Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mantras for Financial Anxiety

Here it is, months after I first wrote about financial anxiety, and yet the topic is still much at the fore. The U.S. presidential debates covered the subject at length last night. The lead story of every major newspaper tells of more terrible financial news. Personally, I can name several people who have lost jobs amidst this crisis.

Now, financial anxiety, like all other forms of anxiety, can have its benefits, too. Financial anxiety can get us to plan for the future, start a "rainy day" fund, update the resume, or work on increasing our education and skills in our chosen fields. Financial anxiety can goad us into finishing today what we might prefer to put off for later. That's anxiety at its most helpful.

What's unhelpful about anxiety is the constant worry, dread, that heaviness in your stomach or chest that says, "All is not right with the world." This type of financial anxiety is paralyzing because it is not actionable. As individuals, we cannot fix the world's financial crisis. When this type of anxiety rears its head, it's often helpful to have a mantra to remind ourselves to put it in its proper place. My friend Marla likes to say, "Sometimes, it's just money," meaning, money can't make us happier, or healthier, more loved, or less stressed. Sometimes, money is just money. I also like my mother-in-law's mantra: "A problem that can be fixed with money is not really a problem." In the hierarchy of problems, financial ones fall far below other issues, like losing loved ones or living with declining health.

It's important to remember that anxiety often wants us to lose sight of what we can be grateful for, and leave us to dwell on our concerns. By using a mantra, hopefully we can keep sight of the light in the corners, and put the bleak economic news in its proper place.

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