Depressed about money? These 5 steps can help you get to a better place.

Depressed about money? These 5 steps can help you get to a better place.
Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

Close your eyes and think: What's the worst thing that could happen to you? The death of a loved one? Getting cheated on by your bae? Racking up ginormous debt? Or getting fired?

Turns out research suggests that over time unemployment might make you even more unhappy than the death of a spouse, Time reported in 2014. In fact, losing your job is associated with everything from depression to substance abuse and marital problems, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center warns.

Now, clearly the effects described above won't be true for everyone. And a job loss is just one factor that can trigger depression around money. Yet if any of your financial problems make you feel like all is lost, there are steps you can take to avoid going down the rabbit hole.

Of course, if your anxiety has become overwhelming, connecting with a mental health professional should be your first stop. Aren't quite there yet? The moves below may help you.

1. Pay attention to changes in habits

Financial anxiety can prompt even the most stoic person to turn to vices like food or alcohol. Stress hormones promote the consumption of comfort foods, Harvard Health Publications has reported. Although you may experience initial relief while consuming sugars, starches and trans fats, a subsequent insulin surge may prompt inflammation, Shape reported. And inflammation is associated with stomach problems, joint issues, breathing problems, sleep disorders, heart disease and more, according to Health.   

Alcohol abuse is widespread among those suffering from depression — Psych Central noted at least 30% to 50% of alcoholics are suffering from clinical depression. The continued abuse of alcohol may even make depression worse, though people experience a brief lift in mood.

If any of these changes in habit describe you, be sure to talk to your doctor.

2. Use your words

Your first urge may be to hop into bed and pull the covers over your head. But isolating yourself is a mistake. "Let other people in and let them know how difficult things are, and don't try to keep a stiff upper lip and bear it all yourself," Liza Gold, a psychiatrist and clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical Center said to Health. "It's not a burden that can be borne well in isolation." 

Also, instead of becoming consumed with guilt, talk about your fears and concerns. You could talk to a friend or family member, but also consider seeking help from a financial planner or a therapist, U.S. News advised. 

3. Focus on positives

You don't want to look at those overdue bills. But there are ways to embrace the challenges in front of you and work through them little by little. Alas, debt resolution won't happen overnight — often nothing worthwhile in life does. So simply commit to being diligent about your money, and patient about results.

Remember how great you feel after a workout?

"You'll feel the same way when you make progress with your finances," Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate said to Mic by phone. Give yourself credit for baby steps, like paying down even a small amount of debt and finding creative ways to save a little cash here or there.

4. Create a temporary plan 

Whether you received a severance package after a layoff or have a well-stocked emergency fund, you'll need to determine how you will cover your bills and finances while dealing with the financial doldrums. If you are light on coverage, consider taking an interim job such as a contract or temporary assignment, Forbes suggested.

Even if the temp job isn't in your field, it will still provide some float money in the meantime. Another strategy is to sell a few investments to cover the spread — but try your best not to touch your retirement fund.

Regardless of how you get there, you are going to need a specific strategy that will take you from your current situation to financial recovery:  "Map out your financial resources with regard to what you currently have, how long it could last or how long you could make it last," McBride said.

5. Put a budget on paper

Once you've figured out how much cash you have coming in, it's time to tackle your budget. Don't have one? Now's a good time to start. "The first step is to see what you can cut immediately, such as having dinners out," McBride said. 

After the initial cuts, make additional reductions if the job search takes longer, your severance runs out or you burn through your savings. "Don't wait until you are at the point where you have already run out of funds," McBride said. Once you run out of money, it's too late. Track your finances and once you get halfway through your reserves, make additional cuts, like selling one of your cars if you have two, or moving to a smaller apartment so you pay less in rent. 

Finally, remember to keep up good behaviors once you establish them: When you eventually land employment (and you will!) and begin to recover, don't return to previous spending habits, McBride added. Rebuilding your savings is easier if you leave the cuts in place until you make financial headway. 

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