Have your money problems become so dire that you find yourself searching “I need financial help immediately?” We get it. You’re in a tight spot, and you’re panicking. Hearing that you’re not alone doesn’t really help, and you aren’t sure what to do while you’re not thinking clearly.
Take a breath. Financial stress can be overwhelming, but you have more resources and options than you know. However, we need to get you in the right mental space first. Let’s go over some ways to keep yourself calm so you can tackle your financial problems with a clear mind.
Identify the Problems and Make a Plan
One of the reasons why money problems can seem so daunting is the mystery of them. Of course, besides the obvious answer that you don’t make enough money to pay your bills, financial difficulty can have other sources. It might be your spending habits, a past mistake, a misunderstanding of the financial system, or something else. Those you can address right away.
Look over your financial statements and try to identify where the problem lies. Are you spending too much on unnecessary items? Does your paycheck come in too late? If the former is the case, then make a budget that ensures you can pay off your debts before spending anything on excess leisure items. If it’s the latter, then you have more control over when you receive your income than you may know: apps like Earnin allow you to access up to $500 of your paycheck per pay period, giving you time to pay your bills before incurring late fees.
Improve Your Financial Literacy
Next, make an effort to educate yourself about financial topics. Books about personal finance are a great place to start, such as Personal Finance for Dummies, along with blogs about related subjects. Take advantage of free or inexpensive financial literacy courses online or from your local community college. The more you know about the financial system, the more prepared you will be, and the less scary your money problems will seem.
Talk to a Professional
Consult with a credit or debt expert for practical advice regarding your situation. A professional can help you perform the steps mentioned above and guide you through the remainder of the process, including making a concrete debt management plan. Having someone in your corner will bring you peace of mind.
Besides a financial expert, another kind of professional you should talk to is a therapist. Regular conversations with this kind of expert will help you navigate the emotional aspects of financial stress. If your habits are partly responsible for your situation, then hopefully, a therapist can help you change those, too. You can find free and low-cost therapy resources here.
Avoid Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
People struggling with financial difficulty sometimes resort to bad habits to deal with stress. Unhealthy coping mechanisms will only exacerbate your situation in more ways than one. Avoid the temptation to spend even more money (this is not the time for retail therapy), eat excessively, drink alcohol, or abuse other substances. Call SAMHSA’s free national helpline at 1-800-622-HELP (4357) if you feel that you are about to engage in harmful or addictive behavior.
Practice Mindfulness Exercises
Instead, practice mindfulness exercises to cope with stress in a healthier way. You can replace bad habits with good ones or start practicing mindfulness immediately to avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms to begin with.
Breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and other activities can help you center yourself and stay grounded. They don’t alleviate your money problems, but you can use them to change your perspective and attitude toward your situation. Other stress-relieving activities include going for a walk, spending time in nature, creating artwork, hugging someone, playing with pets, and learning how to talk about yourself in a more positive light. Dwelling on your stress isn’t productive, so put your energy into something wholesome if you are unable to relax.
Keep Track of Your Progress
Keep track of your progress as you take steps toward addressing your financial problems. Not only is doing so necessary for the process itself (you should keep a careful record of the money you spend and the debt you pay off) but celebrating small goals is beneficial for your mental health. Take pride in your little victories. Keeping track of your progress puts your entire financial situation in perspective, motivates you to push forward, and makes your circumstances seem less bleak.
Remember: financial difficulty is not a moral failing. The money system is complicated and underserves the under-educated and a vast majority of people. Take advantage of the resources available to you and believe that you have what it takes to turn your situation around.
This article originally appeared on Earnin. Please note, the material collected in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as or construed as advice regarding any specific circumstances. Nor is it an endorsement of any organization or Services.