Several years ago when I wasn’t quite sure what direction my business was heading, I got myself into a very ugly pattern. Throughout the day I was working. I wasn’t really thinking or processing my feelings, I was just nose to the grindstone working. Did I mention I was stressed? I was stressed about being newly married and feeling the need to provide for my bride. I was feeling stress because I knew I had more to offer the world than I was presently offering it. And I was stressed because I was living on 100% commission income. Eat what you kill. No kill, no eat. No hunting, no kill, and then no eat. Times were difficult in the moment. Not only was my stress overwhelming, but the stress of my stress was overwhelming. Oh, that ugly pattern I mentioned earlier? I would try to process all of my feeling and activities of the day as I lay down to sleep. I would lay wide awake for hours. And when I did nod off to sleep, my mind would fight through the sleep and fire me awake with a stress inducing thought which would literally leave me sitting up in my bed. It had to stop. It did.
Here’s what I learned that saved my sleep (and probably lots of other things): wanting “it” is never enough. Desire wasn’t enough. Wanting to do better was important, but it didn’t move the needle. After months of restless nights I had finally come to the conclusion that worrying about something that I couldn’t change, in that current moment, was stupid. I would hustle all day long, and then stress-out about what I really wanted for myself and my family at night. It was a really dumb display. I discovered the glory of action.
Action. Action is the bastard brother of stress. Stress and action don’t like each other. Which means that stress usually leaves. I have caught a tremendous amount of grief over the years for “planning” everything. Thus, Pete the Planner. I scout restaurant menus online prior to dining out. I map my route to the hotel from the airport prior to travel. And I have driven my family insane giving them an exact minute to be ready to leave the house. It wasn’t always this way. All this crazy planning came via my addiction to action. Action.
The key to manage financial stress is action. You MUST take action on the things that are stressing you out. Are you flat broke? Sell something. Are you stressed about your debt load? Stop spending money or get a part-time job. Are you stressed that you can’t afford your house? Sell it. Staring a problem in the face for years without action is absolutely miserable.
I have a dear friend who is currently a financial stress ball. She’s been this way for no less than 10 years, probably longer. Ten years ago she figured out she will eventually be in financial trouble if she didn’t take action. She wasn’t in financial trouble when she figured this out. Yet simple math told her a lack of action would ruin her financial life forever. This stressed her out very badly. She dealt with her stress very poorly. Action, on any level, would have solved her very simple problem, but the more stressed out she got, the more complicated her situation seemed, despite the fact it wasn’t complicated at all. Her financial situation now is very nearly unrecoverable, unless she takes action.
I feel like my life changed forever when I figured out that action alleviates stress. Feeling chunky? Mix in a salad. Feeling like you are spending too much? Set a short term goal to curb spending. Action isn’t about huge steps. Action is movement. When you take action to alleviate stress you are simply trying to create movement. Take action. If you spend $400 month dining out and you feel like that’s too much, then spend $50/week for the next four weeks to cut your spending in half. Stress starts going away when you start the movement.
As I mentioned, I’m addicted to action. If I feel business or financial stress, I refuse to let it marinate for more than a minute. I diagnose the problem, explore the solutions, and get to work. I highly recommend this. Once I figured this out, I slept great…until I had children.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.