Well Balanced

How to manage financial stress

May 30, 2022 Balance Season 1 Episode 30
Well Balanced
How to manage financial stress
Show Notes Transcript

Finances and money management often trigger stress, anxiety, and fear. So to close out Mental Health Awareness Month, Ofosu and Leah address the issue head-on, sharing how money affects their own mental health and discussing tips for how to approach money matters a bit more mindfully.

And if, like us, you’re feeling overwhelmed by recent events, we want to remind you of a few past episodes that we hope may give you some space to reflect or find comfort:
How to cope when news hits home
How to get support when you need it

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OFOSU: Hey, y'all, it's Ofosu.  Soon after Leah and I recorded the episode that you're about to hear, something really terrible happened. I'm talking about the shooting at an elementary school in Texas, and this comes right on the heels of a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, and another one at a church in California.

We wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that this is a really sad time. For me, I have children who are in elementary school. I'm a black person, we're a black family. Many members of my family are people of faith. Um, so personally it just rattles. It makes me feel really uneasy and it can be scary.

I understand that this is just a really, really unsettling, uncertain, difficult time.  Well, if you are having trouble coping with all of this, something that I do personally, and something that I would like to suggest is, um, to take some time, to take care of your own heart and to look for the sunrises that are happening in the world and not just the sunsets and the dark nights.

What I mean by taking care of your own heart is to take some time to practice some loving kindness towards yourself. Take some time to turn off the news cycle, not look up the Twitter cycle or whatever's happening on social media. Find time to nourish your spirit - go out in nature. Watch your favorite show. Doing this isn't turning a blind eye to what's going on. It's actually giving yourself the strength and the resources to keep going. A loving kindness practice that you can do for yourself is to put a hand over your heart and a hand over your abdomen and say to yourself, may I be well, may I be happy. May I be at ease.

Now, when I talk about looking for the sunrises right now, I am teaching a mindfulness retreat for teenagers and these young people are giving me so much hope for the future. We're sitting here out in the wilderness, learning how to practice being kind and free.

And these are forces of good that are going out in the world and creating ripple effects of good. So it's easy for us to look at what's happening and feel like this is the nature of the world, but actually there are so many people who are working every moment of every day to make the world a more beautiful place.

Look for the sunrises and give yourself hope or at least a more balanced perspective. If you want to keep reflecting on this, we've got a few episodes linked in the description that you can listen to. Uh, one of them discusses how to handle the emotions that arise when you come in contact with difficult news and in the other, we discuss how you can get support when you're struggling.

We could all use a friend, right? And I'm sending you love and well-wishes in this moment. All right, let's take a deep breath. Now we're going to have a big tone shift in this moment. And, uh, in this last episode of mental health awareness month, Leah and I talk about our experience, our personal experience, and some helpful tips on the relationship between money and mental health.

Here's that conversation.

[INTRO - hi hi this is our show]

OFOSU: All right. Today is a special day. It is our last episode in our series for Mental Health Awareness month and money affects our mental health. And, you know, it's a big factor in life.

LEAH: So true. I mean, a survey from UGov this year, they found that about half of adults say that money harms their mental health. The stress that results from having financial challenge is often pretty chronic. It's about 26% of Americans affecting them most or all of the time.

OFOSU: Yeah. I mean, I have my own thoughts and experience with money and stress.

I'm curious about where you fall in all of this in your own life.

LEAH: Yeah. In my own personal life, I've experienced times of great abundance and then I've experienced times of complete polar opposite just being flat broke. And I've probably had the three major waves of those really hard times. I remember one was during that economic recession back in like around 2007 and there were just no jobs.

I mean, I was living in Oregon at the time and it was awful. I remember applying everywhere - a hundred places. And I had a degree in psychology and just nobody would hire me. I think the one opportunity I found was a juvenile detention center working night shift for like $10 an hour.

And then I had a divorce shortly after that, which was costly. And, um, yeah, so I made some poor financial decisions at that time, just in the effort to kind of walk away from this situation. I relinquished a lot of assets that looking back now, I wish I would've taken better care of myself at that time, but you know, you live and, you learn and hindsight is 2020.

You know, I love my parents, but I can't say that they were the best role models for me. And I would think they would agree in terms of how to set yourself up financially. You know, I've read this book called ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’. I don't know if you've ever heard of the book. Yeah. Great book.Highly recommend it to anyone. 

And it talks a lot about that. How people who grew up - families with generational wealth, have a completely different mindset about how to continue to generate wealth from a very early age on, it just seems kind of natural to them. Versus people like myself who grew up in homes, where there wasn't a lot of wealth, you know, we don't have those kind of basic building blocks of tools to know how to manage our finances as well. And, and they don't really teach us that in school.

OFOSU: Sadly, they really should, honestly.

LEAH: So, uh, you know, it's been a rough road of learning on my own and finding the tools that helped me along the way. But I have to say it's been a two steps forward, one step back kind of situation.

Like I got myself into a grind, especially when I left the corporate world. That was another time that it kind of, you know, I had to go into the gig economy.  And then suddenly I wasn't on a salary anymore. And that was scary to just jump ship from a regular paycheck coming in to going, oh my gosh, I alone am responsible for generating the income that comes in and gathering the business.

And that was also pretty tough. And it took a lot of facing my fear and a lot of patiece. What about you?

OFOSU: It's a very, very similar story. I have had lots of highs and lows. I mean, there was a time, you know, where I had been working as a paralegal for the longest time. And then I had some investors to help me in my music career.

I was able to leave the nine to five working world and just pursue my art full-time and then that company that I was working with crashed and burned and, uh, everything that we had been building, everything that we were had been expecting, everything that I was getting in terms of like infusions, like stopped immediately right before Christmas. And those were some really tough years after that because I had tasted the freedom of being an artist and I was too far gone. So it was like just lots of stress support from family and just learning how to tread water. And my parents were immigrants. So them coming here and being able to even own a house, it was like a massive success story.

But in terms of that generational wealth, mental modeling, there was none of that. So I'm still trying to figure it out on my own. And now, you know, I also work in the gig economy. I mean, I'm a working musician. I'm talking to you right now from a retreat center where I'm, co-leading a retreat. We're both just doing so many different things.

Putting together a living from that often for me, I mean, I'll be completely honest. Like I just checked my account just to see what was going on. It's like, woo. We're not exactly just like Scrooge McDuck from Duck Tails, just swimming. That's not what's happening right now, but for whatever reason in all the time I've been alive and in all the time, my wife and I have been together, even when we are about 0 0, 0, like negative zero - something will come through and catch us before we hit the ground. But there've been times where I've relied on that magical thinking without actually looking at the account. And that is not the right way of going about it. I think you have to have magical thinking in the face of reality and that attitude keeps stress at bay for me. Um, I'm curious, are there any methods that you use to keep the stress at bay? 

LEAH: Yeah, I'll get to that in a second, but I just think this is an important conversation we're having about the convoluted relationship between money and our mental health. Because for me, I know personally, this is my story, but I think it is for many people.

So many of us are not happy doing the work that we're doing on a regular everyday basis. I mean, I don't know the stats on this offhand, but most of the people I know are in this place of like, I just don't feel aligned with my career or my job. Like, I want to be doing something else. I don't feel fulfilled or, or their job is highly stressful, but we stay in these roles because of money.  Because our fear around not having enough, not being taken care of, because unfortunately we live in a world where money is the currency.

We have to. But yet at the same time, not many people are talking about when you do leave, the thing that's causing so much stress, maybe your job is super stressful and your mental health is suffering because of it. And then you step out to go. I'm just going to do something I love because that's going to help my mental health.

But there's also the preparation of knowing that there's going to be highs and lows, even when you're following in the path of something that you love, that brings you fulfillment and you know, like for me, stepping away from a salary and going into the gig economy, that was a huge wake up call. And it took a couple years and they say it takes a couple of years before any business becomes profitable.

So when you go off as a freelancer to start your own business, you think of it the same exact way. Like anytime you start something new, you can expect there to be a couple of years of grind work to you. Just gotta do what needs to be done. Like for me, taking on side gigs or side jobs or, um, keeping my mind straight on the goal of where I was going and not feeling like, okay, I'm just a failure because I'm not making enough money and recognizing like this is supposed to happen.

I'm not necessarily supposed to be making a lot of money at first. And you know, eventually you stick to it and it comes, but it's through those tough times that I've picked up tools. And one of them is recognizing that my net worth is not my value as a human being.

OFOSU: Say that one more time, just so you can hear this.

LEAH: My net worth is not tied to my self worth and my value as a human being. The amount of money in our bank account can oftentimes affect whether we have healthy self-esteem. And so it's like changing our story. We start saying I'm a good person. And I have intrinsic value regardless of what I have, or do not have right now.

OFOSU:  Having that unconditional positive regard for yourself, regardless of what's in your bank account.

Okay. Definitely going to give you the self-esteem to continue to push forward. But if your bank account's low and then you're feeling low, chances are you're going to get into just that loop of loneliness. 

LEAH: And I think it can affect people whose bank accounts aren't even low. I mean, I've heard stories of some of the wealthiest people feeling like they still don't have enough.

So there's a mindset of like, I'm never going to have enough to be okay, or to be of value. Well, we need to

OFOSU: prioritize not deep. Money because it's something that's essential, but what's even more fundamentally essential is how you feel about yourself and having a positive regard for yourself. Having love for yourself in the greatest of times and in the lowest of times, and letting that love that you show yourself not be dictated by anything material.

LEAH: We live in a society that really sort of shames when you're poor. Like you, you think I'm not worthy as a person. And so many of us, especially with credit cards live outside of our means in order to save that face in order to like, say like, oh, I'm valuable. See I have this car, I have this home, I have these clothes.

And I think that for me, I notice when I'm stressed - some people tend to overeat, some people binge on Netflix, some people smoke cigarettes. I notice for me, like I'll buy takeout or delivery, like, cause I'm too stressed to cook something and then it ends up spending. So like my biggest spend is food.

Yeah. For me personally, what helped me was having a spreadsheet or a piece of paper where I can literally write things down, what my spending is. Every time I spend something, I'll just write it and jot it down. It takes like 30 seconds or less. But I go through that, you know, at the end of the week or every two weeks.

And I kind of look at what's been my spending this month and that just helps put like a pulse check on my finances to help me be in control. And to have transparency into sort of like, look the monster in the face and go, okay. You know what? Like I have spent too much here. I can tone it down. 

And it keeps that accountability. It's been really helpful for me. It's so simple.

OFOSU: Yeah. I think the thing, the thing for me is just regularly checking in with what is my financial reality. So I'm not caught by surprise, which used to happen to me a lot. And that would be very stressful, but I do need to take a sober look at what my financial reality is so that I can adjust if needed.

So, you know, we've got our own ways of doing things, but we got some tips from some experts also from the American Psychological Association. I'll share one tip that I think is pretty interesting. Uh, recognize how you deal with financial stress and aim to turn your unhealthy coping mechanisms into more healthy ones.

LEAH:  Yeah. Like I said, I deal with financial stress and spending more or just not looking at it, like trying to avoid it. But I noticed that it doesn't, like you said, that doesn't work. Like when we look the bully in the face, we look at what we're scared of in the face. We can actually work through it. The other ones.

Make one financial decision at a time, it can be easy to say like, oh my God, there's this huge amount. And I ought to do everything right now and feel overwhelmed and it's really if we just break it down, like what's the very first step, like just focus on the very first step. 

OFOSU: Yeah, that's it. I mean, these are tips that connect, not only with our financial reality, but our general reality, and there are times where, you know, life in general is uncertain and can be fearful.

And you, and I always talk about those moments of fear or opportunities to actually lean in. And see things for what they are, and then do like the very next healthiest or kindest, or why is this thing?

LEAH: So, uh, just doing the very first step is like, is huge.  Like maybe that step is just knowing how much income you have.

Maybe that very first step is just knowing how much you're spending or checking that there's not more going out than going in. And sometimes that's just as a simple step, but when we don't have that look into our worlds, it's easy to get off track and then just feel overwhelmed by it and try to bury it.

But. It just keeps building.

OFOSU: Yeah, I think in wrapping up, I want to return to that point that no matter what your net worth is not your self-worth and it's

LEAH: not your value as a human, it's not

OFOSU: your value as a human, your, your value as a human is intrinsic. It is there no matter what, and letting that be your north star can guide you through all of the ups and downs.

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OFOSU: Thanks so much for joining us. This was an interesting conversation. 

LEAH: I know. I felt like we could keep talking about this, but yeah. Uh, we'll let you get back to your day and I want you to stay up to date with our show. So subscribe or follow us on your favorite podcast app. And don't forget to rate and review us and your favorite podcast app.

It helps us grow and spread the word. 

OFOSU: Yes Yes. And we'll be back next Monday with another episode. So until then, don't forget to be kind to yourself and we'll see you later. 

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