How to manage financial stress and anxiety in the current financial conditions

Price rises, volatile super balances and share markets, commodity shortages, and interest rate rises on mortgages don’t appear to be going away any time soon it appears. According to NAB’S latest Household Financial Stress Index, women, 18-29 years old’s and low-income earners are experiencing the highest levels of financial stress.

Price rises, volatile super balances and share markets, commodity shortages and interest rate rises on mortgages don’t appear to be going away any time soon it appears.

According to NAB'S latest Household Financial Stress Index, women, aged 18-29 year olds and low income earners are experiencing the highest levels of financial stress.

The greatest drivers of worries are:

- won’t have enough for retirement

- Providing for their family

- Meeting mortgage or credit card repayments

- Medical and health care costs

- Meeting the cost of unexpected expenses

Anxiety is the biggest detractor from overall emotional wellbeing and financial stress can be a key contributing cause. The NAB Household Financial Stress Index looks at the role our finances have on our overall wellbeing – its conclusion, its significant!

What are some strategies to help you maintain your financial wellbeing?

1. Be aware emotions and money are intertwined

Our relationship with money is complicated and oh-so-very-emotional.

While money is a rational and logical concept (it’s just a medium of exchange) us humans, and in particular, women, attach our own emotions and meanings to money. These money emotions were created as young as 4 to 5 years old. Money is a ‘core survival’ need so when money is feeling strained, we’re physically wired to move into a ‘fight-flight-or-freeze’ dynamic.

Your clever brain is constantly making judgments about what's safe and what isn't. To the human mind, uncertainty equals danger. If your brain doesn't know what's around the corner (is inflation coming, how much are interest rates going to rise and will I be able to afford my mortgage repayments), it can't keep you out of harm's way, so it causes fear, anxiety, stress and worry.

We are biologically hardwired to overestimate threats and underestimate our own ability to handle them. Be aware that our FEARS can be both real and perceived – check in with yours.

2. Take time out & start your day right

If you find yourself spiraling into a dark hole of worry and financial stress through compulsively consuming news, thinking about your finances or checking your accounts – reach for some strategies you’d use in other stressful times. ie, exercise, connecting with nature or a trusted friend, meditation or other relaxing activities. Ideally ones that don’t have financial consequences.

Create morning rituals (Start your day right) Instead of starting your day by turning the news on or checking your phone, (which generally stimulate stress), start off stretching, meditating or go for a walk outside (just rug up – it is winter!)

Emotions need motion – so move. Those emotions we feel need to move through our body.

This strategy doesn’t cost anything. Be aware, being stressed affects your ability to make clear and good decisions.

3. Take small but significant steps in the right direction

Taking time out doesn't mean that you should stop being proactive about managing your bills or sticking to your spending plan or budget. Focus on what you can control – review where you’re spending money and determine if there are areas you can cut down or get a better price. Consider possible scenarios for earning extra income – working extra hours, getting a second job, asking for a pay rise, starting a side-hustle.

4. Focus on the longer term

Economies and investment markets move in cycles, so it won’t always be this way. Share markets have crashes and corrections, supply of our essential living items like food and fuel will eventually get back to normal. It just takes time. Rather than focusing 100% on day-to-day, look broader – where do you want to be in 5 – 10 years’ time from now? 5. Express gratitude Because our brain is wired for identifying threats, its not going to come from a place of abundance or gratitude. We need to intentionally practice gratitude. In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly with greater happiness and wellbeing. Acknowledge and give thanks for your current situation.

If you’re living in Australia I imagine you have a roof over your head, a car or access to transport and clean water and food. Which makes you significantly better off than 50% of the world population.

So, we want to give thanks for that.

I’m not going to go all woo-woo on you but the laws of attraction, quantum physics and the energy we put out there does come back to us.

And lastly, get support – you don’t need to navigate this alone.

There are professionals who can help you:

- Financial advisers

- Money coaches

- Financial counsellors

If you are, or know of someone in a precarious financial situation or you're struggling with your mental health, there are options and people out there to help. Below is a link for assistance with severe financial hardship - you can put in your postcode and find an organisation close to you. https://moneysmart.gov.au/managing-debt/financial-counselling

How Can a Money Coach Help?

- Gaining financial confidence and clarity through knowledge of money concepts, and strategies;

- Calculating your cost of living and creating a new budget or spending plan (without you feeling like you’re giving too much up)

- Emotional strategies and exercises to reduce feelings of anxiety, fear, stress, overwhelm, or guilt.



Karen Eley is a financial coach with more than 20 years’ experience as a financial adviser. Through her business, Women Talking Finance, she helps women to be confident and knowledgeable about all things finance. Karen translates complex financial concepts into simple digestible ideas.

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