Posted by Jacey on Apr 14, 2009
It seems worry about money and the economy is everywhere, and it is hard to not get sucked in to the fear that is so pervasive in our country at this time. According to Pew Research, more than seven-in-ten Americans say they worry about money, either often (35%) or sometimes (37%). For more information on this research you can click here. I found myself being aware of worrisome thoughts today as I wrote checks to the IRS and the state of Colorado for money owed for taxes. As I wrote the checks, thoughts started to creep in like, “You were not expecting to put this much money towards taxes!” and “What if an emergency pops up and you don’t have the money to pay for it?”
Equating Money With Survival:
I doubt there is one of us out there that has not been worried about money at some time or another. Even if you tend to not worry about other things, money can get assigned a special status because we equate money with survival. If money is tight, it can literally feel like our very survival is threatened. However, it is not. What we actually need to survive and what we are convinced we need are two very different things. It is really our sense of self that feels threatened. Most of us have some version of the belief, “I am a worthy human being if I make money” running through our heads. If enough money isn’t being made, our sense of self plummets, and we worry.
The Effects of Worry:
Worrying has negative effects on our lives including:
* Increased stress and tension in the body
* Health problems
* Extra strain on relationships
* The inability to enjoy the present moment
* Difficulty focusing or getting things done
* Trouble sleeping
* Being short tempered or easily frustrated
* Feeling helpless
10 Ways To Stop Worrying About Money:
1. Stop traveling to the future in your mind. Worry is generally thoughts about the future. If you let yourself experience the moment you are in, are things ok? Take a moment to notice your breathing.
2. Ask yourself, “How do I feel?” Shift your focus from your thinking to the physical sensations in your body. What is happening in your body when you are worried? See if you can be kind to yourself, no matter what you notice.
3. Be creative. Start a garden to lower your grocery bill, utilize your local library to check out movies, music, and books, clean out your closet and take some clothes to sell to a consignment shop, or check out local universities as they often offer free events. If you are taking steps to save money you will feel good about your efforts.
4. Take care of yourself. Self care can be the first thing to go when worry takes over. Get enough sleep, drink enough water, exercise, and take some time each day to relax.
5. If needed, allow yourself a short period of time each day to worry. For some people this can be helpful. It is important to set a time limit (I would suggest no more than 10 minutes a day) to allow yourself to worry. It might be helpful to write down your worries. Once you have acknowledged them, ask yourself, “Is thinking about the same worries over and over really going to help me?” Take responsibility for your thoughts.
6. Don’t stay glued to the news. Every time you turn on the TV, radio, or computer, the message is the same, “Worry about the economy!” Overloading your psyche with this message is not helpful.
7. Ask for a raise. Are you due for one? Can’t hurt to ask!
8. Offer to help others. Expanding your awareness beyond yourself can give you a new perspective and it also helps you feel good! You can volunteer in your community or start closer to home and offer your spouse or child help with a chore, homework, or a task.
9. Be grateful for what you have. When you find yourself worrying, take a minute to think of the things in your life that you are grateful for. What is going well in your life?
10. Don’t equate money with your sense of self. If you find yourself doing this, remind yourself that money does not define your self-worth. For more information on this, click here.
How can I not worry during this economy?
There is a common misconception that worrying is a way to solve a problem. But is it really? What does worrying really do, except create stress? It is not proactive, productive, supportive, compassionate, or helpful in any way. You have no control over the economy, but you do have control over yourself, where you put your attention, and how much weight you give your worrisome thoughts.
Trying a new approach:
Jim (not his real name) was overwhelmed by the financial responsibility he felt towards his family. If paying the mortgage and saving for his daughter’s college education weren’t stressful enough, watching his retirement account dwindle was pushing him over the edge. His worry had gotten out of control and he was unable to sleep at night. He also found himself feeling extremely irritable. By the time he came in for therapy, Jim knew that he had to try something new. I presented him with several of the options listed above, and asked him to choose one. Jim chose to focus on self-care, which he’d been neglecting. He reinstated his exercise routine and committed to eating a healthy breakfast with his wife and daughter every morning. After one week, Jim noticed a difference in the amount he was worrying. “Exercising is helping me reduce my stress, and it also is helping me sleep at night, because I feel tired. Eating breakfast with my family has also been good- instead of worrying about my daughter I am spending time with her, and it puts me in a good mood, especially since she will be going to college soon. I am realizing the preciousness of our time together.”
The 3 that don’t worry:
This article lists several things you can try to decrease your worry. It is important to realize that ultimately you do have a choice about how much attention you give your worrisome thoughts. If you are feeling overwhelmed, choose an idea that seems the easiest to you and try it out. Pay attention to your experience as you make the change. Since statistics show that 7 out of 10 Americans worry about money, that means that 3 out of 10 don’t. Wouldn’t it be great to be 1 of those 3?