You know the type of anxiety attack I’m talking about. We’ve all been there. The shortness of breath, the tightness in the chest, the world closing in, the dread in the pit of your stomach (that’s always the worst for me), the hotness on the back of your neck, or breaking out into uncontrollable sweat. Suddenly you’re having an emotional and physical reaction to what’s going on in your finances. Maybe it was getting a late notice, seeing your bank account balance or perhaps it was just something someone said that triggered it. Whatever it was, you’re now feeling incredibly uncomfortable and you don’t know what to do next.

Following these steps will get you back into a place of peace.

1. Take a deep breath
I can’t even tell you how important it is to first breathe, breathe deeply. Taking a moment to breathe takes you out of the fight or flight response. It stops that mental hijacking, giving you the capacity to think clearly.

2. ID the messages
Our anxiety isn’t just an emotional or physical reaction. There is a trigger and there are messages surrounding that trigger. Sometimes the message is accurate, but more often than not the message is not reality or it’s a shred of reality surrounded in fear. For example, “I don’t have enough,” or “I’m not enough.”

3. Remove the shame
Often times within that message is an element of shame. Shame clouds the message and taints the outlook. In fact, shame is what will keep you from taking any action and instead will continue to berate you for not doing better. So first Remove the shame. Do a reality check. So perhaps you missed a payment. Whoops. That’s not cause for self-crucifixion. Talk to yourself as kindly as you would a good friend, use compassion.

4. Take another look
After you’ve identified the message and stripped away the shame, look at your situation. What’s really going on? You missed a payment; is this a one-time thing? Or is it becoming a pattern? What else is going on? Zoom out the lens a little bit to look at the bigger picture.

5. Focus on what needs to be addressed
Ask yourself, what can you do to change the situation? Look at all the factors. What’s working? What isn’t? Maybe you just need to make a small adjustment, or maybe your circumstances have changed significantly and you need a new plan altogether.

6.  Create a plan
Depending on what needs to change, laying out a plan may be fairly simple. Other times, it may be a little more comprehensive and might include a little trial and error. There’s nothing wrong with experimenting a little to see what works. What’s important is that you come with ideas, strategies, and actionable steps you can take to make the changes needed.

7. Enlist some help
Change is hard to make happen on your own. While your intentions may be great, having someone to check in with you and keep you on track could be necessary. That can keep you from reverting back to the old habits and allow you to create change that lasts. Additionally, your situation may benefit from having expert help – someone giving you insight and tools that you don’t currently have.

8. Follow through
Taking one small step can do a lot in reducing your anxiety. Be able to tell yourself that yes, you are aware something isn’t working, recognize what it is, and create a plan. Taking action on that plan, even in a small way, moves you out of fear and anxiety into empowerment.

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