Letting Go of Money Worries

When you’re overwhelmed by money worries, life can seem very discouraging. But it’s hard to let go of money worries.

That’s because you spend your time focused on the things that worry you — how will I pay those bills? will I ever get out of debt? when am I going to find a new job? — instead of spending your time taking action. When you’re worrying about stuff that might or might not happen in the future, you’re not doing. And doing is what will change your life.

Letting go of money worries is a 3-step process

(The same process that’s used to let go of any other types of worry.)

First, you need to become aware that you are worrying. If you’re a habitual worrier like I used to be, chances are you’re so used to worry as a way of life that you’ve lost sight of the fact that you even are pretty much constantly worrying. Worry involves having automatic negative thoughts about a subject. Basically, you’re thinking negative things without even realizing that you’re doing so.

So start paying attention to what your thoughts actually are. Whenever you find yourself thinking about a subject for more than a minute, mentally step aside to see what it is you’re thinking about.

Then, if your thoughts are negative or non-productive, literally tell yourself to STOP. Out loud, if you have to. For me that sounds like a stern “Ok, STOP.” Take a deep breath, and — if you can — instead write down some things you can do to improve your situation. If you can’t think of anything, you can make “ask for help with ideas” your action item. If you start worrying again at this point, repeat the STOP and redirect your thoughts to something positive instead.

The final step is to actually do one or more of those action items. If you want to get out of debt fast, pick a debt to target and send some money to it — even if it’s only a dollar. ANY kind of action will help. If you want to get a new job, get out your resume and post it somewhere, or set up a LinkedIn profile.

What if you have to wait to take action?

Most money worries are solvable, and most do have immediate steps you can take to improve your situation. So you’ll feel better as soon as you take those steps. Every now and then though, there really are situations where there aren’t any actions you can take right now. Maybe you’ve got hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills, and no job or a $40,000 a year income.

In that situation, you have to recognize that you are already doing the best that you can — once you’ve called and set up a payment plan, checked to see if the bills can be waived, asked multiple people about your options, and maybe even declared bankruptcy. When you’ve done all you can in a particular situation, that’s enough.

Enough really is enough, even if it doesn’t feel like it. At that point you’ve just got to continually redirect your worried thoughts to the areas you can do more in instead — which might be completely unrelated to money. Or they might be related to other money-areas: to things like getting rid of old clothes and donating them to charity. Focus outward on things you can have an impact on, and you’ll feel better.

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6 comments

  • Thank you, Jackie! I’ll admit – I’m a huge worry wart when it comes to money. My husband and I are holding our own – even though he is only working part-time and I’m a solopreneur. We are doing everything right and yet we both worry about money. It is more the fear of the unknown than the fear we are doing something wrong.

    I also use the “STOP!” method. It is best to take a moment and realize that it is only fear and nothing behind it. Of course, if there is something behind it (like purchasing something and having buyers remorse), then it needs to be analyzed and fixed.

    We are only human and as long as we are being responsible and following through, then we need to remove the worry and follow the path to our goals.

  • A plan to resolve a problem is a great way to reduce stress. As soon as I make a decision and form a plan, I know it will be solved.

  • I used to say that the biggest way to relieve financial stress is to find ways of making massive piles of cash :) What seems counter-intuitive to me is that in order to become better at making money, you have to be constantly thinking about it. In this scenario, you only end up amplifying your financial concerns. I’m currently in the best financial shape of my life and I should be feeling really positive, but it seems like I’m more stressed than ever just because my mind is constantly buzzing around the subject of money. Does anyone else find this or am I just crazy?

    • I can’t say that I feel the same way. I enjoy thinking about money-related topics, so they don’t stress me out. Now back when I didn’t have ENOUGH money — that was a different story. Maybe you’re already making enough and could focus more on the process of what you’re doing instead?