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Feeling Overwhelmed or Frozen: What to Do?

Clayton Scott

A certain amount of financial stress is fact of life in our modern world.

As my wife used to tell our teenagers on a nearly daily basis – what you are feeling is 98.6 – very normal.

But sometimes it all seems to come down around you – suddenly: a job loss, an illness, an unexpected emergency, a foolish purchase you wish you’d not made…however you got here, you now have more demands financially than dollars you can find.

So how do you handle those seasons of life when your financial circumstances threaten to overwhelm you?

1. Clear your head. It can sound like a thousand voices calling out to you at once. The psalmist of the Old Testament described it as his anxious thoughts multiplying within. And the first step to quieting the cacophony of voices in your head is to…

2. Get some rest. We each need many kinds of rest: spiritual, emotional, physical. You may need to pray, take a long walk, chop some firewood, play golf, sleep in this weekend or take a day off.

Coach Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” If you are spiritually, emotionally or physically exhausted, you’ll make little progress on your financial issues until you pay attention to that part of you that is worn out. Invest in yourself – rest.

3. Recruit another set of eyes. High levels of stress can tend to make us lose perspective. We ignore important things and obsess over the trivial. So invite a trusted friend or advisor into your life and get their perspective. They won’t necessarily solve your problem immediately, but they may be able to talk you down off the ledge.

4. Make a prioritized list. Ultimately you’re going to have to deal with your money problem, not just feel better about it. So (perhaps with the help of your trusted friend), list out what the issues are that must be addressed and prioritize them.

What’s the one most important thing to deal with? Write it down specifically (i.e., how much do you owe and when is it due?). Then write down the next, etc.

5. Do first things first. Thus far, we’ve not actually done anything. It’s time for some doing. All the preceding has been prepping you to take one specific action step that will move you forward… closer to where you want to be. That step might be to call the mortgage company, contact the attorney, sell the car, make ten networking phone calls for that new job, cut up the credit card…you get the idea.

6. Repeat as needed. This is no one time instant quick fix. If financial stress has you immobilized, you need help getting unstuck.

But you’ll most certainly find yourself stuck again in the future. So repeat this process as needed – and let me know of any helpful additions to this list you can think of!

Byron is a Certified Financial Planner and Managing Director of the Planning Group at Argent Advisors, Inc.
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