Modern life comes with plenty of stressors, and money is the most common. But a state of stress actually makes financial discipline harder. It can even lead to a cycle in which stress makes poor money choices more likely, and those mistakes create more stress.
This underlines the importance of self-care to financial health. Applying self-care ideas can alleviate stress and improve well-being. “When fear decreases, the brain can start working more effectively and begin creating a reasonable plan to manage the problem,” says Lisa Bahar, a licensed marriage and family therapist practicing in Newport Beach, Calif.
Here are some self-care ideas that will make you healthier mentally, emotionally, physically — and financially.
Self-care ideas for better financial discipline
First, what is self-care? “The term self-care describes the actions that an individual might take in order to reach optimal physical and mental health,” according to therapist directory site GoodTherapy.org. They can be small, simple actions that help you maintain your well-being.
This state of well-being will often boost your ability to make positive financial choices.
“Reducing stress may provide someone with more time and energy to concentrate on their finances and not add to the stress,” says money coach Lisa Chastain.
1. Budget for self-care
Money is a resource, and sometimes it can be used to trade for other resources you lack, like time or energy. Carve out some room in your budget for self-care. Use this fund as a guilt-free way to nurture and care for yourself.
Even a small amount can allow you to treat yourself to inexpensive pleasures. If can afford to, you might budget more to invest in building a skill through cooking classes. Or you can pay to offload a chore you hate, like hiring a pet poop scooper.
2. Carefully time financial decisions
You want to time your financial decisions and tasks for times when you’re feeling good instead of running on fumes. People who are stressed typically “lack clarity on what they are creating financially for themselves versus making a decision to ease the stress,” says Chastain. It’s similar to the advice not to grocery shop when hungry.
Check in with yourself before you sit down to work on your finances. Physically, check that you’re fed, hydrated and well-rested. Make sure you feel well emotionally — confident, empowered and encouraged. Take stock of your mental resources, like willpower and brainpower. If something’s amiss, take a break and address your needs before tackling your money problems.
3. Maintain your physical health
Sufficient sleep, a healthy diet, and regular exercise are cornerstones of a self-care regimen. “Exercise gives people a great outlet for stress relief, and helps you think clearly,” says Stefan Taylor, founder of mental health site ADHD Boss.
As investing titan Warren Buffett said, “You only get one mind and one body — and it’s got to last a lifetime.” When you care for your body, you lower stress and sharpen your mind — your most valuable financial tool.
4. Ground yourself in the present
“People under stress usually avoid and find ways to numb,” Chastain says. If you tend to vacillate between manic money panic or dead-inside despair, try taking a moment to ground yourself.
Deep breathing is a simple but effective tool to increase oxygen and stay present in the moment, suggests Taylor. “And, since thinking about the future is a constant source of anxiety, staying mindful or present to the moment can help people make smarter financial decisions,” he adds.
5. Set and maintain boundaries
An important principle of self-care is creating and enforcing healthy social boundaries. These boundaries help you keep other people’s choices, opinions or lifestyles from influencing your financial choices. And they ensure your well-being, including your financial health, is not sacrificed for others.
Setting these financial boundaries can be hard but important. You might decline to lend money to a family member. Maybe you renegotiate how you split expenses with your significant other, if it’s become a bit one-sided. Or it could be smaller and simpler, like unfollowing a big spender on social media to whom you’re always comparing yourself.
6. Enlist a financial mentor
When you’re working on your finances, having a point person to talk things through and brainstorm money solutions can be invaluable. Pick someone whom you trust and who has sound financial judgment and ask if they’re willing to be your sounding board for money management. It can make financial decisions less daunting, lessen the mental load on you and give you some much-needed support.
7. Invest in professional help
In addition to getting support from a friend or family member, think about investing in professional help. If your finances are a mess, meeting with a financial planner can help you offload some of your money labor and find clever solutions you might not otherwise know about.
For some people, mental health issues can be the main issue affecting both their well-being and their finances. If you struggle with mood or mental disorders from depression to ADHD, there’s really no substitute for professional help.
Working with a therapist, Bahar says, you can get help making “a step-by-step strategy for short- and long-term goals,” creating and following a self-care plan. It also gives you safe place to work through “the feelings including anger, fear, and shame.” And you can get evaluated for any medications or other therapies.
By implementing self-care ideas, you’ll improve your well-being and lower stress. And soon enough, it’ll probably pay off. “People who are calm and in charge of their life ultimately make smarter choices with their money,” Chastain says.
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