One of the biggest contributors to depression and anxiety are financial stressors and money problems, more often than not the lack of it. Feeling overwhelmed by bills, mortgages and the needs of a family can be enough to make you want to pull the covers over your head and stay in bed. Financial problems are what keep you up at night.
Dysfunctional families are notorious for not teaching financial matters to their children. They are typically controlling, chaotic or in denial and the finances of the family are often part of the whole dynamic. Even if the dysfunctional family is wealthy, that knowledge and art of making and holding onto the family money is often not passed along.
If the dysfunctional family is not wealthy, there can be patterns of thinking about money or beliefs about money and wealth that are counter productive to financial security.
Money is simply a tangible item required for existence. We all need it, it is not a dirty item nor is it shameful to want it. You need it to survive. Yet there are many beliefs out there that make it one of the most controversial topics in society.
How you view money and how you treat your money is often caught up in your level of emotional turmoil. Overspending or shopping too much (retail therapy) can pass time and make you feel good in the moment, but overall if you rack up bills you can’t afford it is more depressing. This type of spending often stems from a need to self soothe or a need for some excitement. You may feel like you deserve “a treat”.
Views on money and how it is to be used are one of the biggest things couples fight about. Ignoring financial problems can lead to devastating effects on yourself and your family.
Spending to impress the neighbors or coworkers is easily seen through and has the opposite effect on others. This kind of spending usually stems from self esteem issues.
Are you supporting or enabling family members who are not pulling their weight or guilting you into feeling you should help them?
Believing that you are “not good with money” is simply a belief, anyone can learn to handle their money. This belief can stem from a fear of finances or lack of confidence in yourself to make sound financial decisions. It can also stem from the desire to ignore a seemingly complex task and hope that it turns out all right!
You may have been taught that money is a taboo topic that you should not talk about or share with others. This belief can prevent you from asking for help with your finances.
In order to manage your money you have to know all the details of your money and finances and then you have to have a plan. Part of that plan involves not spending more than you have available. Credit cards have made it very easy to ignore the details of our financial lives, putting off payment to “whenever”.
If you notice people who are “good with money”, there are some interesting differences even in how they treat their money. They value their money, it is usually in neat order, grouped by denomination and treated with respect. It is not balled up in their pocket, thrown around the car or hanging out in the bottom of a cluttered purse. Coins are saved up and turned in for dollars. Checkbooks are balanced to the penny. They always know how much they have, what their obligations are, what their fees are so on.
There is a feeling of control over your life when you have control over your money. This is empowering, not shameful. It also helps you to not get overwhelmed, depressed, anxious and angry.
Although finances are often a part of depression and anxiety, we don’t always relate the idea of taking control of them as part of treatment. You may view money as something out of your control and that makes you feel helpless.
So what can you do to gain control over the money monster?
- Gather every single detail of your finances. Write it down in a notebook so you don’t forget. Empower yourself with this knowledge.
- Balances of all checking and savings accounts. What are the by item, monthly or yearly fees? What are your interest rates?
- Balances of all investments, 401Ks, money market accounts.
- Information on all insurances, car, house, personal health, life and disability if you have it.
- List of monthly necessary expenditures. Utilities, car, gas, food, home expenses.
- How much do you make per month? Is it in line with the number from above? If yes then you are doing good, you may just be worried about future finances. If no, then you may have to make some cutbacks in order not to continue is a downward spiral. Another option is a second job or income but I find it is usually easier to make cutbacks than to add an additional time commitment. Chances are you are already very busy and adding a job is not a viable option.
- Keep all receipts from everything you do and buy for a month. There are bound to be some things that you missed in the above accounting. It is amazing how all that adds up.
2. Make a realistic budget based on what is coming in and what is going out. If they are not in line you will need to explore some areas where you can cut some expenses. For example, expensive cable or dish TV packages can be changed to basic or limited to one family TV. It is easier to find other entertainment than to be depressed over money. Maybe you have too much house and it is a lifesucker. Monthly upkeep and mortgages can drain your finances quickly.
3. Find alternative activities if you are shopping recreationally and can’t afford it. Physical activities such as exercising or hiking are less expensive and have the dual benefit of releasing endorphins which make you feel better. Go inward and determine what it is you are looking to avoid or heal. It’s not going away by shopping too much and instead it will cause you more grief. Deal with it directly.
4. Find a resource for financial help. There are many books, software programs and applications that can help you organize your money. Often money problems are really problems related to organization and planning.
5. Explore your financial beliefs and where they came from. Are you afraid of money? Ashamed to say you like it a lot? Do you feel “cheap” if you tell your children “no” when you can’t afford something they want? All of these things contribute to your financial world.
Unfortunately our finances cannot be ignored and they have the power to create great angst in our lives. It is truly better to gain control of them now and not let them cause more distress. If you are suffering from depression, anxiety or anger problems, take a minute and determine whether finances are part of the problem.