1. Health
Elizabeth Scott, M.S.

Dealing With Money Stress

By September 18, 2008

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The instability of the economy, the banks and the stock market are causing quite a bit of anxiety with many people, and rightfully so. With so many Americans reeling from still-too-high gas prices, instability in the job market, and rampant foreclosures, it seems like there's no shortage of stressors to contribute to the already-stressful daily lives that many are living. One thing that makes large-scale stressors like this situation especially difficult for many, and something that distinguishes them from the smaller-scale stressors of annoying colleagues, bickering kids or a too-busy to-do list, is that many people feel that they have little control here. These are major changes where individuals may feel that they have little power to alter their own fate.

I wish the stress relief options I have to offer you included a formula to make the situation go away, or perhaps seeds to plant a money tree. Unfortunately, that's not quite within my grasp, but, as with other stressors, the situation doesn't need to change for our stress levels to go down. We often can't control our circumstances as much as we can control our responses to them.

So what I do have to offer are resources for managing the stress that you may be experiencing from financial troubles or other challenges in life. These techniques can help you get through current stress you're feeling and build your overall resilience toward stress.

Financial Stress Relief Resources:

Quick Fix: Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises rank high on my list of stress relievers for a reason: they're a quick, easy, do-anywhere method of relieving stress. Try it now; you can relieve tension quickly in your whole body.

Mindfulness Exercises for Stress Relief
While it's tempting (and, to a point, necessary) to think about all the different difficult things you may face in the future (so you can plan), you also need to take a break from all the stressful thoughts ricocheting around in your head. Mindfulness exercises can really help here. See how they work, and give them a try!

Using Exercise as a Stress Management Tool
Carve out a few minutes for a workout and you'll see many benefits, not the least of which is a change of scenery and a little distraction. Learn about the other stress relief benefits to exercise, and get moving!

Cognitive Restructuring: A Change in Perspective
Changing the way you view a problem won't make it go away (at least not immediately), but it can do two things: it can change the way you feel about the situation (and thus reduce your stress response), and it can change the way you deal with a situation (from a fear-based place or a hope-based place). Read more about cognitive restructuring and how it can help you.

Getting Help
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, hopeless and depressed, and do-it-yourself stress management practices aren't helping, you may want to talk to your doctor or another professional about what to do. Therapeutic intervention may be a more effective way to deal with the intense emotions you're experiencing while you're facing extreme circumstances.

Financial Planning Resources:
Okay, so they may not be a 'magic formula', but these resources can help you make informed decisions, which can help you relieve stress.

Before You Panic About Your Finances
Here's a nice general resource that can help you understand how to save for the long haul, from our Retirement Planning Site.

How Falling Stock Prices Can Make You Rich
Our Investing For Beginners Site explains how stock market dips can be a good thing. While it may not be a great time to invest right now, things can get better from here, and it's always nice to see a 'bright side'.

Places To Keep Your Money Safe
There are other places to invest your savings other than the stock market. Our Financial Planning guide has the basics here, so you know what your options are.

Like this post? Want to use it to start a discussion with your friends? Pass it on!

Ongoing Stress Reduction Resources – Follow Me on Twitter – Subscribe to the Newsletter
September 19, 2008 at 3:56 pm
(1) Craig Maltby says:

I enjoy your blog, Elizabeth. My wife works for a major financial services company (not one of those that are in big trouble, at least not yet).

They surveyed their 23,000 employees on attitudes and concerns about health issues and benefits.

The biggest health concern, as listed by the majority of the employees, was STRESS. I’m gonna try get more info on this for my blog soon.

Thanks so much.

Craig Maltby

September 19, 2008 at 10:49 pm
(2) aywltd916 says:

It seems to me that every single one of these stress relief articles say the same thing but provide very little advice or helpful resources or instructions for those who are facing extreme financial hardship like bankruptcy. I would love to think that running an extra mile would make my cares go away or breathing just the right way would fix my stress but lets be real. This site is fluff and regurgitated content for everything and anything there is. looking for a job? breath and take a jog. lol weak

September 20, 2008 at 12:34 am
(3) stress says:

Craig: Wow, I’d be interested in seeing that study–I’ll be checking your bog! (Looks great, BTW.)

September 20, 2008 at 12:55 am
(4) stress says:

Aywltd916: I find your tone a bit off-putting, but I understand that you’re under a lot of stress, and I’m glad you brought up your questions.

As I stated in the beginning of the blog, while I wish I could change the circumstances that so many are facing right now, I can’t–nor can I give specific advice on how to handle a bankruptcy or find a new job–but I can provide you with some ways to lessen the stress. These options might not eliminate it, but can be tools to make the level of stress you experience go down. While the circumstances you face are directly correlated with the stress that you’re feeling, it really can help for you to force yourself to take your mind off of the stress you face for a little while by giving yourself a change of scenery or perspective. It doesn’t eliminate the difficulties you face (and I didn’t claim that it would), but if you can get your body out of fight-or-flight mode, it will be better for your body and your emotional state.

The tools I offer can be applied in a variety of situations because they apply to your response to stress, not just the stressors themselves–that’s why I link to them from various places. (For some people, this is the first they’re seeing of them.)

For more specifics on dealing with bankruptcy or finding a new job, I can direct you to some other About.com sites that have these topics as their forte. (Visit http://financialplan.about.com/cs/creditdebt/a/Bankruptcy.htm for more info on bankruptcy, and http://jobsearch.about.com for more on finding a new job.)

As for dealing with the stress of these things, I should have mentioned seeing a therapist before (thanks for bringing that oversight to my attention), but that really is an option that can help, if other stress relief strategies aren’t helping with your stress levels. Sometimes when people face a crisis, they need something extra to help them get through it, and most insurance plans cover it. It can be difficult to manage the drastic changes that many people are facing, and hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s understandable that you’re feeling very stressed.

Anyway, I hope I addressed your concerns. You may also find this article to be more helpful.

Take care,


September 21, 2008 at 11:04 pm
(5) Matt Biskup says:

Ok, I’ll throw in a couple more cents. I have no idea if the situation I have been is in any way similar to Aywltd916′s situation but it may help someone else.

My wife and I are veteran entrepreneurs. We are constantly taking financial risks as we grow businesses. We’ve built and sold 5 businesses over the last 12 years. Each one was a bootstrapped, scrappy, do it with little or no investment affair.

That was our choice of how we lived and continue to live.

Somewhere along the way we sat down together and discussed the fact that based on our actions, starting small businesses serially, we had to make certain that we would agree to separate business from marriage.

I saw my parents lose a 28 year marriage over what was essentially a small business failure. Their business failure was a result of the recession of 1988 and frankly some bad growth management choices.

I didn’t want to lose my marriage over the same situation so that’s why when times get tough, we remember “it’s just a business” and we move on while still being respectful to each other.

Businesses that grow often remain weak in the areas that the owner/operators are weak. If a spouse retains a position in the business and isn’t good at it, the whole business will suffer. That’s what happened in my parents’ case.

To lose a 28 year marriage over that though, I still think was a waste. They remained very good friends after their divorce, which further makes my point.

So if you’re having money issues and you knowingly took some risk, especially if you took risk with your spouse’s blessing, try to separate the “I hate you” feelings that the stress may bring from the “I hate the way you do your job in our business”. They’re very different thoughts.

Get rid of the offending business venture and you still may have a relationship.

If you wind up riding your finances all the way down to a bankruptcy (which my parents did) try to ascertain exactly what you’re upset with.

It could be some or all of these feelings (and/or others):
1) Being embarrassed with visible failure
2) Being upset with yourself for failing
3) Being upset with your spouse for doing something that specifically brought on the financial situation
4) Feeling upset that others live “larger” than you

Do know that many millionaires went bankrupt. You will come out the other side. Get over being embarrassed. Nobody cares. We’re all still busy trying to keep our own butts out of the wringer. The only folks who will laugh at you are folks that you think actually care about you, but they don’t. Forget about them. They weren’t your friends anyway.

And if your financial situation is due to your own stupidity and no one else’s, there are still things you can do.

1) Admit your mistake, learn from it and don’t do it again.
2) Forgive yourself.
3) Understand that you’re not the only one in your boat. Dave Ramsey, the super personal finance coach did a bankruptcy way back when and he used the energy to produce an empire out of helping others avoid the mistakes he made.
4) Get comfortable making mistakes. You’ll make more.
5) Help others avoid the mistake any way you can
6) Don’t try to hide it.
7) Don’t be obsessed with what other people think
8) Don’t beat yourself up. People who have never made a mistake are either lying or not taking enough risk to make a life worth living.
9) Move on with your life.

I apologize if my suggestions were duplicated in one of the recommended articles but I wanted to make sure to address it here.

I don’t want to see someone else’s marriage go down the tubes like my parents’ did because of something as survivable as a bankruptcy.

September 22, 2008 at 3:17 am
(6) stress says:


This is a wonderful comment that I’m sure will help a lot of people. Thank you so much for sharing!


April 27, 2009 at 7:30 pm
(7) bradd says:

love it. now that is some great advice. very concrete, and a cut above the “breathe deep” shenanigans. matt is a champ for sure.

i am under the gun myself (literally it feels like). seven digit problems…

this is how i take it:

the people that succeed the most, are often the people that fail the most.

edison failed ten thousand times to succeed once (he said that himself)!!!

life is too short to live someone else’s dream (hefner said that)

who dares wins (thats a british SAS quote)

my personal take:

turn on your tv late at night (i know you cant sleep either). you know the programs soliciting charity funds: perhaps you need to watch the kids in africa who cant eat, parents have died from AIDS, and a twelve year old has to be the parent of her two little brothers, all in a straw hut. NOW THAT IS TOUGH! so get over your credit score.

you’ll do great. just keep pushing. and accept its hard. its gonna be terrible i am sure. my life is miserable at times right now.

but i’ll get over it. so will you. those kids in africa? i am not so sure.

oh wel. the only failure that counts is the one you let stop you from trying.

the rest of those big mistakes, those are just steps to becoming the best version of yourself in the future.

February 12, 2010 at 4:09 pm
(8) SA says:

Thank you Matt & Bradd. Your guy’s comments are more helpful than the breath technique. We need think about those people who are really need help and thank you for what we have. It really helps me to know that I am not alone. It gives me hopes and strength.

December 4, 2010 at 12:54 am
(9) DiedOnTheVine.com says:

Yes very true! When we can view stress as an experience that we are creating for ourselves we are much better aligned to deal with it. While there may be events going on that are causing you to feel stress, it may be helpful to remember that there is no such thing as stress in the world. It is something that you are creating within yourself. So you yourself have the ability to control it. This is obvious enough but I think often times people don’t view it that way. When we say “I have so much stress in my life.” The next time you find yourself saying this try thinking this consciously. Than you can laugh. I think exercise is such a great thing when you are having these feelings. The benefits are so vast.
I think failure and more importantly how we view failure is a big cause of many entrepreneurs feeling stressed. When you view failure as part of a journey, one of exploration and wonder, a whole new world opens up. What if you could see your own failed business ventures as an opportunity for insightful learning and growth. The opportunity being to move forward with renewed confidence, with greater knowledge, understanding and awareness. Not to mention by sharing your story you are making a potentially huge impact on others who are where you have been. Viewing failure as a negative, sad and depressing thing. As one without value, completely negative cuts you off from truly taking something wonderful away from your experience.
Shifting into a mindset of positive learning aligns you in a whole new way. When you change your way of looking at
these experiences you are in a different state of mind, one that allows new opportunities and possibilities to be
revealed to you. Great inspiration can come from anywhere or anything you just have to be open to it. Sometimes in what seems like your greatest failure can come such clarity and insight. A great way of looking at your failure is with the realization that it had to happen. The proof of this is that it did. So you do not need to feel bad about it. The question really is what will you do with this experience. You can use it to light up the darkness of failure. It seems that this feeling of loneliness shows up so often when someone has such an experience. As we begin to remove the idea that we are separate from everyone and everything outside of ourselves this feeling of being alone also beings to lose hold. If we as a society take away the stigma associated with failure we can make huge progress. Failure offers countless opportunities to learn and grow. It all starts with a change in perception. Imagine if you could say I failed at _________ and I gained so much, the experience was invaluable. Through this experience I have been able to give and receive so much, I am so grateful for it. You change your way of viewing these experiences from feeling sorry for yourself to one of gratitude. If anything I said here is at all confusing let me say this. I see failure simply as a form of success. So much so in fact that I would go as far as to say it is the foundation of success. Thank You.

November 8, 2013 at 9:37 pm
(10) Hong says:

Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular article!
It’s the little changes that produce the greatest changes.

Thanks for sharing!

December 15, 2013 at 10:03 am
(11) Fifa 2014 tool without survey says:

Great site you have here.. It’s hard to find good quality
writing like yours these days. I really appreciate individuals like you!
Take care!!

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