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Money Anxiety Disorder (with its ominous acronym MAD) is not only a diagnosed condition, for some, it’s a worrying way of life.
You could argue it became a national sport in Ireland during the financial crisis and despite the fact the economy has stabilised, it’s important to recognise that not everyone has bounced back at the same rate.
Some of us still need help curbing the urge to dwell and get stressed out when it comes to money.
The two most important things to note from the get-go are:
- It’s perfectly natural to worry about money from time-to-time.
Even with the best laid financial plans, unforeseen expenses crop up and our regular outgoings can get the better of us occasionally. So, a little worry is par of the course for all of us.
- There are lots of proven tips and strategies to help relieve the pressure.
Stress, while completely understandable, is counterproductive. So, instead of wasting energy focusing on the negative, psychologists recommend tapping into simple, proactive steps that can make real inroads to improving your financial situation and mental wellness.
Money worries can look pretty standard from the outside, but everyone can benefit from understanding the difference between a healthy amount of time spent thinking about money and where the line is crossed into more extreme anxiety.
That way, you can recognise it in yourself or those closest to you and nip it in the bud quickly.
People with Money Anxiety Disorder tend to:
- Worry about money most of the time
- Find it hard to focus on anything else
- Worry about future events
- Stress unnecessarily about losing their job, home or getting ill
- Feel ashamed
- Have trouble relaxing and sleeping
- Suffer from back or neck pain
- Struggle with headaches and stomach pain
- Experience panic attacks
- Feel helpless and fear there is no way to improve their situation
Kick financial stress into touch
It’s not a pleasant list, but the good news is there are so many ways to get the balance back on track, and it’s never as hopeless as it might appear.
Here are our 7 top tips for keeping financial stress in check and tackling stress from a more positive place.
Recognise the signs
If any of the signs mentioned above look familiar, in you or someone close, it’s important to stop, take stock and acknowledge that you’re worrying more than you should. It’s only when you admit something’s not quite right, you can get to work fixing it with a realistic financial plan that allows you to take back control.
Talk and take good advice
A problem shared is a problem halved, making a friend, partner, debt counsellor or a financial advisor a good starting point if you need help seeing through the fog and getting some perspective.
If you don’t have a financial advisor, StepChange and MABS have offices throughout Ireland and offer free, confidential and independent advice on everything from budgeting to managing debts linked to mortgage repayments, credit cards and utility bills.
Expert financial advice is always available and the internet is awash with free tried and tested tips, so tap into good counsel and practical tools wherever you can find them. They can help you focus, identify where your finances are falling down and put some structure in place to right the wrongs.
Tackle the big stuff first or anything that needs immediate attention.
If it’s debt, get an affordable payment plan up and running, so you can start making progress and manage your outgoings better.
If you’re worried about retirement, work out what you can budget on a regular basis or if you’re expecting money that could be used to boost contributions, down the track.
If a fear of ill-health or an inability to earn keeps you awake at night, look into income protection and life insurance, to help secure your future from the unknown.
If it’s your job, career progression or the threat of redundancy that worries you, you should talk to your employer and address your concerns head on. Forewarned is forearmed and an honest conversation can help put your mind at ease, or give you advance notice if a job search is looking likely in the near future.
Save what you can
It’s not always easy, but putting even a small amount aside regularly, can create an emergency fund and invaluable lifeline.
Setting up a direct debit and keeping money out of arm’s reach in a separate account, reduces your chances of falling foul of the dreaded impulse buy or over-spending, so think about how you can put a little aside and start fluffing your financial cushion.
Reduce spend and boost income
Consolidating payments, shopping around for insurance, choosing bundled price packages for things like TV and broadband (or cancelling the package you never use because you’re addicted to Netflix), all make sense.
Even swapping out branded products for less spendy groceries in your shopping trolley are no-brainers if you want to tighten your purse strings.
There’s a good chance you can generate cash without too much effort also. Start by looking for the ‘big ticket items’ around your home that you no longer love or use.
The mountain bike gathering dust in the shed, collection of mobile phones in the kitchen drawer or spare wardrobe stuffed with clothes and handbags you haven’t looked at all year. They’re all valuable pots of cash waiting to happen.
If it needs to be something bigger to make a noticeable difference, a second job, dog walking, a short-term lodger or putting your home on Airbnb if there are periods you’re not around, can provide an income that goes straight into your emergency saving fund.
Positivity can gather pace just as quickly as negativity, so try to keep upbeat, learn from the things that are going well and celebrate the wins!
Be kind to yourself
That doesn’t mean blowing your salary on a shiny new gadget at the end of each month, but giving yourself some breathing room and doing everything possible to manage your stress levels, is important.
Anxiety can have a big impact on your physical and mental health and little TLC can go a long way, particularly if you’ve acknowledged where things are going wrong and you’re doing everything you can to improve your situation.
Wellness gurus recommend socialising outside, putting your feet up when you get the chance, spending time with friends and making time for some fun.
After all, laughter might still be the best medicine – and it’s free!
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