Ilona L. Tobin, Ed.D.

Licensed Psychologist

DOWNLOAD THIS ARTICLE AND MORE AS A PDF FILE by clicking this link Spring 2009

Managing Financial Anxiety Managing Financial Anxiety

Sarah is a self-employed hair stylist who’s watched her business decrease by 50 percent. She’s cut expenses, but is stuck in a costly lease she can’t afford. She’s also worried about losing her home, and says her anxiety is “through the roof.”

Frank and Marilyn have well-paid jobs, and she believes that they will weather the economic downturn. However, Frank is so afraid that one of them will lose their job that he has stopped paying anything but basic bills and recently yelled at Marilyn for going to the dentist.

If you have had to tighten your belt, like Sarah, it’s normal to experience anxiety. And when you read every day about failing businesses and people losing their jobs, you can understand that Frank would fear losing theirs. Money is connected with security, a basic need. And when our basic needs are threatened, we feel alarmed.

Although uncomfortable, anxiety isn’t all bad. Mild anxiety can actually motivate us to take positive action.
Indeed, that seems to be its role. We can’t let go of what’s bothering us until we face the situation, and then
we often fi nd that the anxiety has lessened or gone away. But severe anxiety is different. It’s debilitating.
And when anxiety interferes in our lives it can be a disorder.

If you have these symptoms of anxiety disorder, you might want to seek professional help:
• worry, panic or fear that is extreme for the situation
• repeated thoughts or fl ashbacks of traumatic experiences
• nightmares, night terrors and insomnia
• cold or sweaty hands and/or feet
• shortness of breath
• heart palpitations

Use Anxiety Productively to Ease If
If your anxiety is mild or moderate, these strategies can help reduce it by using anxiety as a spur for action.
Face any money issues. Fighting yourself in a down economy adds insult to injury. Seek support and learning in therapy, Debtors Anonymous, and books such as Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt and Live Prosperously, by Jerrold Mundis and Your Money or Your Life, by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin.

Acknowledge your role.
If you made a questionable fi nancial choice, blaming others or beating yourself up won’t help. Understand why you made the choice. Do something about it, if you can, and then let it go.

Forgive yourself.
Be proactive. You can’t direct the economy, but you can gain a sense of control and reduce your anxiety
by being more proactive around your finances. Face the reality of your situation and take appropriate
steps, whether that’s negotiating with creditors or leaseholders, reducing expenses or seeking other sources of income.

Don’t cut to the bone.
Eliminating all treats from your budget reintroduces scarcity into the equation, which can breed more anxiety. Learn to live well within your means by seeking pleasures you can afford.

Find the courage to face your anxieties and take the actions that present themselves. Sarah eventually negotiated with her leaseholder and moved to an affordable location he also owned. Frank is now exploring
the root of his money issues, and he and Marilyn have added inexpensive pleasures to their lives. For more on managing financial anxiety, take a look at the Top 10 tips.