40 million adults in the U.S. suffer from anxiety disorders and experience racing and panicky thoughts. A major driver is the constant worry about money. Clinical Psychologist Dr. Scott Symington’s offers a go-to guide, Freedom from Anxious Thoughts and Feelings: A Two-Step Mindfulness Approach for Moving Beyond Fear and Worry , presenting an intuitive and accessible approach called the Two-Screen Method® (TSM) to help when you feel overwhelmed and overcome with worrisome thoughts. Using this simplified mindfulness approach, you learn to make space for the challenging thoughts and feelings, while redirecting your attention and life energy to your values. When the internal challenges show up—worries, fears, dark moods, etc.—you’re equipped with an easy-to-follow mantra, for relief and get back to living your life.
In this interview, Dr. Scott Symington shares his expertise on financial anxiety, ways to cope with it and how can parents deal with it.
How can one spot financial anxiety?
Financial anxiety is pretty easy to spot. You or your partner chronically
How can we cope with financially related anxiety?
The challenge with financial anxiety is you’re often dealing with a blend of emotion (recycled fears about money) and legitimate financial issues that require problem-solving—how are we going to save for the kids’ college? Here are a couple of tips that will keep you financially responsible, while protecting you from needless worrying:
- When you find yourself worrying about money, try to take one positive action step—no matter how small—with your finances. Maybe you discontinue a subscription you no longer need or set a budget for your next grocery store visit or read an article online that describes the different types of retirement accounts available. When you can, take some easy steps in the direction of healthy money management.
- After taking positive action, now it’s time to put mental boundaries around your money concerns. What starts out as mental problem solving can easily drift into the act of worry, where your thinking is no longer helpful or productive. In fact, if you don’t get out of your head you may be setting yourself up for a restless night sleep or miss out on other important parts of your life, such as being present with loved ones. To protect yourself, make the decision—declare the intention to yourself—to redirect your attention and life energy to the present moment or a deeply held value. Maybe you intently listen to a friend or engage in a gratitude exercise or send an encouraging text to a family member. In other words, take some meaningful action
stepin the external world when the endless money concerns are vying for your attention.
Financial anxiety seems to be one of the biggest form of anxiety for parents, what’s the best way to deal with it?
It’s best not to problem solve finances when one or both of you are emotionally overwhelmed and actively anxious. Instead, schedule a specific time when the two of you can—in a more emotionally balanced space—talk about the budget and discuss any issues of concern. The key here is being empathic with your anxious partner—or feeling the freedom to express your anxious worries—while not rushing into the action phase (making concrete financial decisions
Financial stress sometimes creates arguments between people and relationships. How can we stop arguments happen and if it arises, how do you deal with it?
What you don’t want to do is get overly logical when your partner is in the midst of anxious worrying. It won’t go well. Your partner will feel unheard and unsupported. This will often cause your partner to increase the distress call, where the anxious arguments and worries only escalate. Instead of missing each other in these critical spaces, focus on staying aligned as a couple. Don’t get caught up on the exact details or content of what is being shared. Rather, for the time being, prioritize emotional connection and support. Problem-solving or coming up with a specific solution can come later if needed. Often you or your partner just need to vent and express the anxious concern—to not be alone in the fears and emotional burden being carried.
If you cannot find an expert to help you plan your life, financially, what resources should people look out for to seek relief?
With all forms of anxiety, there are certain universal strategies that offer relief. Exercise is at the top of the list, especially cardiovascular exercise. In the short term, you are the beneficiary of a cascade of neurochemicals, such as endorphins, that induce soothing and relaxation. In the longterm, exercise lowers the average stress/anxiety you feel each day. Integrating mindful breathing into your daily or weekly routine is also helpful. There are a lot of helpful apps, such as Headspace and Calm, that make it easy to weave mindfulness into a busy life. Lastly, it’s good to be aware of your thought life. Our mind is always somewhere. Often we’re not aware of the thought channels in which we’re investing. Try catching your worries early on—when they first come into awareness—and make the conscious choice to redirect your attention away from the recycled worries. It’s always easier to redirect your thought life early on before the worries have gained traction in your mind. So start practicing catching those worries early, before they spoil your day!