When you’re working out your personal finances – paying bills, saving money, trying to stay within your budget, or even thinking about money – do you ever feel anxious?
If so, you’re hardly alone. Many Americans do. And apparently, financial stress is more common among women than it is among men.
We’re not going to claim to have the answers to all your financial problems, at least not in one article. But it may be possible to improve your financial health by practicing yoga and mindfulness.
Does that sound somehow unlikely? If so, please read on!
Anxiety – And the Financial Connection
To make sure we’re all on the same page, let’s first define exactly what anxiety is, and what it does.
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines it as follows:
“Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat.”
In reading the APA definition, look carefully at the connection between anxiety and physical symptoms: increased blood pressure, sweating, trembling, dizziness, or a rapid heartbeat. If you are experiencing any of these, anxiety may be the problem.
And as it turns out, there’s a close connection between anxiety and your finances.
According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Agency (FINRA), at least half of Americans experience stress and anxiety in connection with their finances. FINRA found that to be the case even before the Covid global pandemic set in. Research confirms that “financial stress and anxiety are highly linked to low levels of financial literacy, problematic financial behaviors and decreased financial security.”
It’s not difficult to connect the dots between anxiety and your finances. Extreme financial worries are the natural outcome of too much out-go and not enough income, often in combination with uncertainty over solutions and lack of understanding.
That combination can easily lead to mental distraction, physical distress, constant worry, and even avoiding dealing with finances in a timely manner.
Much of the stress and physical discomfort can be avoided by creating better focus. That means developing a strategy to cut through the mental fog that finances cause. That will help you zero in on getting better control over your money issues.
That’s where yoga can help.
What is Yoga?
Many Americans, familiar mostly with the TV version of yoga, may view it as some sort of exotic practice. But in reality, it has enough practical application that it can help improve your daily life. And, yes, even your finances.
Dr. Ishwar V. Basavaraddi of the Government of India Ministry of External Affairs defines Yoga as “…essentially a spiritual discipline based on an extremely subtle science, which focuses on bringing harmony between mind and body. It is an art and science of healthy living.”
In simple terms, yoga can help you to improve your ability to focus on living your life and dealing with whatever issues you may be confronting.
This may be especially applicable when it comes to finances. Though we may think of finances is being “the money thing”, it’s actually something much more. That’s why the whole topic can be so stressful.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that money underlies almost everything we do. We’re paid in money, we pay others in money, and measure almost everything in terms of money. In our minds then, money becomes more of a master than a servant. That’s overwhelming.
Yoga can help you to overcome that wall of worry. It does this by helping you to raise your level of awareness about both yourself and the world around you. That includes money.
As your awareness increases, so does your ability to focus. That’s especially important when it comes to finances. With money being seemingly all-encompassing, it’s easy to get distracted.
By regularly practicing yoga, you can develop the discipline to get your mind focused on the task at hand. That alone can provide you with the mental clarity needed to deal with an issue as complicated as finances.
Yoga and Mindfulness
Yoga essentially joins your body, mind and spirit to behave as one. That’s the exact recipe needed to deal with the stresses of life.
In the TV version of yoga, the practitioner sits on a mat and seems to hum. The humming isn’t just for theatrics, either. Mechanically, she’s really saying so hum – “so” when breathing in, and “hum” when exhaling.
In other words, so hum is the process of controlling your breathing. Proper, intentional breathing is critical to any type of activity designed to help you relax and develop better focus. Breathing is, of course, an essential function of living at it’s most basic level. And that’s what helps mind, body and spirit to come together.
You’ll not only start with breathing, but you’ll continue it throughout the process. It’s also important to remain in the seated position. From that relaxed state, you can concentrate on setting your intention. That can be your best friend when tackling any major project, but especially one involving anything as stressful as money.
The idea is to clear your mind, so that you can concentrate on a single task, even if it’s difficult.
Yoga can create the mindfulness that makes doing any difficult task easier. That’s because it helps you to be completely present in the moment, but without being distracted by negative feelings, like stress and anxiety.
Will Mindfulness Help my Anxiety?
Maybe for you it can take everything you have to motivate yourself just to sit down and pay your bills. Or perhaps you need to make a difficult financial decision that will require getting new information, like opening an IRA or an investment account. Whatever the challenge, it will be better handled with a clear, relaxed mind.
We all have to deal with finances, one way or the other. But the better way to do it is with a clear head. Once achieved, you’ll be better able to deal with the challenge you’re facing.
Most of us have limited financial resources, which is the source of financial anxiety. For example, that can put you in a position of needing to make a choice between paying the electric bill or your life insurance premium.
In a state of panic, you may choose to do neither. And while that will postpone – not eliminate – the problem for the moment, it will bring complications later, like late payment fees on both.
But by embracing the mindfulness that yoga provides, you may find it easier to make the decision on which bill to pay. That may simply come down to delay paying the bill that will produce the fewest negative consequences.
You can use yoga to help you deal with any sticky financial decision. It won’t make all your financial troubles go away, but it will help you to prioritize the most important first. And that alone can minimize future troubles that will only increase your anxiety.
Eventually, you may come to a point where you’ll become more comfortable dealing with financial issues. And once you do, there’s an excellent chance your finances will begin to improve!
International Yoga Day Activities
If you’ve never practiced yoga in the past, this may be the perfect time to get started.
The United Nations has declared June 21 as the International Day of Yoga. Take advantage of that day, or even any day thereafter, to begin practicing yoga in your own life.
With the reality of the global Covid pandemic, life has become more stressful than ever before. Yoga is one of the best ways to deal with that added stress, as well as the ongoing anxiety caused by financial worries.
As you can see, anxiety isn’t just a matter of simple worry. It has the potential to seize your mind, and even cause chronic health conditions, like high blood pressure. That’s not a situation you should accept into your life. And by practicing yoga on a regular basis, you’ll at least be able to minimize the negative outcomes.
It’s especially important in the area of personal finance. After all, finances – which are essentially anything concerning money – affect every part of our lives. The potential for anxiety may be greater than any other single source.
The solution is to get better control over your finances. But that won’t happen until you develop a strategy to make it happen. Use yoga to improve mindfulness and reduce the stress of finances. Once you do, you should begin to see your way clear to get better control over your financial health.