First Step to Overcoming Financial Stress

It’s easy to despair over your finances, whether it’s your debt load, learning poor spending habits left you broke, or simply realizing you don’t know squat about doing your taxes. And it’s okay to have a cry once in a while. Crying is a normal reaction to stress. But when tears and despair become the norm when you think about your finances, you’ve got a problem. The more you despair, the more you lose hope and feel powerless to make any meaningful changes. News flash: this is your life, and you’re the only one who can improve it. And the first step to creating change and hope is gratitude.

Feel free to roll your eyes at me. I know this answer sounds somewhere between “too good to be true” and “easier said than done”. I also know it works. Taking time to appreciate the good in your life helps put your negatives into perspective. "I couldn’t take my kids out to a movie, but we can still stay home and watch one as a family." "We can’t afford to go out to dinner, but I can make us great tasting food at home." "Our house isn’t big and fancy, but it’s warm, comfortable, and has everything we need."

Start small. Make it a goal to name one good thing about every day. I like to write them in my journal, but you can also take pictures, use sticky notes, even Twitter or Facebook. Find the method that suits you.

Find the successes that matter. If your high debt load is what stresses you out the most, what is the first small sign that would tell you the situation is improving? Not using a credit card during the month? Paying more than the minimum due on each debt? Whatever small sign you choose, make that your goal, and celebrate each small step you take that brings you closer to it. Feelings of success create instances of success.

For further reading on how to create change by building hope and motivation, I recommend the book Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. Using the metaphor of Path, Elephant, and Rider, they break down the elements that can help, or hinder, change and how an individual can use those to create change. I read this book for a class, and it helped me think about myself and why I’ve made the choices I have, why I lose motivation, and how I can bring it back. The tone is light and pleasant and the book as a whole is an easy and helpful read.

If books aren’t your style (finding time to read is admittedly a pain), I recommend any of Brendon Burchard’s videos or visiting his personal site. He’s primarily a motivational speaker, and has videos and information on a range of topics. His videos are energetic, his tone is honest and frank, and he gives good advice. If finding the good things in life is a struggle, spend 10-20 minutes on a video and see if it changes your perspective. I found his video on  What To Do When You're Broke particularly helpful.

When you start from a position of hope and motivation, you are much more likely to make lasting meaningful changes in your life. It begins with gratitude for all the wonderful things already in your life. Yeah, you’re facing some hardships and struggles, but it’s not hopeless, it’s not over, and all those wonderful things are worth it. The beat goes on and we go with it.

And just so you know, I’m grateful for you, Women's Money readers. 

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Written  by Mckenzie Candalot, Staff Writer -- Mckenzie Candalot is a recent graduate of the College of Idaho, with a B.A. for English Literature, and is currently working on a Masters in the Art of Teaching. When not studying for classes or blogging, she enjoys reading, walking her dog, and embroidery.