Worrying about money problems and debt is unfortunately pretty common. Covering your monthly bills could make you anxious enough, but what if you suddenly need to pay for car repairs or some other expenses you hadn’t budgeted for? Stress and money can go hand in hand…which could have serious implications on your mental outlook.

A recent survey found that 25% people who are in debt have symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—36% if you happen to be a millennial. Symptoms can manifest themselves as:

  • Worry: You have excessive concern about being homeless or other worst-case scenarios around being unable to pay off debt.
  • Nightmares: Sleepless nights can have severe impact on your day-to-day life.
  • Avoidance: If you don’t pay bills on time, you could incur late fees.
  • Denial: You ignore the reality of the situation and don’t take ownership for paying off debt.

If this sounds familiar, then recognize you’re not alone. Nearly 40% of U.S. households have credit card debt. And for those who carry a balance, the average debt is $16,048 on those cards and the interest can cost as much as $1,300 per year.

Understanding your reaction to money problems can help you adjust your approach, take control of your finances, and reduce your stress levels.

  1. Stop Retail-Therapy: Ebates research found that over 60% of women and nearly 40% of men shopped to improve their mood. Before you buy, learn to HALT by questioning if you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. By taking a moment to assess, you can discover what will satisfy you—eating a snack, addressing an issue with your spouse, calling a friend, or going to bed early. The benefits of HALTing can be long lasting, and leave you with fewer/lower bills to pay at the end of the month. To resist online impulse-buys, delete credit card information stored on your computer and mobile devices.
  2. Curb Anxiety: Money problems can make you anxious and fearful. Be proactive to stay on track for paying down debt:
    • Set Up Automatic Minimum Payments: This can help ensure you don’t receive late fees.
    • Put Credit Cards Out of Reach: Rather than cut them up, simply take them out of your wallet. If it’s still “too easy to spend,” then try freezing the cards in a container of water or take them out of the house and put them in safe deposit box at a bank.
    • Find a Credit Counselor: Consider hiring a professional service that can coach you on how to create better budgeting skills.

  3. Calm Yourself: These proven techniques can help you feel more relaxed so that money stress doesn’t take over your life.
    • Start Exercising: Work with a doctor to create an exercise plan.
    • Learn To Meditate: Attend a class or download a free app.
    • Seek Counseling: Look for a mental health counselor who can help you understand the root causes of your stress.
    • Avoid Splurging: This can be confusing as being happy is good, yet feeling loose (especially if you’ve had alcohol) can quickly lead to financial splurges. Set up situations where you celebrate with friends at home.

  4. Become Empowered: Remember, you’re in control! Listen to how “I choose to live frugally” sounds better than “I should live frugally” because it reinforces your power. By saying “I choose…” to friends, family, and yourself, it states this is your decision. And you can be an inspiration to others by showing how serious and relaxed you are about being careful with your money. Remember that you own this choice knowing it will help you eliminate your debt.

If after you apply these strategies you still feel overwhelmed by debt, then consider enrolling in a debt relief program like the one offered by Freedom Debt Relief. Such programs could help reduce the amount you owe for an affordable, predictable monthly cost. Even the simple act of enrolling in a program could immediately reduce stress, since you know you’re on a path toward the solution!