If you’ve been nervously checking your investment accounts and looking up your home’s estimated value a lot more than usual lately, you’re not alone. I’ve been fretting over the unsold houses on our block for months now. Even though we have no plans to move, just the idea that we most likely wouldn’t be able to sell our house for months, even years if we had to move is not a comfortable feeling at all.
Whether the powers that be want to call it an official recession or not, times are tough and the air is this with feelings of uncertainty and panic. It sometimes feels like we can never do enough to feel completely safe. While we’ve always been at the mercy of outside forces, tough times like these seem to hit us over the head with just how very vulnerable we are.
While you can’t ignore reality, you also can’t let financial anxiety take over your life. That’s no way to live. If you’re having a hard time keeping a sense of perspective, here are three suggestions to help you through:
1. Find something to be grateful for each and every day. Challenge yourself to think of something new every day. You could even make it a daily ritual to post it on Facebook or Twitter and inspire your friends and family to share, too. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- The obvious one: the people in our lives. Go beyond just being generically happy for friends and family and think of reasons why you are so glad to have specific people in your life.
- What do you love about the place that you live? Is there a beautiful park just right for walking and letting your mind wander? A quirky neighborhood coffee shop where you always feel at home? An awesome public library? Even if you dislike where you live in general, there is probably sure to be at least a couple of things that are great.
- Think about the experiences that you’ve had, good and bad, and how they’ve shaped who you are today. Perhaps you didn’t get into the college of your dreams but that’s okay because you met the love of your life at your safety school. Maybe your bags got stolen while you were backpacking through Europe but the experience showed you how strong and resourceful you can be.
- If you are reading this, you are probably rich in cultural capital. You’ve probably got the education, experience and skills to become a successful, productive member of society. You’ve got more knowledge at your fingertips than the greatest intellects of a hundred years ago could have dreamed of seeing in their lifetimes.
2. Things could almost certainly be worse. This doesn’t mean your problems and concerns are fake and invalid, just that a bit of perspective can help you deal with them in a more productive way. The best way to gain perspective is to practice gratitude as we discussed above and look at the bigger picture. Some ways to consider the bigger picture include:
- Taking an interest in what’s going on in your community and with your neighbors. You might be humbled by the problems that others are managing to face while still remaining gracious. Or perhaps you’ll realize how lucky you were to be born into a life of such relative privilege. You might even see firsthand how money can’t solve all problems and in fact, will often bring some new ones into the mix.
- Look back and remember all of the times you thought a situation or problem would completely shatter your life, but that broken heart didn’t kill you. You managed to claw your way out of debt and you did find a new job. Life can and does go on, no matter how much we think it won’t.
- Find a way to help somebody else. It doesn’t have to be a big, grand gesture. Even something small like running an errand for an elderly neighbor can take you outside of your own problems and help you see the bigger picture. Often, we lose perspective when we focus too tightly on ourselves. This can give us a highly distorted view of reality. Helping others help us widen our point of view and see things more clearly.
3. Focus on what you can do. There’s not much I can do to improve my local real estate market. What I can do is look for ways to increase my savings so that we have more of a safety net and make a conscious choice to not worry about what I can’t control.
It’s easy to get into a negative loop of feeling anxious, focusing on what we can’t control and then feeling even more helpless. Or, on the flip side, letting our need for control manifest itself with time-consuming activities that will make very little difference in the long run instead of making any sort of meaningful changes to our situation.
Here are some productive ways to improve your financial security:
- Make a budget.
- Look for ways to earn extra money.
- Build an emergency fund.
- Pay off debt.
- Eliminate and cut expenses.
- Improve our job situation.
Having a plan doesn’t completely eliminate worry but it does give you something productive to focus on. Make peace with the idea that you can’t control everything and put your all into improving the things that you can.