Taking Control of our money anxiety

In part 2 of our money anxiety series we looked at ways to create a mental gap so we could prevent our higher brain being overloaded by the emotions from our lower brain.  However, it’s not only anxiety that impacts on our ability to think rationally.  Our higher brain is also affected by hunger, anger, loneliness and tiredness, which forms the acronym H.A.L.T.  All of these factors take up a lot of our energy and as you would imagine, we are far more likely to make poor judgements or decisions when we are tired or hungry.  This is the same can also be said for anger and loneliness as these emotions can also affect us the same as anxiety.  Therefore, if you’re are struggling to think clearly, then H.A.L.T. and see what you need to do to create a calm, safe space to engage your higher brain.

Another strategy you can use is to stay away from things that upset you – for example if looking at your dwindling investments or savings make you anxious, stop doing it.  You probably didn’t do it every day before this, so there is no need to do it now.  The same also applies to the news and social media content.  News and online posts are structured to grab your attention with dramatic headlines and music.  Our anxiety makes us feel we need to be in touch with what’s going on, but this just feeds the brain’s threat detection systems and usually increases stress.  So turn it off, read a book or find other ways to relax.

Although our circumstances are different, we can generally be organised into 4 groups depending on whether we have income and/or savings. The table below shows some suggestions for what each group should be thinking about.

  Have Income No Income
Have Savings Don’t stop your spending – people are depending on you. Look for ways to support local businesses (fruit and veg sellers, restaurants or café’s). Buy vouchers from businesses which have had to close temporarily. Check if they have developed an online offering. Support family and friends who may have money problems. Be generous. If you have a rainy day fund, now is the time to use it. Make a budget so you know how long it will last and cancel all unnecessary spending. Make sure you find out about everything that is available to you. If it looks like you will run out of money, look for a temporary job and find out if you are entitled to any repayment holidays with your creditors.  Do not sell investments unless you have to. Do not cash in pensions.
No Savings Your expenses may have dropped dramatically and you should now be putting money away for a rainy day fund. Switch spending to support local businesses (fruit and veg sellers, restaurants or café’s). See if you can find some easy savings. Do not freeze. Make sure you find out about everything that is available to you from state benefits to holiday repayments.  If you have debt, talk to your lenders and debt support groups. Talk to your utility providers. Get a temporary job. Look for things you can sell. Do not be tempted to default as this may damage your credit.  Try to avoid payday lenders, loan sharks and all expensive debt if possible.


In general we spend very little time on our finances – either managing them or educating ourselves. Learning how to manage our finances is a key life skill and it takes time.  Keep up with the latest developments in government support and advice by visiting the following websites:

Dennis Harhalakis is the Founder of Cambridge Money Coaching