Money makes the world go round (so they say), but what about when it stresses us out so much we can’t sleep at night, eat properly, and live a normal life?
Money is undoubtedly one of the biggest causes of our stress, but before you say it’s because you don’t have any, it’s a fact that millionaires worry about money just as much as somebody working hard to get by.
Whatever financial situation we’re in, we’ll always find something to stress about when it comes to money.
Let’s have a look at 3 reasons why money will stress you out, and what you can do to ease the worry.
When you’re in debt (like most of us are), you not only have a financial responsibility and obligation to pay it back, you have an emotional attachment and commitment. The more emotional attachments and commitments we have, the more stressed we tend to be. It’s because they sit on our minds and mount up like a pile of paperwork. The higher the stack, the more pressure we’re under. If you want to own a house or car, debt is usually unavoidable, so the answer isn’t to avoid it – the answer is to deal with the emotional attachment debt creates. You have to accept the fact that whatever debt you have, it will form part of your mindset, and be part of you. If that’s a struggle for you, and you’re lucky enough to be in a position where you have little debt, it would be best to keep it as limited as possible. If your debt is already spiralling, limit your spending, and if you need to, speak to financial professionals that can help you manage your debt. There are plenty of options to help including charities like the National Debtline.
2. You’re afraid you won’t keep up with the Joneses
Your neighbour has just bought a shiny new car, and the neighbour on the other side of you is also planning a purchase. Your car is now over five years old. How will it look in the middle of two shiny new cars? A very materialistic view, I know, but we’re all guilty of it. Most of us are so concerned about keeping up with the Joneses we forget about what’s really important – being happy! Who cares if your neighbours have newer cars than you do, or your friend has just bought a bigger house than you own? When it comes down to it, these things are insignificant, and will only add to your stress and anxiety if you let them. It’s your happiness that really counts. Focus on yourself and your own wellbeing, not the Joneses.
3. You’re scared of losing money
There will always be a fear attached to money, in one form or another, and losing money is way up there. As I mentioned above, millionaires are just as likely to worry about money as anybody else. Even though they have great wealth, they fear losing the money they have, and it’s this fear that keeps them working 80hr weeks. Millionaire or not, none of us enjoy losing money (if you do, I would suggest you have a problem), but it’s likely to happen to us all at some stage. An investment might go wrong, something depreciates in value rather than goes up, John doesn’t give you the £50 back he owes you, or the housing market crashes. The balance in life dictates that these things will happen, and it’s the savvy ones that understand this and compensate for it that deal with the stress and anxiety money creates the best.
I battle with crazy and bizarre thoughts all day. They completely wear me out and the only rest I get from them is when I’m asleep or doing something that keeps me busy. Whenever I try and relax they just come from nowhere. I know they are caused by my anxiety, but I’m finding it hard to stop them.
This is a very, very common symptom of anxiety; so first of all, know you’re not alone with this.
It’s also important to know that no matter how crazy and bizarre you think these thoughts are, they are not you, and you’re not crazy.
When you’re anxious your energy has to go somewhere, which is why high anxiety can result in an overactive mind. That’s also the reason why thoughts can get out of control when you’re not busy - instead of your energy going towards an activity it’s used to create excessive thoughts.
Your anxious mind is putting your excess energy into something that takes it up, which is why these thoughts tend to be crazy, bizarre, and unwanted. You’ll have pleasant thoughts just as much as unwanted ones, but you don’t remember them or worry about them. In other words, you’ll spend less energy on thoughts that are perceived to be normal, compared to thoughts you find bizarre.
These thoughts shouldn’t concern you, because as I mentioned above, they are not you. Like all other anxiety related symptoms, they will disappear as soon as your anxiety levels are brought back to normal.
Action for Change
Concentrate on finding your BALANCE and reducing your anxiety to normal levels. Once this is achieved your excessive thoughts won’t hound you any longer.
It will also help you to concentrate your energy on specific tasks and focus on activities that keep you busy. If you don’t have enough to keep you busy, create things (hobbies are always a good starting point).
Blueberries might just be the stress buster you’re looking for…
Blueberries are full of vitamin C, and we need vitamin C when we’re stressed because it helps repair our cells. They’re also packed with antioxidants that help repair and protect our cells.
I particularly like blueberries at breakfast with yogurt and granola. They’re a versatile fruit that you can have at any time of the day, so when and where can you fit them in your diet?
If you freeze blueberries you can have them as a cold snack.
Insomnia was a big problem for me, and if you’re suffering with high anxiety and stress, I have no doubt it will be a problem for you too. I used to lie awake at night; eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling wondering why I couldn’t sleep. Thoughts used to race through my mind at a million miles an hour, and I found it impossible to comfortably drop off to sleep.
Along with the obvious things like not drinking caffeine at least four hours before you go to bed, and avoiding stimulants like drinking alcohol / smoking, there is a tip that helped me sleep and beat insomnia I’d like to share with you.
That tip is MILK.
Take a glass of warm milk with you to bed.
Milk contains vitamin B2, B12, antioxidants, protein and calcium, all ingredients that have a calming effect on your body because they help reduce blood pressure. Milk also contains potassium, which can also help reduce stress by lowering your blood pressure.
(P.S. I like to use organic milk - not only because it’s much better for you, but also because it helps the lovely cows that produce it.)
Q: I’ve had high anxiety for over three years, which includes panic attacks and OCD. I’ve seen my mum go through anxiety ever since I was a child, and she’s always had it as far as I can remember. I’m desperate to overcome it, but I can’t help thinking I won’t be able to like my Mum, and that trying is just a waste a time. Does anxiety run in families, and if so, can you overcome it?
A: If you have a look online you’ll notice the answer to this question is yes – anxiety can run in families. But, that’s exactly the reason I don’t want you to look online and research it (like I did, and lots of other anxiety sufferers do).
When you give high anxiety a reason to exist (like saying you have anxiety because your Mum has it), it will continue to be as big a part of your life as you let it. There are people in my family that have suffered with anxiety, but if I chose to focus on that rather than overcoming my high anxiety, changing my life would have been much more difficult (if possible at all). There is no way I’d have been able to make the significant changes I made in my life.
If you focus on any reason or excuse, it’s only going to cause more anxiety, because you’re giving it purpose. Instead, focus on what you want (to overcome your high anxiety) and give that purpose. When your focus is on overcoming anxiety, it doesn’t matter if your Mum has anxiety (or anybody related to you). Ultimately, you are you – and you can change if you want to.
Action for Change
Stop linking your Mum’s anxiety with yours, and focus on what’s important – the fact that you are you, and you can change, no matter your circumstance.
Avocados are full of vitamin B, potassium, and monounsaturated fat - all things that can help reduce anxiety and stress.
We need vitamin B for healthy nerves and brain cells, and feeling anxious and stressed can be linked back to vitamin B deficiency.
Potassium & Monounsaturated Fat
Both potassium and monounsaturated fat balance sugar levels in our blood, and help reduce blood pressure.
Here’s a quick avocado salad recipe (serves 2 and takes about 10mins):
4 cos lettuce leaves, chopped
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 radishes, finely sliced
2 spring onions, finely sliced
50g cucumber, cut into small cubes
25g flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
25g mint leaves, coarsely chopped
1 avocado, chopped into chunky pieces
For the dressing
½ garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
This avocado salad recipe goes great with fish (like mackerel). You can find lots of other avocado recipes here.
Q: I’m struggling to work out if I’m really ill or if my physical symptoms are anxiety related. Every day I’ve got a headache, sore throat, and my muscles are stiff. I also feel dizzy and sick when I go out. How can I tell if its all anxiety related?
A: I suffered all these symptoms (and a lot more), and like you, found it hard to distinguish which symptoms were related to anxiety. Being anxious and stressed takes a lot out of you and your body, and affects you both physically and mentally. It can cause an array of physical symptoms including everything you mentioned - you can also find more anxiety related symptoms here.
I know it can be incredibly frustrating because feeling ill is real, and the physical symptoms can be horrible, but when I began to face my anxiety and re-establish my balance, my symptoms disappeared. Not just one or two of my symptoms, ALL of them. That confirmed to me that my physical symptoms were all anxiety related.
If you haven’t done so yet, you should always see your doctor. When I received the reassurance that my physical symptoms were anxiety related and nothing more, it gave me reassurance and peace of mind. When you know it’s anxiety related you can move to the next step – dealing with it.
Action for Change
Make an appointment to see your doctor. Get professional advice on your symptoms so you can move forward. Once you know it’s anxiety related you can deal with it head-on with no doubts.
Q: Sunday evenings are a real problem for me. I don’t hate my job, but I suppose like most people, I don’t love it either. Every Sunday without fail I start to worry to the point where I can’t sleep on Sunday evening. I normally fall asleep from exhaustion in the early hours of the morning. Mondays at work are always an issue for me because I’m always so tired. Is there anything I can do to stop the dreaded anxiety on Sundays?
A: Worrying about going to work on Mondays after the weekend (Sunday Blues) is very common. Winding down from the weekend to then going into work mode can be a difficult transition to make. But it’s this transition that holds the key to making the process a much more smooth one.
It’s all about balance – in your case, work/life balance. If you have a great weekend (and I hope you did!), and then all of a sudden on a Sunday remind yourself that the dreaded work day is coming, you’re teaching your body/mind to look at it as a negative. As you say, you don’t hate your job, so it shouldn’t be. This feeling of negativity is going to cause you anxiety and stress.
Instead, focus on the positives connected to work. What do you enjoy about work? What targets/goals are you striving to achieve? What will it mean to you and your career when you achieve them? We spend most of our time at work (if you work full time), so it’s important to look at it as a positive part of life, not a negative. The weekend is important, and the perfect time to wind down and relax, but it should be looked upon as part of the whole package. If you live for the weekend Sunday evenings will continue to cause anxiety and stress.
Action for Change
Focus on what’s positive about your work. Don’t live for the weekend, and break the weekend pattern by planning your workweek on a Friday evening instead of Sunday. This will make the transition from Friday to Monday a much smoother one.
I’ve recently returned from a promotional trip to America, and there was something significant that stood out to me about their culture.
That something is: OPENNESS
It’s hard not to admire how open and frank the American culture is towards mental health, especially compared to here in the UK. Therapy (whether it’s for anxiety or depression) is the done thing in the US. If you’ve got a problem, you talk about it. You don’t worry about what people might think – you go straight to a professional and talk about it.
One of the big talking points, while I was out there, was the fact that I’d been able to cover up my anxiety and depression for so long, without even the closest people to me knowing. As one of the guys said: ‘I internalized my anxiety.’ (Spelt with a z on purpose.) I’d never heard that term used in the UK, but I liked it – it summed it up perfectly.
Part of our problem here in the UK is a lot of us still think that mental health issues are a weakness, and therefore, going to a counsellor is a sign that you’re not coping. I know I was guilty of this – which is why I covered up my anxiety and lived in denial for over 10 years!
That’s simply not true, and the American’s are smart enough to know this, which is why therapy is a solid part of their culture. They know that going to a counsellor isn’t a sign of weakness. They see it as a sign of strength – a way of dealing with your issues so you don’t have to suffer alone.
If you’ve bottled things inside, take a lesson from America. Start talking!
A: Losing weight (and gaining weight) is a very common symptom of anxiety. I personally lost over a stone in four weeks, because, like you, I struggled to eat due to stress and anxiety.
Let's focus on what’s important: getting you eating again. Forget about your weight for now - the only thing that matters is getting you back to a place where you want to eat again. When you’re at this stage, you’ll naturally get back to a comfortable weight.
It’s important to get you eating again because food is fuel, and fuel is energy. You can’t do anything without energy, and even the healthiest of mind will struggle to cope with anxiety and stress if energy levels are too low. The only way to get your energy levels back up to where they need to be is by eating properly, which will give your mind and body the fuel it needs to deal with your excessive stress and anxiety.
I know at times, particularly when you feel sick, anxious, and depressed, eating is probably the last thing you want to do, so I have a solution for you: Protein Shakes.
When I couldn’t stomach food, or even look at it due to feeling anxious and depressed, I stopped my weight loss and increased my energy by drinking protein shakes. They’re not just made for vein-popping weightlifters – it’s a big market, and some are made as diet supplements / replacements.
It’s not a long-term solution, and eating should always be your goal. If you can eat anything, you should eat fruit and vegetables (because there isn’t any substitute for them). If you’re really struggling to eat, protein shakes will help give you the boost of energy you need to get you back to the stage where you want to eat again and give you the fuel you need to overcome your anxiety.
Action for Change
Go online / to your local supermarket and look for protein shakes designed as meal replacement / supplements. Find a flavour you like and have a protein shake at times in the day you normally eat (breakfast / lunch / dinner). If you can stomach any food make sure it’s fresh and healthy, including fruit and vegetables.
Remember: this is only a very short-term option, and you should only use protein shakes to get you through the very low periods (when you can’t stomach or look at food).
Given a little time, when your energy levels are up (which will naturally boost your mood), you will start eating properly again. And when you start eating properly again, you’ll be ready to face and overcome your high anxiety.
ABOUT CARL VERNON
Carl Vernon is a best-selling author & speaker, talking and writing about all things anxiety, stress & well-being.