If you’ve felt the pain of financial loss during the COVID-19 crisis, you’re not alone. As COVID-19 spreads, millions of people have been hit with a job loss or a reduction in pay. With so much uncertainty, nobody knows how long the financial strain will last.
When a loved one dies, every part of you can feel the loss. Financial loss is no different, but the grief can often go unrecognized. This is known as disenfranchised grief, a type of grief that is ignored or overlooked by society. Money isn’t alive and it can’t die but if you experience financial loss, your grief is just as real. You’ll go through phases or stages of grief like any other loss.
These tips will help you cope with your loss, and find many ways to take care of your financial situation as well as your mental wellness.
1. Manage feelings of anxiety or panic
If you’ve lost a job or gotten your hours cut, you may have felt twinges of panic. You may have sudden worries about paying your bills or running up credit card debt. A financial loss can shake your sense of security to the core. Anxiety is a normal reaction to this situation, but try to avoid making any major decisions when you feel this way. Wait until you feel calm and can think clearly.
If you feel anxiety rising in your throat or chest, slow down, and settle yourself. The key is to interrupt it before it escalates too far. Take long, deep breaths, tell yourself you’ll find a solution, or call a friend. If needed, talk to a friend or loved one until you feel better.
2. Accept reality
The reality of financial loss can be emotionally painful. With the COVID-19 crisis, it’s hard to know how long the economic downturn will last. The stress of it all can make you want to close your eyes and ignore everything. But when you avoid reality, you can make some expensive mistakes and waste valuable time.
Instead, take some time to think about what has happened and how your life has changed. You might find it helpful to talk this through with a friend or family member. Knowing you’re about to lose your home can be hard to accept, and realizing you can’t afford to run your business anymore can feel devastating.
It takes a lot of courage to face this kind of reality. It’s painful, but accepting reality can help you cope and make better decisions going forward.
3. Honor your grief
Society makes a natural connection between grief and human death. So when you go through a financial loss, grief may not come to mind right away. Your feelings of loss and emotional pain stem from grief, and this reaction is normal for any kind of major loss. Name it as grief to help you understand your experience better.
Money gives people opportunities, choices, security, and power. When you lose money or financial value, your loss can feel like a punch in the gut. That loss is just as real as losing a loved one or a pet.
Honor your grief for what it is. Give yourself permission to grieve when it comes over you. In time, you’ll get more comfortable with the ups and downs.
4. Understand your priorities
When your financial loss is still fresh, you may feel like you’re juggling too many balls in the air. With bills coming due and money looking tight, it may seem like a big tangled mess. Your brain will get overloaded if you think about everything you spend money on. Instead, make a list of your priorities to help you stay focused.
Write down the top things you need to spend money on now. Think about necessities like food, shelter, and transportation. Once you set your priorities, you may find it simpler to let go of other expenses. This process can still be emotional, but you can feel more at peace when you spend money on a priority item.
5. Find ways to manage stress
Stress management is so important when dealing with financial loss, especially with the COVID-19 situation. You may be dealing with your financial loss for months or years. This kind of long-term stress can be exhausting without a good plan to manage it.
When you keep your stress down, you may be able to handle the ups and downs of your financial loss more easily. Just a few simple activities can help your mind, emotions, and your body stay calm.
- Do 15 to 30 minutes of exercise each day to help your body release stress.
- Do stretching exercises to keep tension from building up in your muscles.
- Listen to music to soothe yourself.
- Breathe slowly for a few minutes.
- Talk to a friend or your partner about your worries.
6. Develop a resilient mindset
Positivity can be hard to find with all the COVID-19 news we see every day. But even small mental habits can make a big difference. Reminders like, “this won’t last forever,” or, “we’ll get through this,” can keep you going through a tough moment.
Use your support network to help you with negative self-talk. Spend time with people who encourage you, or listen to audiobooks and podcasts with uplifting messages. Let these words fill your mind and repeat them to yourself when you feel down. Negative thoughts will still come and go, but before long, encouraging thoughts will come more easily.
7. Find opportunities
You may not feel like looking for silver linings right now. But every struggle can have something to offer. Learning something new about budgeting can give you confidence. Meeting an essential goal can give you hope about the future. Even in your lowest moments, you can deepen relationships by leaning on friends and family.
If you were well-prepared before COVID-19, a financial loss could still sweep you off your feet. Take a step back and look at your situation. Find a positive highlight or an opportunity for the future by asking yourself a few questions.
- What are you learning about that you didn’t know before?
- What are some good financial choices you’ve made?
- What do you appreciate more since the loss?
- What are you looking forward to most in the next few months?
8. Take care of yourself physically
Dealing with loss is hard on your body. You might deal with poor sleep, tense muscles, and a headache. Your mind and body are deeply connected, so as you deal with your loss, pay attention to your body’s needs.
- Do your best to get some sleep. You may toss and turn for a while, but you’ll eventually get tired and sleep more some nights.
- Eat as healthy, drink plenty of water, and stick to a schedule. You don’t need to eat at precise times, but try to give your body some predictable patterns.
- Get some exercise or daily activity. Take a walk around your neighborhood or do a 10-minute yoga video. Find some stretches to soothe your tense muscles. You’ll sleep better, feel better, and burn off calories from any stress eating.
9. Get support from a calm trustworthy person
When anxious thoughts roll through your mind, you’ll appreciate having support from a person you trust. Think of a person who cares for you, but won’t get carried away with emotion. You need to be around someone with a calm presence as you work through your financial loss. When you feel frustrated or scared, this person can be your steady rock.
Find someone with financial wisdom and a history of good choices with money. Financial ups and downs are common, and someone who has lived through a few can give you sound advice. Some people also choose to work with a financial advisor, though this isn’t always necessary.
10. Appreciate the present moment
It’s so easy to overthink the past or fret about the future, especially with emotions and money. You may feel like burying your head in the sand when stress starts to build. Instead, stay in the present moment as much as you can. Pay attention to the choices and actions you can take right now.
Take a moment and observe your body, mind, and emotions. Avoid making a judgment—just notice what’s happening.
- Do you feel anxious and tense?
- Do you feel calm and relaxed?
- How does your body feel?
- What are you thinking about?
- What emotions do you feel?
Use the present moment to appreciate your surroundings, show some gratitude, and take care of yourself. Take a walk and enjoy nature. Do some slow breathing exercises and notice the air flowing in and out of your lungs. Spend extra time with a loved one in your home, or arrange a phone call or video chat with someone.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Will Not Last Forever
The COVID-19 crisis will eventually resolve and the economy will improve. In time, so will you. Your budget may be tight for a while, but you can bounce back.
As you recover, you’ll focus on many short-term goals and tasks. But now and then, look out to the horizon. It may not look promising now, but every step you take now helps you move forward.
- “Disenfranchised Grief.” The Rosemary Branch, Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement, (Autumn, 2015), www.grief.org.au/uploads/uploads/Rosemary-Branch-Autumn-2015.pdf