“Action alleviates anxiety”
Though most well-known to those in addiction recovery, this phrase has recently become something of a mantra for me.
My general anxiety has increased lately. Work has been more stressful and we still don’t have Eddie’s health issues figured out. Thanks to counseling and some of the tools I’ve learned from it, I’m not falling apart. But I am letting my work stress follow me home more often and I’m finding my anxiety ramping up unnecessarily.
This increase in baseline anxiety has had a direct effect on my view of our finances.
Small issues feel like big issues
Small purchases that we can handle and are built into our budget not only catch my attention, but also hold it. I find myself thinking about if there was a way to avoid a $20 expense that has already happened and is in the past. I’m not letting these things go.
I worry about expenses that may never exist
With the recent rash of vet visits, I find myself bracing myself for the next big vet bill. We don’t know that there will be another vet bill soon; I’m wasting time and mental energy dreading an expense that may never come.
I become less happy with our present finances
We are in a good place financially. Even with an expensive 2nd quarter, our net worth still went up. We were able to save money. We didn’t take on any debt. But because I feel more anxious, I have a negative outlook. By all accounts, we are in a better place financially, but my happiness with our finances is down due to my anxiousness. Instead of focusing on our growth and ability to handle a major financial hurdle, I zero in on what I imagine our growth could have been if we hadn’t faced that hurdle.
What am I doing?
This is where “action alleviates anxiety” comes in. In my personal life, I’m just doing MORE to try to get through what has become a stressful time. Sometimes it’s literally moving my body through working out or going for a walk. Other times it’s picking up a game I enjoy. For a while, I was trying to slow down and cut down on the sheer number of distractions in my life. With my anxiety up, I’m instead spending time doing more.
In regards to finances, I have two specific actions that I’m taking, which may help you if you find yourself anxious about your current financial situation:
- I’m tracking our finances
When I feel stressed about money and find myself focusing on the small details, I update our tracking spreadsheets and take a look at where we actually stand. This knowledge helps me put things into perspective. It’s also helpful because it’s an action I can take no matter what. It isn’t reliant on making more money or changing my situation. When I freak out, I can take a look at reality.
- We’re attacking our most easily achieved goal
This is something I talked about a few weeks ago, but one action we’re taking is finishing out our smallest goal. This helps me see the progress we’re making while simultaneously reducing the number of items that require attention. We’re still saving the same amount of money. But it feels like we’re saving more.
I have a friend who did this with her student loans. She switched over to paying the minimum on her student loans so that she could finish off her credit card debt. She saved the same amount of money, but taking action and completing the goal made a huge difference to her mindset.
If you find yourself being overwhelmed by stress and anxiety, first find a mental health professional who can help you work to improve your outlook and life. But also, just do something.
If you are anxious specifically about your finances, start by tracking what you’re spending, saving, and earning. After you have a detailed view of where you’re at, pick out some particular actions that you can take immediately. Doing something, and focusing your mental energy on the fact that you are doing something, is a powerful step in pushing back against anxiety.