Gary McClain, PhD, is a therapist, patient advocate, and writer who specializes in helping clients—as well as their family members and professional caregivers—deal with the emotional impact of chronic and life-threatening illnesses.
“I don’t know how I am going to afford this.”
I’m always worried about money.”
“I’m scared about the future.”
Having some money concerns? In our current economic situation, if you haven’t found a reason of your own to be worried about your finances, the news does a pretty good job of give you a daily reason to worry.
It’s rough out there. And everybody’s feeling it.
If you are living with a chronic condition, financial pressures can come from lots of different sources. Copays for doctor visits and medications. Required food items. Time off from work or limits in your ability to work. Supplies or products that may not be covered by your health coverage.
So here’s something to consider: Uncertainty about money can lead to stress. And stress can have a negative impact on your health.
Stop thinking about your finances? Fat chance of that. But you can do a few things to manage the stress that financial concerns can cause.
Tips to manage financial stress
1. Start with acceptance. There are some things we can control and some things we can’t. Even in the best of times, the economy resides on the “can’t control” side. Battling something you can’t control – including spending a lot of our precious energy complaining and telling yourself that life shouldn’t be this way – is a recipe for more stress.
2. And don’t create catastrophes. It’s hard to be surrounded by discussions of deficits and not let your mind wander into thinking about your own financial deficits and to do some “what if” thinking. But without real facts, our minds fill in the gaps. Often, with a worst case scenario. The future, for better or for worse, is not ours to predict.
3. Be grateful. One way to counter this mindset is to make a list of what’s working in your life. The people you can count on. The joys in your life, big and small. Spending some time each day being grateful can help avoid that “glass half empty” view of life.
4. Stay optimistic. What are you telling yourself about your finances? If your internal conversation is all about telling yourself how awful things the future looks, then it’s time to rewire that negative thinking and replace it with more optimistic self-talk. Remind yourself: “I can’t control the future. I’m taking it one day at a time, and I’m doing the best I can.”
5. Keep your focus on your health. Back to the control thing. You do have control over doing everything possible to stay as healthy as possible. Take good care of yourself today and you will be that much better prepared to face any challenges in the future.
6. Build in stress relief. Managing your stress level is an important part of your self-care regimen. Build activities you enjoy into your daily routine. Spend time with family members. Use relaxation techniques. Do something about your stress before it does something to you.
7. Reach out to your fellow travelers and get support. I’m not saying that misery loves company, but I am saying that we are all in this together. Difficult times can be an opportunity to strengthen your connections with the important people in your life. Spend time with people who you care about and who care about you.
And nobody knows what it’s like to live with a chronic condition more than someone who is traveling the same road. Share your burdens, your joys, your questions, and your advice. We are all in this together.