Managing Financial Stress During COVID-19
In March of this year, more than three million people filed for unemployment during a single week. In addition to the obvious concerns over physical health, Americans are feeling financial stress unlike any that’s been experienced in decades. Many wonder how best to handle this economic crisis. Spending money feels empowering and helps the economy. It also depletes our funds and leads to even more financial stress.
Reduced finances provide yet another layer in the stress and anxiety caused by COVID-19. Any kind of stress or anxiety affects all aspects of our health, and that can domino into more serious issues like lack of sleep, poor diet, and overall depression. While we can’t control many things about this pandemic, there are some healthy steps we can take to ensure our financial stability.
A good first response to financial struggle is to evaluate expenses. Take a look at your expenses, and place each expense into one of the following categories:
- Big, unchangeable expense. These are items that hit your budget in a big way, but can’t be changed. For example, a home mortgage or car note.
- Big, changeable expense. These are items that hit your budget in a big way, but can be eliminated. For instance, perhaps you don’t like to cook at home, so you’ve made a habit of eating at restaurants several times a week.
- Small, unchangeable expense. These are little things like filling up your gas tank or paying your water bill. (Though depending on the circumstances, these may feel like big expenses.)
- Small, changeable expense. These are the daily, or even weekly trips to Starbucks, or your afternoon trip to the vending machine.
The act of categorizing expenses in this way can often bring immense relief right away. Once we know where our money is going, we can easily figure out where to cut costs. Much of the stress we feel comes from not knowing exactly where our money disappears to.
Another way to find relief is to ask for help. This requires us to set aside our pride, and that can be difficult. However, many people are in the same situation. Government aid and local help programs are designed for such a time as this. Those programs aren’t intended for long-term use. They were created to help hard working citizens make it through a difficult time. Don’t hesitate to call your local food bank or other charitable institution and tell them your situation. If possible, offer to volunteer. These places often need an extra hand, and helping others in the middle of your own crisis can be extremely fulfilling.
Ask your employer or bank official for financial advice. They will often know of government aid incentives, such as lowered mortgage or delayed payment for loans. Don’t worry about trying to get out of debt during this crisis. Instead, focus on meeting basic needs for yourself and your family, while not accruing even more debt.
Finally, take a deep breath. This financial crisis may not end soon, but it will end. In the meantime, practice gratitude. When we focus on the things we do have instead of the things we don’t, our spirits naturally lift. We become more settled, more relaxed. And a healthy mindset does more for our wellbeing than a trip to Starbucks. If you are facing financial stress, consider talking to a counselor for guidance.
Remember, you can find help managing finances amidst COVID 19 by talking to a counselor.