Financial Change: How to find peace in the midst of it all
Your finances are up! Your finances are down! Your finances are shaking their booty at you while giving the finger to your debtors and creditors alike, and then stalking out the door when you try to sit them down to have a calm conversation about what is realistic! What are you ever going to do?
Seriously, your financial situation can change (more often for the worse!) at the drop of a hat. How do you keep your equilibrium when everything is going crazy? How do you remain calm when the money you thought you had seems to have sprouted legs and run away?
1. Remember that you are not your financial situation. In our culture, we're tempted to think that how much money a person has (or how much stuff he can buy at any given time) indicates the kind of person he is. If he has money, he's worth getting to know. If he doesn't, then he might not be such a good friend. When we flesh it out like that, it's clear that it doesn't make sense when we're dealing with other people. So remember the same thing when it comes to yourself. Just because you had to spend the money you've been saving for your Hawaiian cruise on fixing the pipes because you learned the hard way that they leak doesn't mean you're irresponsible or unreliable, or that nothing good will ever happen in your life. It means that life sucks right now, and someday it will be better.
2. Get away. When things change rapidly, a human being is automatically under a good deal of stress, even if the change is good. So before you make any important decisions or act on anything that could possibly have an effect on your finances, get away. It doesn't have to be far. Maybe you have an office or a studio where you can close the door and focus on something else for awhile. Maybe you can get in the car and drive for an hour or so, or go to the park or walk the dog or go for a run or disappear into your favorite book. It doesn't matter what you do, as long a you give yourself some time to calm down before making decisions. While this doesn't guarantee that your decisions will be good, it does make it less likely that you'll do something rash that you'll later regret.
3. It's ok to talk about it. It's ok to talk about your financial situation with safe people. Talking with people we can trust helps us human beings process, helps us grieve our losses and celebrate our victories. It helps us find out where we really are, particularly if we're likely to be in denial or make things into a wost-case scenario in our own minds. We talk about other difficult things, like illness, death, and disappointment, and it's ok to talk about money, too. In fact, talking about it often helps us feel less alone and more like the situation is something we can handle.
4. It's ok to feel. Losing money rapidly makes us angry, hurt, scared, and host of other emotions usually seen as negative. Gaining it rapidly makes us excited, happy, and hopeful. Feeling these emotions and not cramming them down into an inside pocket helps mitigate some of the stress. It's ok to cry, scream, weep, jump for joy, whatever. We want to be healthy in this, to not take out our anger at being fired on our family or friends, and feeling the emotions will actually help us do that. When we feel emotions in the context in which they really exist (being fired), we are less likely to have them burst out of us in other places (family, friends).
5. Remember to breathe. The simple act of focusing on our breath helps us feel relaxed and empowered. Take deep breaths. Watch your diaphragm move in and out while keeping your shoulders level. Count your breaths, or sing in your head to the slow beat they create. In addition to helping with relaxation, focus, and letting go, feeling our bodies and how they are still intact and strong even though externally things are wretched gives us perspective on those things. They could, truly, be much, much worse.
6. Accept the truth. Financial situations change. They just do. Things break and cost money to fix. A child is injured and hospital bills are expensive. These things happen. They are true and real and, while they truly, really suck, accepting them as our current reality helps us move on. This is hard, much harder than many of the things we do, but it is necessary. Even if we can only accept it part of the time or under certain circumstances, accepting it at all will help us relax and deal with what is at hand, rather than have to deal with feeling gypped and cheated on top of everything else. Accepting truth frees us to act in that truth.
7. Let it go. Eventually, we must move on. We must not allow our whole selves and our lives to revolve around our financial situation in a particular minute. Once we've accepted that this, whatever it is, is true and real and what is happening at the moment, we can also see that life is more than this. There are other things equally true and real, and those things are good. We must let it be enough that those exist. From this perspective, we can deal with the financial situation when we have to but not let it overwhelm us or the rest of our lives.
Astonishingly gorgeous picture by Jan the Manson.