The Financial Fear Epidemic!

Do you check your Facebook, Twitter, and every other social media site known to man every time you check your bank account? Does opening your wallet cause a full-blown cold sweat? If so, you may have financial anxiety.

Don’t worry, because you’re not alone. Financial anxiety is incredibly common. In an informal survey by About.com, seven out of 10 people said they feel very stressed about their financial situation.

Typing financial anxiety into Twitter leads to long comments about how terribly anxious people are and how global financial problems are only making them worse.

At this point, I would like to digress a bit and say that if you think you have a problem with generalized anxiety or depression, you should see a professional. Generalized anxiety disorder and depression are very real and treatable problems that should be taken seriously and treated professionally.

Financial anxiety is fear and worries about one’s financial affairs, from the size of one’s bank account to how one invests money. The global financial situation has led to widespread feelings of anxiety and instability that, if left unaddressed, can turn into full-blown fears.

The signs of financial anxiety are similar to the signs of any other type of anxiety: distractibility, constant worry, restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, muscle tension, headaches, sweating, and nausea. However, these worries and anxieties are caused by and associated with financial worries.

Financial worry can cause anxiety in anyone, but the widespread panic that follows today goes beyond the usual nervousness in anyone with a dwindling bank account. In today’s hyper-connected world, we are constantly assaulted by information ranging from trivial to globally significant. And in addition to the disorientation caused by such information overload, much of it seems to be bad news.

How can a person maintain a positive attitude in the face of an avalanche of bad news? How can a person solve or even deal with financial anxiety?

One idea is to reduce the amount of information you look at. Sharon Begley explores the effect of this information overload in her article “I Can’t Think” in Newsweek magazine. Known informally as Twitterization, this information overload causes people to make worse decisions than if they had limited or no information.

Normally, we would suggest that someone research and investigate before making big financial decisions; as Natalia Jones points out, this is a good way to alleviate financial anxiety and have more control over your situation. However, there are other things to consider, such as the source of this information and its tone. If everything you hear is negative, there’s not much hope for a positive outlook.

A lot of anxiety is about feeling out of control and uninformed. A good thing for everyone to do, but especially for the financially worried, is to develop a budget. On one side, look at how much money you make monthly, averaging if your income is not fixed from month to month.

On the other side, list all your monthly payments, divided into the necessary (housing, food, electricity, etc.) and the unnecessary (clothing, eating out, etc.) and note which of these costs are fixed (the same month) and which are variable. By doing this, you can see all the transactions that occur during a month on a sheet of paper.

Also, if you can, look at your variable costs and see what you can cut from them. While this may not account for the unexpected, it will give you a better understanding of what is expected and more control over your budget.

When faced with problems that cause us anxiety, we often revert to actions that have helped us in the past. But if the situation you are currently in is different from the one you developed, those reactions will no longer work. Instead, try something new. If you lose your job in an industry that is downsizing or outsourcing, you probably won’t be able to find a job in that field easily or at all. Instead, look for a different industry to enter, preferably one that is full of open positions, such as engineering and health services. If neither of these appeals to your tastes, try something you’re passionate about.

If you are excited about doing something, you will be more willing to work hard and sacrifice for it. In a troubled economy, it’s time to try something new, go back to school and follow your dreams.