Coping with money worries

By:  Simonne Gnessen, Wise Monkey Financial Coaching

The words ‘money’ and ‘worries’ go together so often they can seem inseparable. Throw in the current situation with COVID 19, and those worries exponentially skyrocket. As a nation we’re primed, and on high alert, as never before. Unprecedented events such as these are inevitably triggering financial anxieties, especially for those already plagued with a scarcity mindset.

Money worries can leave us trapped in a relentless cycle of anxiety. Some people are so focused on regrets, they waste all their mental energy going over what they should have done or achieved in advance of this. Others are so anxious about money, they can’t face actually dealing with it. Too paralysed to look at the figures, leaving envelopes unopened and worsening their financial situation through fines and late payment fees.

I work with a number of clients to help them minimise the power of anxiety over such thoughts and behaviour and to move towards where they want to be instead. These skills and techniques are now more significant than ever. It’s important to focus on what is currently in your control and act on it.

The first step out of these traps is to put theories to the test. Unable to earn income or claim any of the new government initiatives, one client was feeling anxious and worried she’d be unable to make ends meet. We examined whether this perception was actually true – fully assessing her finances, narrowing her spending dramatically now that so many discretionary expenses would temporarily be stopped and she was able to negotiate payment holidays on some of her fixed costs. The resulting figures were nowhere near as dismal as she had thought. Her relief was palpable.

But even when someone’s financial difficulties are as real as they fear, it’s important to move forward by asking what it is we can do, rather than draining energy going round in circles of anxiety and regret. Here I often work with the concept of the ‘slight edge’ based on the book by Jeff Olson – a simple principle that demonstrates how small changes have a compound effect and make a big difference over time. By facing up to finances, with small steps and sound planning, you can get back in charge of your life.

I’d suggest these four steps as a route out of money anxiety:

1) Test the reality
Put your financial situation into actual figures, assess which costs have to be met, which can be put on hold, and which can be negotiated. And keep abreast of the financial support available. You may need outside help to do this as it’s hard to see the wood for the trees when you’re feeling emotionally charged. So seek help, whether from financially literate friends or family, or from a financial adviser or coach.

2) Focus on what you actually need
Focus on what you need, not what you want. This is simply a reality check for the here and now. A way to control your finances in the current crisis.

3) Commit to action
What steps do you need to take to move forwards? Take small steps, embracing the ‘slight edge’ and knowing small actions will cumulate to make big changes.

4) Acknowledge and reward
Appreciate what you have done so far to get where you are. Focus on what is good and positive, and let go of regrets.