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Coping with Financial Anxiety

Sept. 24, 2012
3 mins
A woman comforts another woman at a table with a laptop and documents

We are very aware of stress in modern life: in the workplace, induced by technology and within family life. When it comes to worrying about our finances, however, we don't identify our stress as often.

Financial anxiety is a large and growing problem - and our unstable economy over the past few years isn't exactly helping matters.

What Are We Worrying Over?

According to a 2012 report from Vanier Institute of the Family called Current State of Canadian Family Finances, Canadian families are dealing with lower disposable incomes and higher debt loads in addition to increased employment challenges.

RBC’s latest Canadian Consumer Outlook Index, meanwhile, found that 37% of Canadians are worried they’re not saving enough. The report says 32% of Canadian feel positive about the economy, down dramatically from the index’s 2011 results of 43% feeling positive — 56% were positive back in 2010.

The Impact of Financial Stress

Worries about retirement, emergency savings, debt and employment have a big impact on our overall mental health.

A poll by the Canadian Medical Association in 2009 found out that 23% of Canadians were literally losing sleep over their finances - and that number goes up to 33% for those without university degrees.

Money concerns also impact performance at work: a 2011 survey of human resources professionals in the US found that 22% of those surveyed said finances were having a large impact on work performance.

Bust That Budget-Induced Stress

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has some suggestions for dealing with stress and anxiety due to financial concerns. Some of those tips include:

  • Avoid the urge to check your bank accounts or repeatedly call your financial advisor. Checking up on your money does not make the problem go away and just increases your anxiety.
  • Change how you think about the situation. Focus on the long term and stay positive. Avoid thinking about the worse possible scenario.
  • Get support. While the impulse might be to isolate yourself, seek out friends and find support in the community via a counsellor.
  • Prioritize your own needs. If you make sure you eat well, sleep and have time to yourself, weathering the stress will go a lot smoother.

The truth is, financial problems get worse if we don’t deal with them. Start by educating yourself and reaching out for help, whether it's from your banker or a financial planner. Take immediate action to deal with the problem, be it paying down debt, finding another source of income, debt consolidation, or halting runaway spending habits. Solving the root issue is the only way to truly deal with long term financial anxiety.

When the economy is rough, it’s hard for everyone. But we can all make things better for ourselves by taking charge, believing in ourselves and staying positive about the future.

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