Beginning to Navigate Financial Anxiety
Updated: Jun 11
Money is a part of almost every single day, whether we like it or not. If you go to work, part of
that work activity is done so that you can get money. If you live in a home, you spend money every day to live there. You pay grocery bills, utility bills, and vehicle repair bills. You buy things for fun. You buy things because of shame. There is no end to the daily interactions with money. It is easy to think that money is one of the main purposes of life with how much time we spend engaging with it.
And it stresses most of us the hell out.
Ideally, money is just a tool that we use to live the life that we want. However, money also has
so many meanings and feelings attached to it. We all go through a meaning making process when we look at our bank accounts and credit card statements. Unfortunately, many look at money with the same lens they look through when seeing their insecurities, fears, failures, and shame. The money itself isn’t what makes the experience, it is the meaning they have made from what the numbers mean.
Everyone has a meaning making process around money. Your job is to learn what yours is, and if it needs shifting.
If you, like me, struggle with big feelings of anxiety and fear when you engage with money, I
want you to do a little exercise with me. What are:
5 things you see
4 colors you see
3 things you hear
2 things you can smell or taste
1 texture you can touch
Ask yourself, “Am I in immediate danger? Are these numbers going to attack me? Am I safe in the room that I am in?”. These little reminders can help you from staying in your racing thoughts. Use the “54321” activity as often as you need to as you begin taking control of your financial situation.
Remind yourself that you are safe.
A premise of exposure therapy is that your tolerance for the distressing thing is built when you can experience that thing from a place of safety. Before launching yourself into a spreadsheet, see if you can tolerate looking at your most recent receipt from Target or Starbucks. Notice the number. Look up. Remind yourself that you are safe. Look back at the number. If you need to, do this with a friend/loved one who can help you stay grounded.
Just like getting into a cool body of water, sometimes we need to dip our toes and slowly wade in. What is your current tolerance level as it relates to money? Is there a small step that would stretch you? What can you do that would remind you that you are safe, even if you are looking at something that has been scary previously?
Some additional questions for your journal:
What does money mean to me?
Have I had bad experiences with money that have made me feel unsafe?
Are there people/situations that come to mind most when I think of money?
Can I be more open to the idea that my meaning making process with money maybe isn’t the
Who can I trust will respect my meaning making process as I learn to change some of my beliefs and emotions?
Many people need professional help to navigate financial anxiety as it sometimes takes a bit of expert timing and experience. If this is something you deal with and want to change, reach out today!
We also highly recommend Lindsay Bryan-Podvin’s worksbook, “The Financial Anxiety Solution” as an additional resource.