Anxiety over money is taking a toll on your mind & body. Here’s why (and how) you need to take control of your financial stress now!

It’s that time again, and you’d rather be doing anything else (and I do mean anything) than paying bills! Do you feel like this? Every month, the same dread, and the same thoughts go through your brain… “How did we get here?”

Have you asked yourself something similar? You’re smart, driven, and so is your spouse. Yes, you may splurge on something now and then, but nothing crazy, you’re pretty responsible! So why are the bills piling up? Why does dealing with our finances make us feel so anxious?

Why do we feel like we failed?

Maybe you feel differently? In fact, you may have so many feelings, and it’s hard to pinpoint and put a name to it. Yet only when we name it and see it clearly can we work to move through it. So let’s do the hard work together and label your feelings over your money anxiety! I talked with Moms about their feelings around money, specifically debt. Maybe their insight given below can help you start the process of clarifying your own feelings, and see how to move past the worry that financial stress brings.

how to dump your financial stress

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may make a commission at no cost to you. Please read my full disclosure for more info

Who’s facing the weight of money anxiety?

Stressing out over money and beating ourselves up isn’t doing us any good. You know that, right? But before we can move through this phase (and it is a phase), we need to recognize and acknowledge what we’re feeling! Please notice that I said, “we.” It’s an “us” thing because this absolutely isn’t a “you” thing. So many women and families struggle with the weight of their debt, or their lack of savings.

The American debt situation is indeed bleak, and according to this research, 41.2% of American households carry credit card debt. They continue to say, “The mean credit card debt of U.S. households is approximately $5,700, according to most recent data from the Survey of Consumer Finances by the U.S. Federal Reserve. This information comes from data collected up through to the year 2013, and represents the most reliable measure of credit card indebtedness in the United States.”

So there’s proof, you’re not alone by being in debt. You are in good company, as we are in this together!

It’s also helpful to come to terms with what’s involved with our financial anxiety, as it’s not just our money situation right now. We’ve been subjected to stress & money having a relationship for a long time, although we may not have realized it. This long-term narrative is called your money story. It’s how you were raised, taught, and observed how money and financial situations were handled in your home. It’s impactful and it’s important!

What being in debt feels like to us Moms

As I said above, I talked to Moms about how their debt and financial challenges makes them feel, all over a very official medium, Facebook :). People tend to be very blunt on the internet, so I take their feelings and emotions about their financial stress to be entirely authentic and a bit raw.  

I’m going to give it to you unfiltered, not softened, or sugar-coated. Because this is real life, this is what being in debt feels like…

  • feeling that I’ll never be able to pay it off
  • feelings of scarcity
  • my body gets sick from the stress levels
  • making me desperate in other areas. i.e., take any job, cut any expense, even things that we need
  • anxious & ashamed
  • depressed
  • failure and shame
  • struggle with being present in life, always thinking about their debt to the point of distraction
  • compulsively check account balances. Is there enough money to cover it all?
  • trapped
  • ignore it, as it wears you down to think about it
  • frustrated
  • loss of control
  • being stuck
  • scared
  • muscle tension & pain due to high-stress levels
  • anxiety because they don’t know what spouse will buy next
  • it feels like we’re drowning in our debt
  • get buys remorse even for buy things we need
  • always chasing the debt, a cycle
  • the feeling of going deeper into a hole

Could you identify with any of these Moms? I know I sure can! Let’s get personal here, as even though my husband and I have dumped our credit card debt, we do still have a mortgage. When we were at our deepest debt, I can remember that I would check our account balances almost every day. I would imagine myself in old age, living in poverty. Fearing we would always be stuck, always be broke. I feared that nothing would ever change. That was my version of financial stress.

You may be wondering why I am sharing this, as our feelings are personal? There’s a lot of stigmas that come with being in a bad financial situation, so we don’t talk about it openly. Which only reinforces that it’s something to feel ashamed about. Talking about it openly and honestly can help you walk through your own thought process, making things clearer for yourself. And you could be helping others by letting them see that others struggle too.

Life shouldn’t all be IG worthy; life shouldn’t be just a well-curated feed of beautiful hair and brunch photos. We don’t make connections that way; we make connections when we feel other’s pain, see their struggles, and watch them overcome. Then we too can help them live that joy, slowly coming to realize that there’s hope for us too! …Why not me? This is what you should be asking yourself!

What I want is for you to read the feelings above and think, “OMG, this is me! This is how I FEEL!” and then letting the realization sink in that you are not alone! There is nothing “wrong” with you! You aren’t dumb; you’re not cursed. What you are in, is a crappy situation that can be turned around!

suze orman quote on financial stress

What happens if you don’t deal with your financial stress?

Maybe you’re in a place where you just can’t face your situation. That’s fine, acknowledge that you can’t (for right now), yet make a promise to yourself that you will come back to it in one week or one month. And we know by now that the promises we make to ourselves are the most important!

We can’t let ourselves be stressed and worried about our finances for too long though. A mom mentioned above that she gets sick from the stress. But what does that mean, and how does it show up?  

Stress in the moment of threat

The Mayo Clinic has done an excellent job of explaining the effects of stress on your body. When you feel stressed, “Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol… Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure, and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose, and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system, and growth processes.” This is called the fight or flight response.

Once the perceived threat has passed, your body returns these hormone levels back to normal.

But when stressors are always present, and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on and your physical and mental health suffer.

“The long-term activation of the stress-response system and the overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones that follow can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. This puts you at an increased risk of many health problems.”

Prolonged stress effects on our lives

Helpguide did a fantastic job of breaking down what prolonged stress looks, feels like and how it presents itself in our lives (this isn’t specific to just financial stress though).

Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying

Emotional Symptoms:

  • Depression or general unhappiness
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Moodiness, irritability, or anger
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Other mental or emotional health problems

Physical Symptoms:

  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Chest pain, rapid heart rate
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds or flu

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
  • Nervous habits (e.g., nail-biting, pacing)

If you can identify and relate to any of the symptoms mentioned above, then take heart. Knowledge is power! If you were watching T.V. in the ’80s, you might remember NBC’s “The More You Know” PSA campaign. When you learn about something and understand it better, you can then take action on it!

Do you have money anxiety disorder?

If you’re experiencing long-term high financial anxiety, then maybe it’s time to get professional help. A few resources that I looked at mentioned money anxiety disorder, but there wasn’t a lot of information, so it might be uncommon or just recently come into view of the financial therapist and psychology community.

Psychology Today says, ” Money disorders are persistent patterns of self-destructive and self-limiting financial behaviors. I believe that they result from distorted beliefs about money we develop from our financial flashpoint experiences. Financial flashpoints are painful, distressing, and/or dramatic life events associated with money that are so emotionally powerful, they leave a lasting imprint.”

Dr. Brad Klontz developed the money script categorization – and within those has identified three types of money disorders.

  1. Money Avoidance – includes Underspending and Excessive Risk Aversion
  2. Money-Worshipping – includes Pathological Gambling, Workaholism, and Overspending
  3. Relational Money – includes Financial Dependence and Financial Incest

The #1 thing to do – make a financial plan to feel more in control

How to overcome your anxiousness in the moment

There are other things that you can do to help you feel better in your mind and body, and help you move through the axiousness faster.

  • Go for a run & get your heart rate up! Get all that nervous energy out of your body!
  • Start taking small steps to learn more about what you are fearful of, as learning about something demystifies it. Listening to podcasts is one of the easiest ways to start!
  • Talk to like-minded people, share concerns, and hear their stories; someone is probably a few steps ahead of you on their journey, they may have tips or can empathize and help you feel heard, understood, and validated. Find some great Facebook groups to be a part of!
  • Be proud of your steps forward, no matter how small, they all add up to help get you to where you want to be! Sometimes you need to not only be proud but to celebrate as well! Pay off a credit card? Have a living room dance party, get a cupcake, journal your feelings of pride to help the moment sink in, and be real!
  • Practice reframing your worries into positive wealth affirmations. Using affirmations is part of using the law of attraction, where you focus on what you do want, not on what you don’t want. Because worrying obsessively is just going to bring you down, where you need to focus on building yourself back up!
picasso quote on planning

How do we get rid of our long-term financial stress?

There were a lot of Moms that repeated the above comments, and a few feelings got a lot of agreements and “OMG me too!” responses. Yet, there was only one response that wasn’t echoed by others. One single person said that they never felt bad about their debt, as they have always had a plan to pay it off.

What? Yup. She had a plan, so she didn’t feel bad.

I am sure this person still felt some sort of other feelings about their debt. Yet this is the response she chose. (oohhhhhh, did you catch that? She chose her feelings! SHE CHOSE!) She wasn’t stressed about her money situation at all (so it seemed).

You can call B.S. if you want, but those of you that have taken control of your thoughts and mindset in other areas of your life know that this is hard to do, yet so powerful! Your money mindset is particularly powerful, don’t dismiss it as being too woo-woo (I made that mistake too!).

Yes, feel all the feels, wallow for a little bit, and then pull yourself up, tell your money problems to take a flying leap (or insert curse word of choice) and then get to work building your own action plan!

The way to move past your anger, fear, and financial anxiety will be to take control and make a plan of action, and then to choose how you feel about it! I’m not saying that you have to feel good about it, or even ambivalent. Your darker emotions may pop up every now and then (that’s normal). But you know that you already have the mental and emotional tools to pull yourself up out of the negative place that you’re in.

One of the best ways to figure out how to reach your end goal is to reverse engineer the steps. It’s kind of like drawing a roadmap of exactly how to get to where you want to be. Be specific, be detailed; ask yourself “how” a bunch of times to achieve your big goals!

For example, to pay off my Visa card by 2021, I need to pay an extra $532 a month. In order to get that $532 a month I need to cut my household expenses, such as the gym membership, I need to have two garage sales (a spring and a fall one), I need to DIY Chrismas presents, and I need to cut getting my nails done, and my hubs need to nix cable. To do this, I need to look into getting just Hulu, go through the garage and the attic for sellable items, call the gym to cancel, and get on Pinterest for cute DIY crafts. Done. There’s your plan. (of course, I do realize this is a very simple plan, but you get the idea).

One of the best places to start is to get a working monthly budget up and going. I know, people have a love/hate relationship with budgeting in the beginning. I hope you will take the stance that budgeting is a tool that will make your dreams a reality! If you have a working household budget, then it’s time to look at the bigger picture. A comprehensive financial plan will help you for the long haul. Here are some other things you can do…

  • List out a financial goal – like build a starter emergency fund
  • List out your money worries, and then write the counter of that. So instead of saying “I suck at money”, you can say “I working on building my financial literacy every day.” (this is using positive money affirmations).
  • Analyze my spending habits by keeping an expense tracker.
  • Call your credit card company and ask about repayment options
  • Go over your monthly bills and aim to cut 20% of the outgoing dollars, especially your spending money (aka the non-necessity expenses)
  • Go over your credit report and get your credit score to establish a starting point
  • Look for a financial advisor, to open up a retirement account and start building security
  • Go to the library and check out a book. Your go-to personal finance expert could be – Dave Ramsey, David Bach, Jean Chatzky, Lara Adams, etc.

A good rule of thumb is to also not make your financial decisions at the moment. Get some space from the immediate situation, and take the time to research it thoroughly.

If you’re looking to not only get rid of financial anxiety but to stop the cycle at the beginning, then figuring out how to stop spending money in the first place is key! There are many reasons for spending and just as many creative ways on how to stop. If one thing doesn’t work for you then try something else!

At the end of the day

Mama, don’t feel bad about your situation, but don’t be complacent either! We can’t change our past; we can only move forward from today!

You can choose to take a new emotional path, it’s not easy (it will take practice and patience), but it will absolutely help you!

Again, making a plan won’t completely get rid of your negative feelings and emotions, but what it will do is give you a sense of control. You need to find healthy ways to help alleviate your anxiety levels. Going through life in fear, anger, pain, and shame is no way to live. I want better for you! I hope that you want it too, bad enough to fight for it!

free budgeting templates

Debt and the overarching anxiety over money shouldn’t define your happiness (or lack thereof) it’s time for a plan!