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How to Deal With Financial Anxiety
How to Deal With Financial Anxiety
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How to Deal With Financial Anxiety

Money254
Njenga Hakeenah
May 6, 2021

Are you worried about your finances? How much do you make? Save? How much do you need for a project or miscellaneous? Well, you are not alone. The question of “what am I worth and how much do I need to be comfortable” haunts the thoughts and actions of many Kenyans.

Financial anxiety according to Jessica Sier in her thesis, “Money Anxiety Disorder” is a state of constant worry and unease over money. This has affected persons from all walks of life, races, and genders.

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Whether your financial stress results from job loss, rising debts, impromptu expenses, or a combination of several other factors, you are not alone. A majority of Kenyans had financial struggles even before the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Kenya Economic Survey 2019, the country recorded an unemployment rate of 9.3% in 2018 and 10% in 2019. Also a large population in  the country is in the middle income and low income brackets.

The year 2020 will be one not to forget for many, owing to the economic constraints of the Covid-19 pandemic. The virus poked in  the wounds of already struggling people as companies in Kenya closed shop, laying off hundreds of thousands of employees.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) in June 2020, released data indicating that  1.72 million people lost their jobs by June that year. The number of people in employment fell from 17.59 million between January and March to 15.87 million between April and the end of June 2020.

A survey released by Constitution and Reform Education Consortium (Creco) in November 2020, revealed that most Kenyans were more concerned with challenges that may result due to job losses.

Titled, “Monitoring Human Rights Violations during Covid-19 Pandemic in Kenya'' the survey indicated that at least 33% of Kenyans were worried that they may lack means to earn a living.

Money254.co.ke takes a deep dive into financial anxiety, its symptoms and how to overcome it, in relation to the economic challenges experienced by Kenyans.

Symptoms of Financial Anxiety/Stress

The condition is identified with a simple generalised diagnostic criteria as other anxiety challenges such as excessive worry, lack of concentration, but is yet to be recognised as a medical condition by various medical institutions around the world.

Stressing about money may be caused by several factors which include growing up in a financially unstable home, watching your parents squander family fortunes or worry about bills, personal experiences- which may include seeing your savings go down the drain or closing a struggling business.

American financial therapist and coach Jeff Shinal says that post-traumatic stress disorders are not necessarily caused by major stress. Shinal maintains that financial anxiety can be caused by life’s little traumas which include job losses.

Some of the symptoms associated with financial stress include; Depression and anxiety resulting from money, overspending, depending on others to handle your finances, obsession with being frugal - spending as little as possible on everything - and repeatedly giving out money to friends and relatives.

Others include a discomfort with accumulating wealth and the inability to change financial conduct despite incentives to do so.

Effects of Financial Anxiety on Your Health

Financial stress can negatively impact your physical and mental health, your relationships and the overall quality of your life.

Money problems can massively affect your sleep, self-esteem, and energy levels. This can in turn affect your behaviour - you could be easily angered, ashamed, or fearful. The insecurity can fuel tension and arguments with people closest to you. One may start to experience aggravated pain and mood swings, which may increase one’s risk of depression and anxiety.

A number of studies have indicated that some people often resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms including; alcoholism, drug and substance abuse, and gambling in a bid to escape their financial woes. In the worst case scenario, financial stress may lead to suicidal thoughts or actions.

Well, money may not be the most important thing in one’s life, money troubles can turn your world upside down. If allowed to manifest, financial anxiety can push one to a state of near hopelessness. Some of the common effects of financial anxiety include;

Depression - Living a life marred by financial struggles backs one into a corner of hopelessness and fear. A study by the University of Nottingham in the UK shows that people in debt are twice as likely to suffer from depression.

According to the Ministry of Health, Kenya, depression at its worst, can lead to suicide, which is now the world’s second leading cause of death in young people, between ages 15-29. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that close to 800 000 people die by suicide every year. 

WHO says depression causes mental anguish and impacts on people’s ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks. Sometimes, depression results in devastating consequences on one's ability to earn a living.

Anxiety. Without a financial safety net, one may tend to be anxious and could leave a person vulnerable. The inability to settle bills, research shows, may result in increased heart beats, sweating and in some instances panic attacks.

Insomnia - One may lack sleep if faced by financial troubles in the form of say, a series of unpaid bills. The thought of being unable to foot them, is likely to keep you tossing from side to side at night.

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Relationship troubles - Financial problems have been attributed to a large percentage of marital difficulties. More often than not, couples in argument differ on matters financial. If not sorted, this wears down even the strongest of marriages, leaving couples not communicating with each other and uninterested in each other.

Unhealthy coping mechanisms - Once faced with this problem, some people resort to behaviours such as alcoholism, drug and substance abuse and gambling to try and claw their way back, or, take a sabbatical from the reality of their financial struggles.

Social withdrawal - In some instances, financially struggling people tend to isolate themselves from others, mainly due to the fear of shame. This will see them cut ties, or distance themselves from friends and family.

Every person dreams of financial success and being able to control and effectively manage your finances while generating wealth for yourself and possibly, for future generations.

Coping with Financial Stress

Talk to someone/get help

One of the most important aspects of overcoming financial stress is to know and accept the fact that you are not alone. Bundling up and trying to take on everything alone is not a wise choice.

Almost everywhere around the world, people consider the “struggling financially” talk a taboo. However, talking to a friend or relative about finances may open one up to new knowledge on financial management and investment planning. While opening up to someone, you may learn that you are not the only one to have made such mistakes, and thus learn ways out of it.

Better yet, you may find help, rather than soaking in your troubles alone. Keeping your troubles to yourself may multiply them until they are intolerable, but sharing them may make them less intimidating.

Seek Professional advice/help

People often fear admitting their financial troubles to others, however, opening up to a professional may be nearer the comfort zone of many. 

Depending on where you live you can always approach experts in financial management to seek advice on debt management, budgeting, investment opportunities, negotiating with debtors, job searching or seeking inheritance claims.

Keep track/inventory of your finances

Studies have shown that the first step to financial freedom is harmonising your income, debt and spending for a specific period of time, say, one month.

In your inventory, include all sources of income, and all expensenses. As exhausting and daunting as it may appear, this will help you identify all your financial leeks, and insight into better decision making.

Identify a means that can be efficient, whether it is a book or a mobile phone application or an inventory on Microsoft excel, and stick by it.

Eliminate all impulse and unnecessary expenses but also avoid using this as an excuse to punish yourself. Take into account that everyone is susceptible to financial troubles and cut yourself some slack on perceived misappropriation.

Make a plan and stick to it

Just as there are a number of factors that lead to financial stress, several other ways of clawing out of this abyss exist. These  may include tightening the budget, looking for a job, seeking government help, declaring bankruptcy or an additional source of income depending on your financial problem.

After identifying your problem, and devising a solution to resolve it, it is important that one establish a plan to ensure financial righteousness henceforth.

Depending on what the problem was and what the solution is, ensure to monitor your financial progress and avoid being set back by the same problem, if it reoccurs.

Manage overall stress and health

Financial woes cannot disappear overnight. Therefore, as you wait to reap the rewards of better financial decisions, ensure to maintain generally low stress levels.

This may include, getting enough sleep, designating time for exercise on a daily or regular basis, and practicing relaxation techniques. Meditating, breathing exercises are a form of restoring energy and balance to your life.

Eating healthy foods; fruit, vegetables, and omega-3s is good for your mood and general physical outlook. Good health will come a long way with keeping finances healthy.

One may need to find a way to boost self-esteem either through group therapy or self appreciation routines. This can be talking to friends or people with the same interests and take you for who you are.

Njenga has over 8 years experience in multimedia and business journalism both as a writer, editor and producer. He has over 5 years of experience in radio broadcasting as a news reader, reporter and presenter. He is also a 2012 Earth Journalism Network-EJN Fellow.

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