It’s no secret that millennials are under more financial stress than the generations that came before us. And it’s not because we’re buying too many avocados.*
*because you can never have too many avocados. Kidding… sorta
The average U.S. millennial graduating in 2018 has $29,800 in student loan debt, and is making an average salary of $35,592 a year. To say nothing of credit card debt! It’s a rough way to start a career and a life post-graduation.
If you’re anything like me, you lay awake some nights worrying about money. So let’s talk about how to tackle those worries.
I’m not going to tell you how to budget. For one thing, you’re probably already doing that, and for another, it’s not my area of expertise.
What I can offer is information about how to manage financial stress from a mental health standpoint. So, let’s do it!
#1 Make Peace with the Unknown
Worries about finances often begin with what if questions, like what if I never get out of debt?
If you follow these what ifs, they can take you down a rabbit hole of anxiety.
Strangely enough, following our worries can give us a false sense of security. The logic (conscious or otherwise) is that by worrying, we prepare ourselves for the future, and regain a feeling of control.
Preparing for the future is important. But it becomes counterproductive when all it’s doing is stressing you out, or when it’s happening at inopportune times (like 3 am, while you’re trying to sleep).
The reality is, many of the things we are trying to mentally prepare ourselves for will never happen! And many things we never could have predicted, will happen.
There’s no way to emotionally prepare yourself for future events. You won’t know how you feel ahead of time.
So embrace the unknown! Sure it could be bad, but it could also be better than you ever imagined!
When you notice your thoughts returning to financial worries, gently remind yourself…
- I can’t predict the future
- I don’t know how I’ll feel in the future
- One day at a time
#2 Practice Mindfulness for Financial Stress
Mindfulness is defined as a state of awareness of what’s happening in the present moment. When practicing mindfulness, the goal is to cultivate a non-judgmental, compassionate outlook.
Practicing mindfulness has been shown to be effective in decreasing emotional exhaustion, stress, and occupational stress (source).
What I recommend for financial stress is practicing mindfulness anytime you are talking and thinking about money. It only takes a few seconds and can garner great results.
Times to Practice Mindfulness for Financial Stress
- Checking your bank account
- Receiving a bill
- Paying a bill
- Getting a paycheck
- Spending money on a need
- Splurging on a want
- Completing a Venmo request
- Calling your bank
- Asking someone to borrow money
- Lending someone money
- [Add your own ideas]
How to Practice Mindfulness for Financial Stress
- Take a slow breath in through your nose, and out through your mouth. This will center you and get you ready to be mindful.
- Observe your physical sensations. Are you holding tension in your shoulders, brow, or jaw? Are you frowning or scowling? Are you experiencing a headache or migraine? Is there pain in any part of your body? Is it a dull or sharp pain?
- Observe your feelings. Are you stressed? Anxious? Scared? Ashamed? Angry? Frustrated?
- Return to what you were doing.
#3 Talk to your Loved Ones about Money
Shame derives its power from being unspeakable.– Brene Brown
For so many people, money is considered a taboo topic; something that is “impolite” or unpleasant to talk about. Money can bring up not only feelings of anxiety, but also shame, fear, and so on.
The less we talk about money (or any topic, for that matter), the more scary it feels.
Conversely, the more we discuss money, the easier it gets to do so.
Plus, discussing your finances with trusted people will help you feel supported. It’s easier to face your fears when people you love are behind you.
Financial Questions to Discuss with your Romantic Partner
- How do we currently divide financial responsibilities?
- Are we both satisfied with the way things are divided?
- If our finances are currently separate, would we consider combining? If we combine finances, would it be worth trying to have our own accounts?
- What types of things do you like to buy on the cheap? What things do you like to splurge on?
- Is there some aspect of spending that we’d like to cut back on?
- What percentage of our wages do we want to save or invest?
- [Add your own ideas]
#4 Move from a Scarcity to an Abundance Mindset
People in scarcity mindset…
- Believe there are limited resources to go around
- Settle for less than you’re worth or for what you really want
- Make choices that will benefit you short-term, but not long-term
- See peers as competition
From the outside, it may appear that those in scarcity mindset are just irresponsible.
It seems more likely that lengthy exposure to financial struggles, and prolonged anxiety about money, increases the likelihood that you’ll make poor financial decisions.
For more on this hypothesis, listen to this episode of the podcast Hidden Brain. I highly recommend it.
People in abundance mindset…
- Have faith that there are enough resources for everyone
- Go after what they really want and what they’re worth
- Make informed financial decisions
- See peers as collaborators
Will approaching life with an abundance mindset immediately bring you loads of wealth? No, of course not.
The idea is that if you have more faith that things will work out for you, you’ll be more likely to engage in behavior that leads to more wealth.
For instance, if Person A believes they are going to have a successful small business, they’ll research how to do it, let others know about the business, go to relevant networking events and trainings, and so on.
Person B has the same skills and education as Person A, but doesn’t believe their small business will be successful.
Is Person B likely to do research, talk to peers, or go to relevant trainings? No way! They may settle for a job in a totally different field, that has nothing to do with what they want.
So, how do I cultivate an Abundance Mindset?
- Follow bloggers, Instagrammers, and podcasters who promote abundance mindset
- Write statements that promote abundance mindset (“I will do great things,” or “I am worthy,” etc.) on sticky notes. Post them around the house.
- Spend a few minutes every day writing, about your ideal future in great detail.
- Work towards your goals.
To review, my suggestions for coping with financial stress are…
- Make Peace with the Unknown
- Practice Mindfulness for Financial Stress
- Talk to your Loved Ones about Money
- Move from a Scarcity to an Abundance Mindset
If you’ve found something that’s been really effective for managing financial stress, please comment below!
Rebecca Ogle is a licensed therapist who practices online counseling in Illinois. Rebecca empowers millennials to cope with anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and relationship problems using their strengths and inner wisdom.