Repeat after me: I was put in this position because I can handle it.
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In the last few months, Americans have been hit with bad economic updates on nearly weekly and sometimes daily basis. It seems just when you think it can’t get any worse, something else happens. Whether it’s the outrageous rent prices, the new national average of $6 gas per gallon, stocks crashing, and groceries costing more on each trip, it’s never-ending. And it all seems to happen just when you finally got a handle on things.
After graduating into a recession in 2009, consistently underpaid for work even as freelancers at times and trying to get our heads above debts and student loans, my husband and I finally thought we were getting to a comfortable place… and then inflation happened. Suddenly, his job raise, my increased rates as a freelancer, and our emergency fund don’t seem like it’s enough against the increased cost of living. We entered adulthood into a recession, FINALLY rebounded and now seems like we have to prepare for another impending recession. We have to be careful with the money we do have, and still go about being safe with how we do get money because we are still in a pandemic leaving lots of uncertainty. And it can be terrifying sometimes, even though my family is amongst the lucky ones.
While I could give you practical financial advice right now, I’m not gonna do that. That advice is everywhere and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time till you feel overwhelmed by it all. Instead, I’m gonna give you advice on handling your feelings during this time. Because I know stress brought on by a financial crisis can lead to a crisis in other areas of your life, I want to give you some help.
Stop saying you should’ve…
As you’re dealing these problems now, it’s easy to look back and think about everything you should’ve done but didn’t. Sure you should’ve cut back on the shopping, cut more coupons or padded that emergency fund, but none of that matters now. You’ll be living in the past, and doing so only makes you feel worse. Instead, think about what you ARE doing and give yourself some credit.
Allow yourself to grieve
Even though you know you’re blessed to have a home, food etc. It’s ok to feel bad about what you don’t have. Yes, you’re lucky to have some privilege. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that you still had to cancel your trip, or you lost your steady paycheck, or you can’t afford your wedding or you won’t be able to throw a birthday party or you now have to manage virtual school with your kids AND work. You are only human. It’s ok to grieve what you lost. And there’s no reason to feel guilty for grieving something that seems “trivial” to others because it’s very real to you. Regardless of what shape it takes, money problems are real for everyone. Don’t let someone’s dismissive guilt trip make you think otherwise. Allow yourself to feel whatever you need to feel. It’s ok.
Reframe the concern
Naturally, a financial crisis will bring concern and worry for a number of reasons. You could be worried about the inability to go out as much, the corners you’ll have to cut to get by, or the change of routine while unemployed. It’s normal to feel that way. However, it may not be the best thing for your mental health. Instead, reframe the situation. Instead of focusing on the corners you’ll cut, think about how your resourcefulness will be strengthened during this time. Instead of saying I won’t be able to go out as much, think about how your family will grow closer because you’re home together. If you’re concerned about the change in routine, reframe it by saying change brings opportunity. Doing so just might put your mind at ease during this stressful time.
Give yourself some grace
You are in uncharted territory. We all are. No one knows how long this will last, what the outcome will be or the exact right way to handle it. Sure, we can speculate and make educated guesses, but no one knows for sure. As we deal with the outcome of the Covid, how many times have you heard someone say, “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”? No one was prepared for it. So stop feeling bad that you weren’t. You aren’t the only one in this position. Go easy on yourself. We’re all in this together.
Think about all you have
Even with a loss of money, you still have something that could help you. It may be a credit card you never used. It could be a book you’ve written but never published on Amazon. It may even be your active Linkedin profile or a special skill. Whatever it is could help you get out of your current position. And of course, focusing on what you do have instead of what you don’t have can definitely help you mentally.
Find something to look forward too
Your financial situation may not be ideal right now, however, it won’t be that way forever. Everything has a season and this is just one season of your life. Sometimes what helps you get through a current bad season is finding something to look forward to in the next season. It could be something as big as a luxury vacation, and a whole new wardrobe. Or it can be something smaller such as treating yourself to a smoothie at the fancy lunch spot in time. Sometimes it is easier to get through the bad place when you know that something good is awaiting you. Whatever it is, let your mind run away to that place in the future whenever you need motivation and some excitement to get through your current situation. If you can, find a way to make that exciting thing a focal point. It could be making it the lock screen on your phone, getting a bucket list map and hanging it on your door, or actually turning your phone ringer on and making a related sound your ringtone.
Remember everything you’ve overcome
I know I said you shouldn’t live in the past. But in this regard, I encourage it. Let your ability to persevere in the past bring you comfort. I highly doubt this is your first financial crisis. Everyone has dealt with money issues in some way whether it’s job loss, not having enough money to buy a new car, or even overspending on groceries for the month. Whatever it was, you managed and got through it. Remember that in a few years from now or even a few weeks, this financial crisis will just be another challenge that you conquered. You’ve triumphed in the past and you can do it again. Remember, this time you are working with experience dealing with personal finance issues.