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How to Stop Stressing Out About Money When You’re Stressing Out About Money

Don’t let that next bill send you into a death spiral

Existence is about suffering, at least according to Buddhists. But any of us who have ever stressed out about money, Buddhist or not, knows it’s true, especially those of us who don’t live like monks. Ask anyone who’s gone bankrupt: There are few mental sensations more painful than an increasing stream of bills raining down on you that you have no idea how you’re gonna pay.

So are there ways to stay calm and avoid stressing out when you’re in debt? Along with financial therapist Mariah Hudler of Koru Financial Therapy, we’re going to grit our teeth and find out.


Whoa there. Okay, the first thing you need to do is face up to your situation — stop procrastinating and do it. As you think about it, Hudler says, you’re likely to experience some strong emotions relating to money, positive or negative. Just chill and take a few moments to sit with these emotions, she advises. “Bring attention to your body, and notice the sensations in your shoulders, hands, feet, etc.,” she says. “Take a few deep breaths. Repeat as needed when emotions arise.”

Feel calmer yet?

I mean, not really, but let’s pretend it’s working so far. What else you got?

The next thing is, you’ve probably been keeping your financial anxieties to yourself, right?

Well, yeah — it’s not something to brag about, is it?

True — but if there’s no one you can reasonably talk to, you have to have an honest conversation with yourself about money. Hudler recommends journaling, saying you need to ask yourself the following:

  • What does money mean to me?
  • How comfortable do I feel talking about money, or making money decisions?
  • What did I learn from my family about spending and saving?
  • Am I living the financial life I want?

“These responses will provide insight into how you relate to money and will assist you in making money decisions,” she says. So grab a pen and paper, or your keyboard, and start writing to yourself.

Now that you mention it, is there anyone I can also talk to about it?

Sure — you can find plenty of groups full of peers, in person and online, who are going through the same thing you are. It could provide you with some emotional support, and even guidance. Practicing (and being around) kindness in this way can make you feel a lot better. Or, of course, there are many trained financial therapists like Hudler out there.

What about the bills, though? They’re not gonna pay themselves.

Right, and it’s on you (maybe with the help of a trained professional) to solve that. Set goals and think about the big picture — in order to do this, you need a plan. “Start small by listing your bills, creating a budget and a payment plan,” Hudler says.

By facing your anxiety rather than avoiding it and procrastinating, you’ll feel better even before you pay a single dollar — just the feeling of knowing you have a plan can be a huge relief. Of course, now you have to be sure to stick with your plan (and all of the tips above). But that can also create a positive feedback loop, where sticking to your plan, even if you’re just chipping away at a small mountain of debt, can make you feel a lot better, and calmer, than being stuck in neutral.