Money overwhelm- it’s real and it sucks. To be totally honest, I feel like I’m a scholar on money overwhelm. I’ve felt it at so many times in my life about so many different things that it’s like that toxic friend you keep trying to ditch but won’t stop calling you.
While I’m not completely free of money overwhelm (because- true story- money is a lifelong process), I have developed coping strategies so I don’t dissolve into a pile of mush everytime the overwhelm hits.
Because it will hit. It will show up. And our only option is to know how to face it so it doesn’t destroy us.
You feel me?
Let’s get started. And don’t forget to download the money overwhelm action sheet – which is a worksheet I designed to walk you through my 5-step process of dealing with money overwhelm.
What the hell is money overwhelm?
Money overwhelm is the feeling that your money is SO out of control and SO big and there’s SO much to do (there’s a lot of SOs involved with money overwhelm) that you get stuck in a place of inaction.
Money overwhelm can be based on one thing, like my bookkeeping isn’t done, which causes you to spiral into, “There are six months of bookkeeping and it’s going to take forever and I don’t even know where to start!”
OR it can be a lot of little things that get stacked one on top of each other to add up to something big.
OR it can be a lot of big things that get compounded to add up to something REALLY big.
When we’re overwhelmed by our money we get the FEELS big time. And those feels become so potent that we stop being able to act. Money overwhelm can manifest in anxiety, where you’re buzzy and panicked about your money, and can’t focus or sleep. OR it can manifest in more depressive behavior- where you feel so overwhelmed that you just want to crawl into bed, pull the covers over your head, and disappear.
Regardless of how the money overwhelm shows up, it always leaves us with a sense of powerlessness. Imagine walking on a path and coming up to a giant brick wall. You have no clue about how to get through, over, or around that brick wall so you just stand there and stare at it or run away. That’s what money overwhelm feels like.
How Money Overwhelm Impacts Our Business
Within our businesses there’s a lot of crucial processes we need to do to keep our businesses running, sustainable, and profitable. When money overwhelm shows up, we don’t get these processes done and this is really really hard on our business.
Often we have a front facing problem in our business- something that isn’t going well and we need to fix it. We focus all our energy on the front facing problem and we don’t look at what’s behind it. But, if you backtrack to the root of that problem, you’ll find that it’s actually rooted in money overwhelm.
Money overwhelm ripples out into all areas of our business. And it’s something we need to take seriously because even if you know all the practical skills of money- if you have money overwhelm- those skills aren’t going to do you any good. Because you’re still stuck and still unable to act.
What to Do About Money Overwhelm
Step 1: Make a List
The first step when you’re overwhelmed is to make a list of everything that’s overwhelming you. You need to get all of this stuff that’s swirling around you out of your brain and onto paper.
Think of Harry Potter and the pensive, where he takes his wand to his head and extracts his memories into the bowl. That’s what you’re doing. But instead of your memories, you’re extracting all the shit that you’re worried about when it comes to money.
When you do this, you move from a place where all your money worries are internalized and start externalizing them. You’re bringing visibility to the parts of your money that stress you out. And let’s be real- this can be really hard. Because our initial response to hard money stuff is to ignore it and push it away.
BUT- even when you’re pushing those things away they eventually bubble to the surface and manifest as overwhelm, shame, hopelessness, and powerlessness. So you gotta put it out on paper. And just the act of dumping all of these things on paper is going to help you feel more in control of your money.
Step 2: Categorize Your Overwhelm List
Now that you have a visible list of everything that’s overwhelming you, go through your list and assign everyone one of three categories:
What you need to take action on: These are things that require your time and focus and are usually actions that you’ve been putting off.
Things you have questions about: Maybe you want to take action on your bookkeeping but that’s not what’s holding you back. What’s holding you back is you don’t know what bookkeeping program to use. You have a question that needs to be answered for you to move forward.
Things you need to hire somebody to help you with: These are parts of your money that you need external help with and usually, the big block here, is finding the person to help you.
Keep in mind that sometimes these categories change. You may think that your action step is just to do your bookkeeping but when you start you realize you have a lot of questions or that you need to hire somebody.
Don’t get too attached to putting things in the right category. The point is to organize how you’re going to take action and what needs to happen for you to STOP feeling overwhelmed.
Step 3: Prioritize Your List
Now that you have this nifty list you’re probs pissed at me for giving you MORE to do! Fear not my dear money friend- you don’t have to do every single thing on this list today. But you do have to get planful- which is why we’re going to prioritize your list!
There are two things to consider when you prioritize the items on your list:
What’s crucial for your business RIGHT NOW?
What does your business need you to do so it can operate/stay within legal guidelines? For example, if you haven’t filed your taxes and it’s November- you gotta do that now. You can also think of this as what’s the one thing that’s either holding everything back or will make everything else easier for your money.
What can you emotionally handle right now?
Don’t start with the hardest thing on your list because you haven’t built up your emotional resiliency around your money yet. If you do the hardest stuff first you’re going to lose it and then wind up in a heap of I-hate-money.
It might be that what you can emotionally handle is research because there’s still some distance between you and your money. And that’s TOTALLY okay- you’re not required to be money Jedi overnight.
Step 4: Take Small Actions
A mistake I see people make is they binge work on their money. What this looks like is that they’ll ignore it for 6 months, get stressed out, spend 10 hours one day doing all the money stuff, and then get so burnt out they don’t want to look at it again for another 6 months.
Don’t do this! It will only lead to more money overwhelm!
After you’ve identified your priorities, ONLY spend 30 minutes a day taking action. Break down all of your actions into 30-minute bite-sized chunks and schedule time for yourself to work on your money. Don’t schedule your money time at the end of the day or the time of the day that you’ve spent all your emotional reserves.
Instead, take these actions when are you at your best self. When you’re energized and excited and have that zest for life. That’s when you want to be doing the hard stuff around your money- not at the end of the day.
Step 5: Find a Support System
It’s important that we stop internalizing the things that overwhelm us about money and trying to do everything alone. People need to tell their stories. There’s something in telling your story and talking to somebody that is healing.
Finding a support system is an important part of dealing with money overwhelm. And your support system shouldn’t necessarily be your partner of your best friend. Often, we use the people closest to us to unload on. When it’s about your business or something that they’re not actively engaged in, it’s hard for them to be what you need because they are already so many other things in your life.
Find a support system that’s outside of your personal life. It could be your business bestie, your mastermind group, a coach or consultant, or even just a Facebook group. Use this support system to tell your money story, process the actions you’re taking, brainstorm actions with, and hold you accountable.