According to a recent Gallup poll, 50% of Americans say that their financial situation is getting worse. The unemployment rate is sitting at 14.7%, the highest rate this country has seen since the days of the Great Depression. According to nerdwallet.com, a stock market downturn may escalate into a stock market crash following the pandemic and shut-down of much of the country.
Whether you are heading towards retirement, are a young person just starting out in life, or are somewhere in-between, financial stressors will affect most of us at some point in our lifetimes. As we ride out this pandemic, the current financial state of America’s economy can be worrisome or downright scary, however financial stress is unfortunately not isolated to these days.
The reality is financial stress impacts our mental health. Like any other stress, how we navigate financial concerns matters as we consider our overall wellness. While financial hits, unknowns, and hard days are certainly a possibility for each of us, there are some tools we can utilize to navigate financial uncertainty.
Recognize the emotions
One of the first steps in navigating any area of mental health is to do a self-inventory of what thoughts and emotions we are experiencing. As you evaluate your current financial situation, do you feel overwhelmed? Angry? Sad? Helpless? Scared? Guilty?
Considering and understanding what you feel will help as you navigate moving forward in addressing finances and mental health.
Face it head on
The tendency in life can be to brush things under the rug or to avoid facing the hard circumstance in front of us. When it comes to finances, we can have the tendency to pretend the struggles are not there, to avoid looking at our bank account or credit card statement, or to put unopened bills in a drawer to think about at a future date. Often, because we do not know how to solve the problem, we resort to pretending the problem may exist.
While all of this may serve as in short-term coping, it does little to move us forward towards anything. In order to navigate hard financial times, we must be willing to face them. Look at the numbers, say the reality out loud to someone close to you, and acknowledge that what is happening is real. It is from a place of having our eyes wide open about financial stress that we can begin to move forward with a plan.
Seek to control what you can and stop trying to control what you cannot
There are many aspects of finances that we have no control over: what the economy does next, downsizing at our jobs and out of nowhere expenses (hello medical bills!) are areas that we simply cannot always control. In our current economy and location, there are many people employed by Oil and Gas that know the threat and reality of layoffs.
Much of the time, we tend to focus on what we cannot control. We worry and fear what may happen, in turn having a negative effect on our mental and emotional health.
One way to address your mental health in uncertain times is to ask yourself what you can and cannot control, and to spend your mental energy focusing on that which you can impact. Consider revising your budget, making financial plans and goals, thinking through how to earn more money and cost costs, and evaluating what small things you can do every day to work towards your financial goals. While finances can feel overwhelming and uncertain at times, being intentional about focusing on what you can control can help you stay in a better mental space.
Care for yourself
At the onset of counseling, I often teach my clients the significance of self-care when working through hard things. Self-care is “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s health.” Self-care involves intentional, thoughtful choices that you or I make to love ourselves well. While stressors of life are unavoidable, we do have control over our course of action in response to stressors and in the prevention of becoming drained and dry.
Self-care can include lots of things, but the main idea is that we intentionally do things that feel like they bring us life. Spending time in community, reading, exercising, being creative, praying, journaling, getting our nails done – all of this can be self-care! The point is, you discover what works for you as an individual and do it.
While self-care does not solve all our problems, I do find that when we are being intentional about self-care, we are in a better position to navigate the other hard areas of life.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment please contact us at 832-421-8714. While counseling is an investment, it is one that you make in yourself!