This will likely come as no surprise, but money is the primary cause of stress around the world. Data analytics company GfK did a survey of 22 countries and found that 29% of the 27,000 people surveyed indicated money as the number one cause of their stress. 

There’s a lot at stake here, and not just financially. When you become stressed your brain triggers your fight-or-flight response, and this is hard on your body. Stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, are released which impairs your immune system and even your ability to make rational decisions.

There are several variables that influence how stressed you may be over your financial situation. A few of those variables, such as basic living expenses and wages, may not be under your direct control. However, there are several areas that you can control and doing so will go a long way toward reducing your financial stress. Since money is the number one source of stress for so many people, it is important to find and implement strategies that will reduce the emotional strain over finances.

Here are 5 strategies you can use:

Know Where Your Money Is Going

Two important factors for reducing your financial woes is knowing how much money you have coming in, and where that money is going. Since you already know how much money you’re making, the first thing you can do is track your expenses. This may seem basic, but many people don’t keep up with their spending habits. It doesn’t matter if you use pen and paper, or a computer program, but create separate categories (ex. food, utilities, fun) and track where your money is going. Compare how much money you have going out with how much you have coming in, and this one step will immediately reveal why you’re stressed.

Create a Plan

You may feel that creating a budget will only add to your stress, but it’s one of the best ways to get control of your finances and stop worrying about money. A budget puts you in control by allowing you to decide how you will spend your hard-earned money. It will help you cover your most important expenses first, and even show you where you can save a few dollars. Getting started with a budget and sticking to it may be challenging at first, but it gets easier after a while and the payoff is a lot less stress.

Build an Emergency Fund

Now that you’re tracking your expenses, and have created a budget, you can start building an emergency fund. This strategy is often overlooked or deemed “not as important” by many, but all it takes is one unexpected expense to make you feel differently. No one expects their car to break down or their roof to start leaking, and these aren’t the kind of surprises you want in your life. Especially if you’re not prepared. If you’re already struggling to make ends meet creating an emergency fund may seem tough at first, but you can start small. Whether it’s $10 a month or $100, any contribution you make will add up over time. You may even consider selling any unused items you have around your house and put that money in your emergency fund.

Make Personal Changes

If you’re living under a lot of financial stress, you may have a spending issue, a low income issue, or both. If you already know you’re not making enough money, look for ways you can change that. Maybe you can find a higher paying job, change careers altogether, or increase your skill set.

When you start tracking your expenses, as mentioned previously, you’ll be able to see if you have a spending issue. This can usually be addressed by practicing more self-discipline, but if you feel you may have a shopping addiction, seek help through self-help meetings such as Shopaholics Anonymous, or a qualified therapist.

Get Experienced Help

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with trying to get a handle on your finances, it’s okay to seek outside help. You could take classes on basic investing and money management and learn the necessary skills to create a sound financial plan. If you need more help, you can seek out a certified money coach or financial planner to work with you one-on-one.

Remember, no matter how much stress you’re under, you can change your financial situation for the better. Track your progress as you go, and look for the positive aspects of your situation. This will help you alleviate your anxiety while you create for yourself a better life.