Between health concerns and loss of loved ones from the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation from lockdowns and quarantines, and the shutting down of many businesses, 2020 has been a stressful year for so many reasons. Financial stress has become one of the biggest causes of stress, worry, and depression worldwide. Many Americans have stated in surveys and studies that financial concerns are a top stressor in life right now, so it’s clear keeping up financial stability is taking a toll on the country this year. Here are five actionable steps to take to have more peace of mind around financial stability:

1. Gain financial literacy

Anxiety often occurs when we’re confronted with areas of life we don’t understand. If you think fear of the unknown may be some of what is driving your financial anxiety, gaining financial literacy might be your biggest help. Skills like managing a budget, managing credit cards, and investing are rarely taught in school, so many people are unfamiliar with the strongest financial strategies for their situation.

Reading up on the basics of financial literacy, following financial and savings-oriented newsletters and media, and asking for expert opinion if you get stuck are places to start. Learning how to develop these smarter strategies lets you get the most out of your hard-earned money.

2. Learn about local programs that can help

If you’re one of the millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet, financial stress in your life makes perfect sense. For some people, no amount of financial planning can help as much as getting the assistance they need to pay the bills. If this applies to you, you might qualify for some financial assistance programs, especially during COVID.

If you’re experiencing financial instability due to the pandemic, your first step is to know what you’re eligible for. There are special programs set up to cope with this issue, and there are new rules about mortgage payments, evictions, utilities, and more because of COVID-19. Knowing what you are entitled to may help ease anxiety. Looking into all the financial resources available to you and your community can also help get you some extra money for food, rent, and other necessities.

3. If you can, start investing small amounts to learn how

You don’t need a lot of money to start investing. Websites like Nerdwallet or Investopedia provide free investment guides for beginners. Even if you don’t have much money to spare, doing the work now to open a brokerage account can familiarize you with the process so that as you continue working, you will know how to invest when you can. People often don’t realize that they do have enough to start investing. Investing even a small amount can give you some peace of mind in the present by knowing you’re tucking away a little something for the future.

4. Get help 

Figuring out the ins and outs of taxes, property values, debt, estate plans, insurance, and more can be daunting all at the same time. If you can come up with a plan for managing these things by yourself that’s amazing, and consulting free guides online can be a great start. However, some people might need a little extra help and that’s okay too. If you think you need help, getting a financial advisor can be a great move to save you money in the long run and take away some of the financial stress.

5. Practice healthy coping strategies for mental health

Unknowns in life are bound to cause anxiety. If you have done all you can to better your financial situation and are still feeling anxious, that is okay and natural. However, a key component to mental health—especially around anxiety—is to learn how to cope with the things we can’t control in life. Acknowledging that finances cause your body stress can be an important first step toward allowing yourself to unwind. 

Stepping away from financial stress after you have taken actionable steps is often your best move. Letting yourself recharge is so important, and that’s why activities like meditation, exercise, eating healthy food, giving yourself downtime to relax and have fun, and getting good sleep are so important. Learning healthy psychological coping strategies for stress can sometimes be your best move around financial worry.