If you're worrying about making ends meet—obsessing and even waking up panicked in the night—you're not the only one, not by a long shot. Half of Americans say their tension level is higher now than it was five years ago, with three-quarters listing money and work as the leading causes, according to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association.
There's just one smart thing to do when you've got economic troubles, says Ted Klontz, PhD, coauthor of Mind Over Money (Broadway Books). Treat them as an opportunity. "Instead of stressing, think of a tight money spot as the equivalent of a heart attack that makes you quit smoking, and start eating better and exercising," he says. "It usually takes something that dramatic to make us try new behaviors."
Logic might say that the sure cure is more cash, and plenty of it. But real peace of mind, the kind that outlasts life's many ups and downs, doesn't depend solely on your personal bottom line. "The people who feel the best about money aren't the ones who have a lot of it," says clinical psychologist Maria Nemeth, PhD, author of The Energy of Money (Wellspring/Ballantine). "What they do possess is a knowledge of how to earn and spend that reflects their deepest values." While there are countless factors beyond your control, a few simple changes will allow you to have power over your outlook and attitude. And that's priceless.