I received an email last week from Vickie, a 45 year old woman who is on the verge of emotional breakdown over money. Vickie and her 47 year old husband must file for bankruptcy, and she is experiencing frequent panic attacks over their money situation. Married for 14 years with two children, together they own 2 homes, a couple cars, have travelled extensively, and have otherwise lived very comfortable middle-class lifestyles. But over a year ago, her husband, a real estate executive, lost his $300,000 a year job. Now, together they face over $150,000 of credit card debt, plus thousands in past due income taxes, plus mortgages and car notes, and they have no regular income to support any of it. She feels like her whole world is crumbling and she is constantly fighting bouts of gripping panic and stress.
With over 50 million anxiety sufferers and record bankruptcy filings in America, many people find themselves in situations similar to Vickie’s, and can’t see a way out of their circumstance and looking for ways to ease panic attacks over money. As panic sets in it begins to impact everything from willpower to personal relationships and the desire to socialize with others (due to the embarrassment of it all). With so many Americans out of work in what is purported to be the worst recession since the great depression, meeting financial obligations becomes virtually impossible and a feeling of being trapped takes hold.
About Panic Attacks
Panic attacks represent a physiological over-reactive rush of adrenaline in response to a mostly unsubstantiated or overblown fear. In prehistoric times, this adrenaline rush helped humans fight off or run from a real attack from dinosaurs and other predators. Now the dinosaurs are gone, but experts say the feeling of “fight or flight” strikes panic attacks and anxiety sufferers each day. You might say that Vickie’s fear of impending bankruptcy is not overblown or unsubstantiated. In the end, times will be tough for Vickie and her family. But Vickie and her husband still have their health and their marriage, and get this – they both admit their respective roles or lack thereof in getting them into the financial situation in the first place – very important starting point. More importantly, they are beginning to understand that bankruptcy is a form of financial relief and legal protection from creditors – the ultimate source of the unsubstantiated fear. Talk to a lawyer or bankruptcy specialist about the specifics. But ultimately your worst fears about money are most definitely overblown if you are suffering from panic attacks and anxiety over them. You must strategize and gradually lift yourself out of the financial circumstance. And remember, if you must file for bankruptcy, you are not alone. If you check the rolls of past bankruptcy filers you will find names like Donald Trump, Circuit City, Blockbuster Video, and many other company’s and people. Bankruptcy is meant to be a backstop to keep you from panicking and seeing no way out. If Vickie allows her panic and stress to seize her willpower, she will sink into a freefall of fear and discouragement. In the end, she could wind up losing her most important assets – health, family, marriage, faith, etc.
5 Steps To Staying Strong
1. Get in control of spending now. Don’t try to spend your way into stress relief. It never works.
2. Polish Up Your Resume. Know your skills and start marketing them everyday.
3. Create A Financial Plan. Know where you want to be in 1 year, 3 years and so forth.
4. Reward Yourself For Small Accomplishments. If you reach a stated goal or objective reward yourself in ways that celebrate your accomplishment without worsening the circumstance. In other words, don’t go out and spend more than you can afford.
5. Seek Expert Advice with your finances and your panic attacks if they persist or worsen.
Remember that money troubles can be corrected over time with a little knowledge and a realistic view about your resources. Panic attacks and anxiety can lead to far worse problems potentially requiring treatment. Always keep things in perspective and place value on family, friendships, relationships, and other excellent support structures.