’t the answer, neither do you need to spend every waking moment worrying. Find some activities that take your mind off your worries. Play some games with friends, read an engrossing novel, or take up a hobby. Go for a walk with a neighbor (and don’t talk about your worries). Take up a sport or watch a movie. Sometimes when you give your mind something else to think about, the solution to whatever you’re worrying about comes through. Give your subconscious a chance to work on the problem and you might be surprised by the answers you get.
Get A Second Opinion
Talk to people you can trust about what’s worrying you. They may have a different perspective. It may be a minister, your spouse, a good friend, or even a counselor of some type. They may help you find ways to take action or give you some objective advice. You don’t want to badger people with your worries, but sitting down for a reasonable discussion can help.
Set A Worry Period
Rather than worrying all day, every day, set aside a specific time to go over your worries. Agree to spend that time, and only that time, on your worries. Write in a journal, ruminate, count your worry beads, or whatever else you need to do. When the time is up, though, it’s up. Leave your worries behind and get on with your day. Giving yourself a worry period gives you a chance to really focus on the problems rather than torturing yourself all day with vague thoughts. You may come up with solutions during this time, or you may realize that you’re really worrying about something that has no answer.
Find ways to relax and take care of yourself. Relaxation and self-care are necessary if you want to deal with the side effects of your worry. Worry makes your blood pressure rise, it can make you overeat, and it can cause you to lose sleep. It can stress you out and make you more susceptible to colds and flu. Make sure you’re eating well and drinking lots of fluid. Exercise to burn off stress and relax. Maybe you want to take up a relaxing activity like yoga or meditation. Maybe you find peace in religious texts or poetry. Go to sleep at a reasonable hour. The better you care for yourself, the more able you are to take action to deal with what’s worrying you.
Sometimes worry is helpful and can lead to meaningful change. But many times it’s unproductive and harmful. If your worry is hurting more than it’s helping you, take some of these steps to gain control over it.
(Photo courtesy of photoloni)