I just spent so much on travel, food and gifts over the holidays, and now that tax season is right around the corner, I am freaking out about money. I’ve been freelancing this year and will have to pay out of pocket instead of getting a return. I’ve been so panicky about all this that I haven’t been sleeping well, which is making me even more anxious, which is making me a cranky mess. How can I calm down?
First of all, you’re not alone. Many people overextend at holiday time and then feel strapped as tax season approaches. There are two ways you need to approach the money panic — one is the emotional aspect and the other is through concrete steps.
Money is a trigger for many people. It’s linked to our basic fears about survival so it can be an intense one. When our survival issues are triggered, we fly off into catastrophic thinking about ending up homeless or, worse, living with our parents again. One thing that's important in this situation is finding ways to ground yourself. What that means is find ways to get out of your head and connect to the feeling that everything is going to be ok. There are many ways you can do this: Get support from friends and family (when you lose perspective, sometimes a simple phone call can help you get it back), literally ground yourself by taking time out to lie on the ground and feel the earth supporting you (don't knock it till you try it!), take walks in nature, meditate, do yoga or other kinds of exercise. All these things will help get you out of your head and connect to the fact that things are not all falling apart. Try these or other soothing activities before bed to help you sleep.
Remember that worry is based in fear about the future so bring yourself back to the moment. You can only really deal with problems effectively one step at a time. You have some time before you have to fork over the cash so see if you can relax by remembering that right at this moment, everything is ok.
Remember how things have always turned out ok. Almost everyone has moments of panic about money. The trick is to realize that you have made it work up to now and you will make it work again. Trust your own resourcefulness and creativity. There are concrete steps that can help you feel less out of control about things. Get all the numbers into a spreadsheet or on paper. Knowing exactly what the damage is takes the mystery out of it. Even though that might seem scary because you are worried about how much you will have to pay, having a real number to deal with actually takes you out of the unknown, which is where the worry festers.
Make a spending plan. Rather than a budget, which feels constricting to many people, a spending plan lays out all expected expenses for the month and all expected income. That way, you can see where you need to look for more freelancing gigs or cut back on certain luxury items.
Get the support that you need. Ideally, that would be a good accountant or financial adviser to help you crunch the numbers, but if you can’t afford that, seek out a friend who is good with money. Money panic can be a very isolating experience, which makes it worse. So, get out of isolation. If the problem seems to be more than seasonal (if you find yourself anxious like this all the time), try a financial recovery coach or Debtors Anonymous where you can get intensive counseling specifically around money.
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