The cheer and fervor of the holiday season often leave us with a sobering aftermath: the daunting task of paying off accumulated debt. Recent data indicates that nearly half of all American consumers accumulated debt during the festive period, with an average expenditure nearing a thousand dollars. Not surprisingly, this often results in a surge of financial stress or what psychiatrist and neuroscientist Judson Brewer terms “money avoidance”.
Money avoidance, Brewer explains, is a defense mechanism wherein individuals ignore or sidestep their financial situation, often to their detriment. This practice is more common than one might think, and is not always dependent on the amount of money you possess. Even actions as simple as procrastinating paying the bills or avoiding checking bank account balances can be signs of this behavior.
Although a natural response to financial stress, money avoidance only prolongs the problem and doesn’t magically resolve financial issues. Ignoring your credit card bills doesn’t erase them, nor does it contribute to your financial stability. Therefore, it’s essential to face these financial anxieties head-on. Here are six tips to help you combat money avoidance.
1. Everyone can fall prey to money avoidance:
While the term “money avoidance” may seem to imply a certain level of privilege, the truth is that individuals across all socioeconomic strata can exhibit avoidant behaviors towards money. Financial problems aren’t picky; they affect everyone at some point, and it’s human nature to want to ignore them. However, Brewer encourages us to face them head-on, regardless of where we stand on the economic spectrum.
2. Identify and evaluate your habit loops:
A habit loop comprises three elements: a trigger, a behavior, and a result. To enhance your relationship with money, you must first understand your personal financial habit loops. You could start by auditing your recent transactions, noting what made you feel comfortable or uneasy. The idea here is not to evade your financial problems but to confront them, asking yourself whether avoiding these issues led you to a solution.
3. Replace avoidance with self-awareness and creativity:
Brewer suggests employing mindfulness as a potent tool to break away from harmful money habit loops. This doesn’t merely involve calming your nerves but also entails adopting a broader perspective on rewards. What could be more rewarding than avoiding money problems? The answer to this could be a simple pause to dispel your financial anxiety. You could also focus on experiencing physical sensations like feeling the ground beneath your feet to help calm yourself down.
4. Employ mindfulness during money troubles:
Mindfulness can be a strong ally during financial distress. By shifting your focus from immediate gratification to potential long-term benefits, you can prevent yourself from making impulsive decisions. This could involve declining an extra round of drinks when out with friends or finding low-cost alternatives to activities you enjoy. By replacing negative money behaviors with positive ones, you can significantly reduce your financial stress.
5. Maintain a growth mindset when you stumble:
It’s important to remember that everyone makes mistakes. Instead of resorting to self-judgment and regret, adopt a growth mindset. Try to learn from your mistakes. What led you to make an impulsive purchase? Was there something you could have done differently? Understanding your triggers can help you avoid falling into the same trap again.
6. Practicing awareness is key:
Brewer emphasizes the importance of cultivating awareness and kindness towards yourself to foster a healthier relationship with money. By incorporating these two ingredients – awareness and curiosity – into every aspect of your life, you can equip yourself to deal with any situation, including financial stress.
Money avoidance can be a tough habit to break. However, by developing mindfulness and self-awareness, you can transform your relationship with money from a source of stress to a tool of empowerment. The goal is not just financial stability, but overall personal growth and wellbeing.