In the face of a global pandemic, financial anxiety is an everyday reality. Concerns surrounding personal finances, businesses shutting down and market volatility have us navigating new waters, experiencing more acutely than ever before how our financial lives are intertwined with our mental health. Amanda Clayman, financial therapist and Prudential’s financial wellness advocate, works with people to better understand the emotional connection we have with money.
According to Clayman, financial stress, while it may be inevitable in these times, does not have to control our lives. Even in the midst of this crisis, we can practice good financial and mental health and grow in our ability to maintain calm.
How to ease your mind and overcome financial distress
Clayman offers the below tips on how to ease your mind and overcome your financial distress during the days of COVID-19.
- Allow yourself to feel a sense of loss: These big market changes may throw a wrench in the vision you had for retirement or your 401K. This is a scary realization, and a sad one. It is natural to have an emotional response, so let those feelings come and acknowledge them as they do. By not bottling up those sensations you are better able to say goodbye to your former plans and move forward. Additionally, looking your feelings in the face and comparing them to the reality of the situation provides valuable perspective that is key in the healing process.
- Embrace uncertainty as part of the plan: Concentrate on the here and now, and don’t think too far ahead. It is common to try to manage anxiety by making a plan, but that’s going to be challenging when the future feels so uncertain. Try telling yourself, “I’m going to make the best plan I can based on what I know now. Then I’m going to trust that I will figure out problems as they arise and ask for help when I need it.”
- Let go of what you can’t control: It is not worth the mental energy and distress to put pressure on yourself for what is out of your hands. Unproductive thoughts will put you on a never-ending cycle of “I have to figure it out, I have to figure it out.” That kind of spiraling activity just runs down your batteries.
- Be intentional, not impulsive: Anxiety floods your mind with fearful thoughts of worst-case scenarios, tricking you into believing immediate action is necessary to fix the problem. It may feel like you are making progress initially, but these are not emotionally grounded decisions and can lead to costly mistakes. What you need is space for perspective, to differentiate between internal feelings and external reality. Try stepping away from the computer or going for a walk before making big moves. Remind yourself that you are safe right here, right now.
- Don’t be a hero: You don’t have to bear this weight alone. You may feel as if providing financial security is all up to you, especially if you’re a caretaker or your kids moved home to ride out the pandemic. But this is not an individual problem, it’s a collective one we can face together. So reach out — take care of each other and ask to be taken care of in return. In addition to sharing your feelings with family and friends, be in touch with creditors, landlords and service providers about your concerns. They may be able to offer a payment holiday, partial payment or interest-only payment.
Explore new types of self-care
One of the most important lessons in combating any anxiety is to remember that you will not feel this way forever. In the meantime, let’s use these moments to explore new forms of emotional and financial self-care. With thoughtful reflection, we can foster a relationship with money that promotes mental health in even the most challenging circumstances.