5 Ways to Keep Anxiety From Ruining Your Budget

Life gets tough sometimes. When work is overwhelming, you are fighting with your parents, and the news seems to get grimmer every day, you might find yourself shopping your way into a better mood or pulling the covers over your head and ignoring all of your responsibilities.

Stress, anxiety, and depression affect all of us at some time or another. And whether you are dealing with occasional and momentary periods of stress, or you are in the grips of a long-term and serious depressive episode, your mental state can often wreak havoc on your finances. It's not easy to protect your budget from your anxiety's destructive impulses, but the following types of self-care will not only help you to feel better when stress strikes, but they will also protect your bottom line.

1. Recruit an Accountability Partner

Accountability partners are an important strategy for improving your finances. Not only does having a partner motivate you to stay on the straight-and-narrow while you pay down debt or increase your savings, but working with someone else can offer you encouragement when you are feeling down and add some fun to a long process.

All of these benefits are also crucial if you are trying to keep your budget looking healthy while you're dealing with stress, anxiety, or depression. In the case of trying to keep your mental state from hurting your finances, your accountability partner may act a little bit more like a sponsor from a 12-step program. You can call that person when you are overwhelmed and count on her to remind you of why a shopping binge will not actually help you feel better.

Obviously, you and your accountability partner need to be able to offer each other the emotional support you both need. In times of widespread anxiety, it can be a little more difficult to find a partner when everyone is feeling overwhelmed. However, leaning on each other is often a great way for two friends to both feel better and make the best financial choices for themselves.

2. Meditate

Mindfulness meditation has been proven to alleviate the symptoms of both anxiety and depression. The focus of such meditation is to train your brain to remain in the moment, rather than obsess over the past or worry about the future. Such mindfulness will not only help you to put worries in perspective, but it can also help you to recognize the link between your emotions and your financially-destructive behavior.

For instance, let's say that after a day of bingeing on news online, you badly want to put a lavish vacation on credit, just so you have something to look forward to. If you take 10 minutes to meditate instead, it can help you to see that your anxiety will not be helped by a vacation you can't afford. It will also allow you to feel your anxiety, rather than push it away, which is a much more productive method of getting past the negative feelings.

If you have never meditated before, there are many beginner's guides out there to teach you the practice of mindfulness.

3. Go for a Run

Exercise is the closest thing we have to a no-fail antidepressant. Research has shown that people are happier after breaking a sweat than they were beforehand, even if they had to force themselves to go to the gym.

In addition, an exercise habit can help you to avoid budget-destroying habits you might otherwise engage in, like retail therapy or a weekend-long Netflix marathon that keeps you from taking care of your grocery shopping and laundry.

Of course, when you are in the midst of a deep funk, the idea of lacing up your sneakers and going out for a life-affirming run sounds about as enticing as getting a root canal. This is another place where your accountability partner can help you do what's best for you both. Set up a regular date to exercise together, and you will both get to enjoy the endorphins and the good company.

4. Volunteer

Depression, anxiety, and stress are often side effects of feeling helpless. When it feels as if you have little power over your circumstances, it's easy to retreat into bad and expensive habits to help yourself feel better.

But there is always meaningful work that we can do to improve lives — even if we can't improve our own. That is why volunteering for a cause you believe in can be such an important tool in improving your outlook on the world. According to a 2008 study by the London School of Economics, people who volunteer experience greater happiness than those who do not.

The researchers theorize that volunteering makes you happier because it helps to put your situation in perspective. In addition, volunteering your time helps alleviate depression because it allows you to feel like you are a part of something important that is doing good in the world.

5. Engage in Productive Self-Care

Sometimes things feel so bleak that you really do need to retreat and take care of yourself. There is nothing wrong an occasional "Stop the world, I want to get off!" day for yourself. But there can be a fine line between healthy and productive self-care, and self-destructive wallowing. For instance, buying a bottle of nail polish might make you feel good, which could prompt you to keep buying to keep that good feeling going. Instead, you might be better served by inviting a friend over to paint your nails together.

To make sure your self-care is helpful rather than harmful, start with your needs. Ask yourself what needs are not being met right now, and listen carefully to the answer that bubbles to the surface. Wallowing is often a passive reaction, whereas productive self-care is when you engage in fulfilling your unmet needs. Taking the time to think through what you need may help you realize that you don't actually want to go out drinking, but instead you need to talk with a good friend.

Don't Let Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Hurt Your Finances

When your thoughts get stuck in a hamster wheel of anxiety or depression, the easy method of handling your distress can often cause you financial stress. Being intentional and mindful about how you handle your negative mental states can help to alleviate your feelings of helplessness and keep your finances healthy.

If you are experiencing severe depression and/or suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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5 Ways to Keep Anxiety From Ruining Your Budget

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