Americans are stressed out. In fact, stress-related issues regularly cause 77% of people to experience physical symptoms. Of the many stressors, Americans count job pressure, money and sleep deprivation among the top.
Anxiety and stress often go together. Worrying about money can lead to stress, which further aggravates anxiety, which contributes to more stressors. It’s a vicious cycle. But there are ways to manage one’s money—and one’s life—to reduce anxiety and increase the overall feeling of satisfaction. Here are just a few of those ways.
1. Live within your means.
The top cause of money stress is when people have expenses that exceed their income. And the numbers aren’t pretty: Nearly half of Americans say that they find themselves in this state.
The first step to achieving this is to get on a budget. Budget apps like Every Dollar and You Need a Budget make it possible to seamlessly integrate your accounts and keep tabs on every single dollar moving in and out.
While the mere act of measuring money won’t change its balance, being able to identify those expenses that need to be reduced, changed or even outright eliminated can put many on the fast track to living within their means—and reducing their overall anxiety.
2. Pay down debt.
Once you’ve established a positive cash flow (and maybe even created a small emergency fund for yourself), it’s important to pay down debt in a hurry. Debt.org lists some of the emotional impacts of debt, including denial, stress and even depression. A heavy amount of debt can weigh on the mind, which in turn increases the anxiety you experience every day.
The best way to attack debt? Choose to follow one of these popular strategies.
The snowball method. This method refers to paying off debts starting with the smallest and moving toward the largest, like a snowball rolling downhill and gathering momentum.
The avalanche method. This strategy focuses on paying down debt with the highest interest rate first.
The specific plan isn’t as important as choosing a method and carrying out the plan. Either one will work as long as you’re patient and continue to live within your means.
3. Create a larger emergency fund.
Anxiety is often referred to as a fear of the unknown. In the financial world, it’s never possible to create a perfect plan for reducing anxiety 100%. However, it is possible to create a buffer between yourself and the unknown. Many personal finance experts advocate creating an emergency fund of three to six months’ worth of expenses.
What does this fund accomplish? In addition to giving you financial flexibility and some independence from living paycheck to paycheck, it allows you to realize that even if something unknown were to happen to you, you would have some recourse available. That’s why most personal finance experts recommend keeping this money in a low-risk account such as a savings or money market account.
4. Reduce screen and social media time.
Our smartphones, computers and laptops have made us more connected to the world. But have they increased our satisfaction? Various studies on the subject—highlighted in a TIME article—showed that while positive interactions in social media could provide a boost, the same was true for negative interactions with strangers.
5. Automate your lifestyle.
Today’s digital world offers more options than ever to reduce the amount of time you spend managing your own life. Consider incorporating the following into your life to make it run more smoothly and provide you with more free time to focus on enjoyment.
Direct deposit for your paychecks
Automated rent payments
Automatic investments for retirement
6. Enjoy the rewards of financial success.
Many people have things they would change about their lives if they could—they would be a few inches taller, have a few thousand dollars more in the bank, another car, a bigger house.
But occasionally, it’s OK to make room for some enjoyment in life. Redeem those hard-earned credit card points to boost your enjoyment of your vacation. Or use your credit card’s cash back feature to buy yourself a gift when you’ve had a productive week.
7. Find time for you.
We work hard to maintain different aspects of our lives—finances, relationships, even the cleanliness of our homes. But we also have to maintain our own stress levels and reduce our own anxiety. Consider taking up relaxing activities such as meditation or even just taking 10 minutes to do nothing but listen to relaxing music.
Reducing anxiety doesn’t have to be all about what you do. It can also be about what you don’t do. Finding the right balance is the key to living a stress-reduced lifestyle.