If you’ve been feeling stressed out, there’s a good chance your finances are the culprit.
Money is the top cause of stress in the United States according to the American Psychological Association.
To get specific, 54% of workers cite money matters as their biggest cause of stress -- that’s more than their job (18%), relationships (12%), and health concerns (11%).
All of that financial stress ultimately has a major impact on physical and mental health. Seventy-five to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints including chest pain, headaches, high blood pressure, insomnia, and depression.
A first step in getting rid of money stress and living a happier, healthier life is to identify what specifically is causing you to worry.
Here are five of the most common situations that cause us to worry about money and what to do about them.
1) You don’t trust yourself to make the best decisions.
Most schools don’t teach personal finance, so chances are you never had the opportunity to learn how to manage your money the right way.
That’s why it’s so easy to hit the panic button whenever the topic of money arises. You know it’s important to make the best financial decisions, but you’re not sure how. Not feeling confident in your ability to do something that you know is important can be extremely stressful.
But money management is a skill, just like playing the piano or snowboarding. In order to feel confident in your abilities, lessons and practice are usually both necessary.
The solution: Become a money expert or start working with one. It’s not your fault if you never had the opportunity to learn about money management. But it’s never too late to take control of your situation and learn a new skill that will benefit you for the rest of your life.
2) There’s a disconnect between your spending habits and your values.
Every dollar you earn should get you closer to the person you want to be.
When this doesn’t happen, we experience cognitive dissonance, or that uncomfortable feeling of worry that pops up when our actions contradict our beliefs.
For example, consider a person who believes that being responsible and secure are top priorities, but they also have credit card debt and are broke because they’re always out socializing with friends. Their action of overspending directly contradicts the values that are most important to them. And this discomfort can quickly spiral into anxiety.
The solution: Determine what your core values are and make sure your spending is aligned with them. Before you buy anything, ask yourself which of your personal core values that particular purchase supports. If the answer is none of them, then re-evaluate if it’s a worthwhile purchase.
3) You’re avoiding something that you know is important long-term.
When we know something is very important in the long-term but we’re not putting importance on it in the short-term, it’s easy to feel like we’re falling behind.
And that feeling of “I’m not where I should be” can make us feel like we’re not on track for a bright future, which is stressful. Postponing saving for retirement is a great example of this.
But taking control of your financial situation doesn’t get any easier if you wait. Avoidance may be the easier option today, but it can easily turn into the bitter taste of regret in the future.
The solution: Get connected with the future you. What kind of lifestyle do you want a decade in the future? How about two or three decades? Visualize an older version of yourself living your best life. Feeling more connected to your future self and clearly defining what you want in the future will motivate you to start preparing today.
4) An expectation that you have for yourself feels impossible.
When we were younger, most of us created a list of expectations for our ideal ‘adult selves.’
Perhaps you thought you’d be a homeowner and your student loan debt would be fully paid off by age 30.
But life seldom goes according to plan. Circumstances, priorities, and timelines can change unexpectedly.
And when our goals feel unachievable, it’s easy to say “why bother?” and give up.
The solution: Re-define the expectations you have for yourself and the goals that you are working towards on a regular basis. You should be setting goals that feel attainable and inspire you, not goals that discourage you so much that trying feels pointless.
5) You don’t have a safety net.
78% of workers live paycheck-to-paycheck. When you don’t have a safety net, one adverse situation like a broken down car, a medical issue, or loss of a job could completely upend your entire life.
And if others are dependent on you for financial security, the pressure can multiply. An unexpected financial obstacle wouldn’t just negatively impact you, it would also cause harm to your loved ones.
The solution: Build an Emergency Fund with at least six months worth of living expenses. This may take time and effort to accomplish. But feeling confident that you can handle any unexpected financial obstacle that life throws your way will make this achievement well worth it.
This post originally appeared in Forbes, where OneEleven’s Founder + CEO Dani Pascarella, CFP® is a contributor on personal finance.
OneEleven Founder + CEO
Dani is a Certified Financial Planner™ and earned a B.A. and M.A. in International Business from the University of Florida and a M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University. She previously worked on Wall Street where she managed money for ultra high net worth individuals with at least $25 million in investable assets. While working on Wall Street, Dani became painfully aware of the wealth gap in America and left to democratize financial education in our country by launching OneEleven. In her free time, she loves hanging out with her husband and black lab. Her favorite activities include yoga, boxing, and reading biographies.