What We Worry About

It always happens right before I head to the airport.

Butterflies in my stomach.

Little waves of nausea.

Tight chest.

I have to tell myself to breathe deep.

“Calm down.”

“It’s going to be ok.”

What am I so afraid of? Unlike many, I am not afraid of flying. I am afraid of missing the plane.

If I could translate into dollars, I would calculate that my time and mental energy equate to a very high insurance premium (three hours of time and life-shortening worry) for a highly unlikely event (I will be so late I will miss the plane).

It seems we are hard wired to worry about things beyond our control. I cannot control when the plane leaves. It is leaving with or without me. We cannot control when a teenage child wants to get their driver’s license. Nor when a parent turns 90 and wants to keep it. These are somewhat scheduled events that we can fairly expect to happen, no matter what.

Scarier yet are random events. Market meltdowns, tsunamis, cancer, dementia, elections, terrorists, bonds, hackers…have I got your heart rate up? Butterflies? Tight chest?

Breathe.

Remembering and accepting what we cannot control…wasn’t there a prayer about that? My flying experience shows I still have a ways to go putting the Serenity Prayer into practice. In the meantime, I have an irrational need to leave home at least two to three hours ahead, to get to the gate at least an hour before the flight, and, when I get there, to sit where I can see the gate agent and the boarding door.

But the most overdramatized things I hear about (such as the Fed is too loose, hyperinflation is inevitable, or the dollar is doomed) tend to come from advertising-hungry news sources. All of these worries I am able to a) discount and b) ignore.

How can you do the same with media-induced angst? Pay attention to those butterflies. When you feel them, try asking yourself:
a) Where are they coming from? And breathe.
b) Can you do anything about it? And breathe.
c) Who is the source? And breathe.
d) Does that source have an economic incentive to create some drama/worry? And breathe.
e) Give yourself a gold star for getting this far. Then, of course, don’t forget to breathe again.

If you are still worried, see a financial professional about what kind of costs – money, time, or energy – you are willing to pay to offload your perceived risk. Or, see a mental health professional about getting to the root of the worry – it might be stemming from something else. Do whatever you need to to find the serenity to accept what you cannot change, the courage to change what you can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Even if it’s only about your money.

And when you get there, let me know. I might need a ride to the airport.

Holly Donaldson

Holly P. Donaldson, CFP® writes and consults on the psychology of money. Her fee-only, product-free financial planning practice focuses on increasing financial self-efficacy for those seeking a financial navigator to help them make good decisions. She is the author of The Mindful Money Mentality: How to Find Balance in Your Financial Future (Porchview Publishing, 2013) and publisher of the award-winning monthly e-letter, "The View From the Porch." With a fully virtual practice in Seminole, Florida, she primarily serves clients located in the Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater areas. Holly will also work with clients who are a good fit located elsewhere in the United States.

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