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In this episode, Chelsea sits down with licensed therapist Alyssa Mancao to talk about the connection between mental health and money. Get your tickets to Alyssa's upcoming workshop with TFD here:

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Hello, everyone, and welcome back to another episode of The Financial Confessions.

I am your host, Chelsea Fagan, founder and CEO of The Financial Diet and person who generally loves talking about money in all of its forms. And one of the most pervasive ways in which money impacts our life is in our mental health.

So much of our relationship with money is centered around our emotion. Yes, at the end of the day, any good, healthy, sustainable financial practice is going to be about figuring out the math and making sure that you're living up to that math. But ultimately, that's the easy part.

The numbers are easy. What's difficult is the mental and emotional baggage that we're often bringing to these money decisions. We can tend to make money in general and personal financial management feel more complicated than it is because we like to imagine that there's some complicated math we need to be doing or that it's difficult to figure out how to reach the goals that we want.

The truth is that it's not. Most of us can do it. It's just a matter of getting to a better place emotionally with money.

So part of starting any healthy money practice is about creating that healthy financial mindset. And one of the best ways to do that is going to be getting deeply in touch with your own mental health, really confronting and understanding the emotional baggage that you're bringing to money, and starting to productively and proactively work to overcome those things so you can have a more healthy, clean, and ultimately neutral relationship with money, because it shouldn't be emotional. It's just numbers.

So to help us create that very money mindset, I have brought in someone today who might be familiar to you guys if you follow the TFD Instagram. She is based out of Sherman Oaks, California. She's a licensed clinical social worker.

She's a writer. She runs a group practice out there. And she does from time to time create content for TFD all about the intersection of money and mental health.

She is also hosting an event with TFD on Tuesday, March 16 all about creating that healthy mental foundation to manage your money. I highly recommend you attend it. We'll link you to information on that event in the description.

And we also have collected some of your most pressing questions for her. I'll be going through those as well as asking a few of my own. But without further ado, let's say hello to Alyssa Mancao.

Hi, Alyssa. Hi, guys. Thank you so much for having me.

Thank you for being here. And I know I gave a brief little explanation of who you are. But tell our audience a little bit more about who you are, what you do, what attracted you to talking about money in addition to mental health, all that good stuff.

So to piggyback off of what you said, I am a therapist. I am a licensed psychotherapist. I'm based in Sherman Oaks.

I treat anxiety, depression, PTSD, and I help people connect with their inner child. And I think that when we talk about money, it's so important to address how money impacts mental health, well, number one, because in order to afford good quality health care, mental health care, you need money. So there are intersections and layers to that.

But also the way we grew up with money, how our caregivers managed money, or if we have any financial trauma, all of those things from birth to now really does-- not interfere, but it also impacts the way we view money and our relationship with money. And what about your practice? What makes your practice unique?

What is an approach that you have toward mental health and wellness that you maybe don't see enough of in the field? I think we have a very holistic approach. So not only do we have therapists on the team.

We also have a reiki practitioner. So we do a lot of energy healing. We believe in alternative forms of healing.

We believe that all forms of healing are valid. We also have a social justice-- we're all social workers. So we do take a social justice lens into the work that we do with our clients.

I think there's an interesting-- we're at an interesting moment, I think, with the conversation around mental health. And I would really be interested to hear your perspective on it. I feel like we have become in the recent, I would say, past maybe five years, especially with the rise of social media, people are talking about mental health more and I think being more aware of needing to care for your mental health just as you do your physical.

But I often feel that the conversation that we have online about it and its place and the cultural zeitgeist, we're talking about it more than we used to. But it still feels like we're taking a fairly limited view of mental health. And I think part of that is because we hear a lot about anxiety and depression.

But I feel like, A, we don't hear a lot about other kinds of mental health issues. And then beyond that, I feel like there's a pretty narrow scope of people who lead that conversation and a fairly narrow scope of perspectives. So I'd be curious to hear-- and that's just my take.

But as a professional in the field, I'd be curious to hear what you see as good and bad in the past maybe 5 to 10 years about our conversation and our cultural understanding of mental health and mental health care. So the good is that we are talking about it. We're seeing more therapists on Instagram advocate for mental health, more people, individuals talking about going to therapy and sharing what they're learning in therapy.

So there is a lot of conversation around mental health happening, which is great. There's also a lot of conversation around how systemic oppression and social stratification and inequality impact mental health. That's great, too.

And I do agree with you. When we talk about mental health, it oftentimes does feel like it's limited to working with people who have anxiety, depression, trauma. And I think that then prevents-- so then the negative would be people who feel that, well, it's not that bad.

It's not that bad for me. I don't think I have that. Then it prevents other people from seeking mental health treatment because now there's this idea that something has to be really wrong in order for you to see a therapist.

And what I've mentioned before and what I want people to know is you can see a therapist in the absence of a mental health issue or of a presenting issue. You can see a therapist because you want to unpack or you want to explore, you need somebody to check in with. You spoke earlier about-- or you just mentioned, rather, that there is a rise of people like therapists, people who work in a therapeutic capacity on places like Instagram, for example-- and I know you're very active on Instagram.

I think a lot of people-- it's mostly women who listen to the show, watch the show. I think a lot of young women especially have a very difficult time curating a relationship with social media in their life that they feel is healthy and productive. Now, obviously, given your work, you clearly have found a way to use the platform in a way that is healthy.

But how would you encourage someone to find a more healthy relationship with social media? And how do people know that they really need to change their approach? It's like the Marie Kondoing of social media.

You look at the-- you look at the people you're following, and you ask yourself, does this bring me joy? Does this make me feel good about myself? And then you pay attention to how that feels.

And if the answer's yes, you can keep that account in your feed. And if the answer's no, then I think it is OK to mute or unfollow. Oftentimes people are following accounts that don't make them feel good about themselves.

It either makes them feel like they're not doing enough or they don't look good enough. And so it's just very important to be honest with ourselves about who we're following and if it's adding value to our lives. And if it's not, what boundaries are you going to set around having those accounts on your feed?

We have boundaries in real life. We have physical boundaries. We have emotional boundaries.

And so what we need to introduce are digital boundaries. What are your digital boundaries? What are your digital boundaries?

Ooh, that's a good question. So I've definitely unfollowed over time. People were-- it didn't feel good to follow them.

I think that created really unhealthy body image ideals. So that was something that I had to do for myself is unfollow those types of accounts. And then I try-- I'm not always successful.

But I try to set a number of time-- a time limit for how long I'm on social media. With my professional Instagram page, I do not-- I don't want to say never, but I very rarely read my direct messages. Those are my boundaries with that one.

That can be a very mixed bag in those DMs, especially if you don't know the people. Mm-hmm. You said at the top of our conversation that you specifically work in helping people get in contact with their inner child, understand it, et cetera.

What is an inner child? What should we know about it? How do we get in touch with our own?

What should we know? That everybody has an inner child, whether or not you're connected to them or not. And I say them because we have multiple inner children that exist alongside of us.

And the inner child are the different parts of ourselves that have endured just the pains of growing up and also the joys of growing up. It's the parts of ourselves that got us to where we are today that oftentimes we forget to connect with. It's the younger version of ourselves that either needs rescuing or needs nurturing, needs tenderness.

Can you give an example of how someone might-- how someone's inner child might be suffering or impeding them in things that they want to do as an adult? Or how could people know that that's an issue that they need to look at? If they're experiencing incredible difficulty in the relationships that might mirror the relationships that their parents might have had with each other, that they had with each other.

If we're-- just maybe specifically to money, if there was financial trauma growing up, if you were living paycheck to paycheck, you might notice how that's interfering or impacting your relationship with money now, maybe not wanting to spend money or maybe developing some sort of a scarcity mindset. Our inner child, whether negative or positive, affects us all. Is it fair to say that an inner child could be thought of as responding to a present adult situation, circumstance, relationship, et cetera, with a reaction or an emotion that is more based on childhood experience than what is currently happening or what would be rational?

Both. It's both. It's both.

Mm-hmm. So when we talk about-- so specifically a lot of our questions from our audience that we'll get to, as you can imagine, center on the intersection of money and mental health. Your event does as well, and I'd like to hear more about that.

But when we think about our inner child in relationship to money, obviously you gave the example of a scarcity mindset. And I think we can talk about how to work with your own. But when we're in a relationship with someone else-- we just recorded an episode all about money and relationship specifically.

A lot of financial management of people who are in marriages, long-term relationships, which is the majority of adults after a certain point, a huge part of it is not just navigating your own emotional relationship to money. It's navigating the other person's relationship to money and their baggage. So how can we make sure that we're being conscientious of and respectful toward the other person's money inner child, so to speak, or their emotional baggage that they're bringing?

I think we have to ask our partner questions. I think we have to be very curious about why they do the things that they do without being judgmental or without having a condescending tone. I would love to hear some sample questions of that kind of approach.

Yeah. So it would look like-- you could even ask your partner, can you tell me the kind of conversations that had about money growing up? Can you tell me what your financial situation was like growing up?

Or can you tell me if-- what mood were you in when you bought this? Or things like that. It's very, very important to be curious because we tend to operate from a place of knowing what's going on with our partner and making assumptions.

And that tends to shut people down. So you want to ask questions. Now a lot of our audience is very budget conscious.

And for some, paying for therapy is out of reach. Now, I'd like to hear about some of the alternatives for people who are on a tighter budget for mental health resources. But also, what are practices that people can integrate to start getting in a better relationship with these things, whether it's to do with money or other potential problem areas, if they don't have access to that therapist?

Sure. OK, so to answer the first question, because I do validate that therapy is expensive, and I got into this a little bit in the Q&A, but if they have insurance, I recommend going through their insurance carrier. If they don't have insurance or don't like any of the people that are on their network, then they can call around and ask therapists if they have a sliding scale spots.

Sliding scale is a unique term in our field. What sliding scale means is here's the therapist's rate. Can they slide it down to meet you with what you're comfortable with paying?

So it's OK to ask if a therapist has a sliding scale rate. Sometimes it's more affordable to see an intern, and I think interns are just as great. If I could plug a website, there is a website where-- it's a database of therapists that offer sessions as low as $30, and it's in the US and a couple other countries.

But it's called And you go there, you enter your zip code, and you'll see all the therapists in your area that have rates as low as $30, and it's $60 for couples. And that is amazing.

So the resources are out there. Yeah. And as far as people wanting to integrate some healthy proactive practices into their own life without necessarily tapping into some of those resources.

So practices with money? For example. OK.

When we talk about understanding our relationship with money in the context of mental health, in general, I like to teach people about cognitive distortions, and these are errors in thinking. So some samples of cognitive distortions are black and white thinking, emotional reasoning, jumping to conclusions, things like that. We all do it.

We all do it. So I think you could google the term cognitive distortions PDF and read a list of those cognitive distortions. And we'll get into this in the workshop, too.

But it's learning what cognitive distortions are and seeing if you apply any of those distortions to money. So black and white thinking, it's also called all or nothing thinking. So things are either all good or all bad.

And the way that could look like with money is like I already went over my budget this month. I'm just going to blow it all. Like, who cares?

You know what I mean? And so I think that they can do some online researching and look up some cognitive distortions and see which ones connect the most with them and see how they might incorporate those distortions when it comes to the relationship with money or budgeting. So I want to hop into some of the questions from our audience.

We got so many, so I may not be able to get to all of them. But we have a lot of really good ones. So one of the top questions-- and this is a pretty frequent, I think, dichotomy that a lot of our audience experiences-- is, how do I balance financial fear like saving for the future and emergencies with rewarding myself?

A lot of our audience tends to fall really far to one side or the other. Given the nature of what we do, we tend to have people I think who are overly conservative. But how do people find that balance?

From a therapeutic perspective, I would ask, what is the fear saying? What's the worst case scenario? Ask yourself if it's realistic or not.

Oftentimes, the worst case scenario isn't realistic. And you want to practice a lot of self-validation like I deserve to reward myself or I've done a really good job. And I trust that people can practice discernment if the reward is appropriate for what they've done.

But being able to explore where that fear comes from and what that fear is saying to you and create a dialogue with that fear. How do you yourself-- how do you like to find sustainable and healthy ways to reward yourself? How do I personally?

Mm-hmm. I don't know if I'm answering this right, OK? I like to buy myself something nice, like a nice shirt or even going out to eat.

I really value food and connecting over food. So those are one of the ways that I like to reward myself, like going-- when we are able to go out, going out to eat, ordering in, or just buying myself something nice clothing-wise. And how do you find ways to be-- to really enjoy them and also not overdo them?

Which I think is like a pretty big struggle for a lot of people with rewards. So when you reward yourself, you want to be able to tell yourself, I deserve this and try your hardest not to experience any guilt over it because then it's kind of like-- it's kind of moot. You reward yourself but then can't let yourself enjoy it because you feel like you did too much.

So when you reward yourself, be really mindful of giving yourself permission to enjoy that moment. And then I think going overboard really depends on the situation and the person. Going overboard for somebody who might look like, did I do too much?

Do I need-- did I need all of these shirts? Did I need to order all of this food? And did it set me back?

So it's just being very mindful about that decision-making. What are you going to regret the least? That's a good litmus test.

Also, I have to say, I feel like you can never have too many shirts right now considering that's the only part of our wardrobe anyone sees anymore is our shirts. That's so true. So someone here says-- and this is a very big thing again with our audience.

Our audience, I think, often feels conflicted about things that they should be doing. They feel a lot of guilt. They feel a lot of pressure.

We have two questions that I think are very similar, so I'm going to kind of combine them. One person is asking that they feel guilty for not working more because they know that they need to help themselves and their parents retire. But they have an overwhelming sense of, what is the point if I have to work three jobs and can barely get by?

And another person asks, I always feel behind on where I should be financially. What can I do to not feel this way? So there's kind of that through line of feeling a huge pressure and responsibility and never quite feeling like they're getting ahead of it.

Shoulds and musts are actually one of the cognitive distortions. If we use the word should or must, we place ourselves in categories. I should be x, y, and z.

And when we place ourselves in categories and we don't meet that category, we end up shaming ourselves. So I think it's very important that people learn to let go of the shoulds and practice a deep sense of radical acceptance that where I am right now is enough and where I am right now is OK. And then the first person that talked about I'm doing all of this for my parents, but is it worth it, I think it's important that we practice meeting ourselves in the middle.

If you're overworking yourself three jobs to help your parents retire, but it's taking a toll on your mental health, is it worth it? Is it worth it if you're going to experience burnout and then you won't be able to work any of the jobs? So I think it's important that we look at the long-term consequences of doing something like that.

While I validate it and I get it, and I mean I get it, we want to look at-- we want to look at the scenario holistically and also think about how these beliefs are affecting our mental health. In our episode on relationships and money, we talked a lot about-- and that episode will be coming out a little bit later. But we talked about the financial difficulties of saying no, the extent to which a lot of our worst spending habits or our money problems as a couple or how much of our spending and our money decisions are influenced by the people around us and by the expectations of people around us.

It could be our parents, our in-laws, our friends, what have you. How do people get a more firm and compassionate but unmoveable no? How do they really get comfortable with saying no to something when they often feel pressured to say yes?

And how do people know-- how do people hone their instincts about what they can and can't do and what they do and don't want to agree to? So I think before somebody says no, they have to know their why. Why am I saying no?

What are my reasons for saying no? And really hold firm to what their why is. And then you can say no just by saying no.

I know that feels really uncomfortable for a lot of people, especially when it comes to family. We feel like we have to sugarcoat it, or we feel like we have to give people maybe 30 reasons why so they'll leave us alone. But that's kind of like the people pleaser in us.

We're allowed to just say no or no, that doesn't make me comfortable. Or I'm not ready for that. Or no, but I'll let if I change my mind.

Or no, I won't be changing my mind. It takes a lot of practice to be able to get comfortable saying no. And what are ways in which people can feel more confidently about what they're saying no to versus yes to, hone that skill of knowing when it's right and when it's not right?

I think for people who are on the ambivalent side, like they really don't know, it might be helpful to get really concrete about it and create a list of pros and cons, like pros and cons of saying no, pros and cons of saying-- and then looking at the other side, pros and cons of saying yes. That might help them internalize what they're saying yes and no to. And then in terms of honing in on that skill and honing in on operating from a sense of your truth, really, it's a lot of practice.

It's a lot of just doing it over and over again until you get comfortable and confident with it. It definitely does take practice. I'm still personally not there myself but hopefully will get better.

So what are the best ways to cope with pain with-- sorry, what are the best ways to cope with the pain when you have had to cut a toxic family member from your life? Grieve. Grieve.

How do you recommend people grieve, or what are ways in which people can really grieve actively? So this is such an abstract grief because they're still alive. So you're mourning somebody who's still here with us in the physical body.

And grieving for everybody can look very different. If you want to cry about it, give yourself permission to cry as many times as you need to. You want to grieve the person you're saying bye to as well as grieving the fantasy of who you wanted them to be, because that's also there.

One of the reasons why we keep very unhealthy family members around for so long is because there's that hope that things could change or be better or look different. And when it doesn't we have to grieve that fantasy of what we thought could happen. People could do like this exercise where they write a letter to that family member, and they never give it to them.

It's just something for them to help them bring out the words. So it's writing a letter to that family member and just putting it away somewhere or even just throwing it away, but allowing yourself to release those words. Or leaning into your support system and just acknowledging that you're doing the right thing.

And how do people know that it's time to cut someone like a family member, a very close person-- it's time to cut them out rather than to continue to try to improve the relationship or even maintain a more distant relationship? Yeah, so that is a completely individual and personal decision. Some people will choose a variation of any of those three things that you named.

But you want to consider personal and emotional safety. When I'm around this person, when I speak to this person, how does it affect my mental health? You want to ask yourself questions.

Is this somebody where I can have a distant relationship with, where we can chat for 10 minutes and I'm leaving it unscathed, emotionally well? Or is this the type of relationship where I'm talking to them for 10 minutes, and then I'm crawling in my skin and I can't function and I'm really depressed and I'm really sad? So you want to be very honest with yourself about the relationship dynamic.

If within that dynamic it doesn't feel good no matter how short the interaction is, then it might be time to go no contact, especially if there is any kind of abuse that's happening. Do you feel-- I'm curious. I think a lot of people who are experiencing toxic especially family relationships stay for a very long time in the place where they're trying to improve the relationship.

They're trying to change their dynamic with the person. What are ways in which people-- what are healthy and unhealthy ways in which people can try to improve a relationship? I think often people tend to be frequently disappointed because they're not able to change the nature of the relationship.

But sometimes there can be a positive forward movement. So what are some healthy practices for improving a relationship if you are in that place of I think this can get better and I want it to? I think that it's important for people to know that within a relationship, they can only work on themselves.

They can only work on themselves. And by working on themselves, they are then modeling it for that other person, and the other person can follow suit or not. We can't change other people.

Think about how hard it is to change ourselves. Think about a behavior or a relationship or whatever where all your friends are trying to help you or something, and then it's just so hard. Think about how hard it is to change ourselves.

It is that much harder to try to change another person. So to be mindful of answering your question, we can only really work on ourselves, figure out where our hard line is, and then decide how we're going to honor those boundaries if they're not being met. When it comes to working on a relationship and just changing really the dynamic of the relationship into something healthier, that requires a lot of communication.

What is advice that you have for people who find it difficult to set boundaries, know that they should, know that they want to, but don't even really know where to start? So you want to identify-- there's so many ways to answer this. You can explore your childhood just to understand a little bit more.

What were the boundaries that were had in the home? What were the boundaries that your parents had with you? Did they have boundaries?

Was the relationship enmeshed? Was it too strict? Were there are too many overlaps?

So you can explore your childhood a little bit in that. And then when it comes to difficulty setting boundaries, you can do a little bit of self-exploration. So some questions are, what is the hardest part about setting a boundary for me?

What makes it so hard for me to set a boundary? What am I afraid of? What is the worst case scenario?

From there, you'll find a little bit of like the hidden fears, the subconscious mind. I'm afraid of coming off x, y, and z. I'm afraid of losing the friendship, or I'm afraid that they're going to challenge it.

And then you want to do a little scenario in your head. So if there's this boundary you want to set and you're scared, imagine the worst case scenario. Somebody challenges it.

And then go with it. OK, then what am I going to do next? Well, then I'll walk away, or I'll reinforce it again.

And if that doesn't work out, then I won't let them do x, y, and z. So we oftentimes have to come up with a plan. Like, if this boundary isn't honored, what am I going to do next?

Jumping back into the questions from our audience, what are recommended fail safes to put-- what are recommended fail safes to put into place to prepare for or to ameliorate hypomanic episodes of splurging, in this case splurging with money? OK, that's a good one. When I think of a hypomanic episode, I think of medication compliance, if that's a possibility for this person.

But if you know that there is a pattern of splurging during an episode, if there is any kind of way that you can limit your spending. I know some cards, I think you can put like a self-- what is it called? Limit?

A limit, yeah. Yeah, you can put a self limit. So if you know this about yourself and you know that is like a cycle, putting a self limit to every single one of your cards.

So when that episode kicks in and you want to splurge, you're not able to. Or if you know the warning signs. If you know the warning signs to being in a hypomanic episode, like you're feeling it coming, this might be a little bit harder, but try to give all of your cards to somebody that you trust.

If you're in therapy, create a safety plan with your therapist. So it's like I want to do this, this urge. What other things can I do instead?

Absolutely. The good thing is with technology, there are pretty solid ways to put a lot of distance between yourself and your money. There are a lot of ways to ensure that you never really have access to that much money at any given time without being irresponsible and not being safe, obviously, because you do need an emergency fund, and you need all these things.

But you definitely don't need access to them when you're out and about. Mm-hmm, exactly. So this is a really, really common one from our audience, but I also think generally.

How do you get over the shame of student loans? Oh, you normalize it, unfortunately. Unfortunately, you normalize it, and you just know that you are not alone.

I wish we could talk about that more openly, if we could just be like, what's your number? And kind of just laugh, even though it's not funny. But shame tells us that you did something-- shame tells us that you are bad.

And I think it's very important that we don't take shame where it doesn't belong. You are not bad for having student loans. You are not inherently a bad person because you have a ton of student loan debt.

That responsibility is not yours. That is the system. But it's not yours.

It's not yours to carry. You did nothing wrong by taking out loans to give yourself the education that you needed. We also have a lot of questions around the topic of COVID, obviously, and the very-- I don't even know how to describe it at this point.

Like, early on-- I don't know if you agree with this. But I feel like early on in the pandemic, it was so extreme and so new, and everything was very black and white that in some ways, it was almost easier to understand. And now a year into it, things have gotten all the more unclear.

Things are changing every day. There are some things that are normalizing, some things that are not. It's not ever clear what is or isn't good practice.

We have someone asking-- and I think this really typifies the question-- I feel like there is no end to what we're going through with regards to the pandemic. Any advice? [LAUGHS] Feeling I feel like there is no end, feelings aren't facts. They're absolutely isn't.

And if we look at history and its trajectory, terrible times don't last. So I think it's just really important that we remember that. In history, there have been several things that have been going on that were very, very terrible, and they didn't last.

And that's kind of just how life and things work. Things will go like this, and then they will come back up to equilibrium. So it's just a matter of holding on when you're having those feelings that we're never going to get back to normal or this is never going to end.

And if that feels overwhelming for you, I recommend that people shift their focus to what it is that they do have control over. And then they do things that give them joy. They do things that make them complete.

How do you find yourself navigating-- so for example, I assume you've been not in your office with clients. Or have you been meeting in person? So right now, I'm actually in my office.

I think for my mental health, I've had to-- I was working from home for a while. But for my mental health, I had to have a separate location that I go to. And the majority of my sessions are still virtual with the exception of maybe a client here or there if meeting in the home is not safe.

OK. Because I think that's something that we miss as therapists is that not everybody's home environment is safe to meet in for them. Yeah, being home 24/7 is not necessarily good for a lot of people.

So in that experience of work, which is a massive part of your life-- and for many people, their professional lives don't even remotely resemble what they used to look like. They don't have any of the normal kind of tent poles. How do you find ways on a day-to-day basis to stabilize yourself, to feel OK with how the days are, to not get bogged down by how abnormal or how sometimes, frankly, disappointing everything is right now?

For me, something that's always made my mood feel really good is exercise. So I try to incorporate that when and where I can, moving my body, if it's going for a walk, going for a hike, or using what little equipment that I have. I'll engage in some sort of exercise just to boost my mood.

And I'm a big fan of structure. I'm a big fan of structure. So I try to keep a sense of structure during my days even though things are not what they used to be.

What do you miss the most? What are you most excited to do after that vaccine? Massages. [LAUGHTER] What about you?

Oh my god, movies. I want to go to a movie theater and eat popcorn. I forgot about movies.

Like literally just forgot that movie theaters exist. I just did. Oh my god.

Whew, excited for this to be over. I'll say that much. So someone says-- oh, so we kind of went over that.

How do I say no when I feel like I'm programmed to say yes to them by tradition? What are some money scripts that we develop in childhood which we then carry into our adulthood? They're so extreme, the ones that I can think of.

But it depends on how you grew up. It could be you don't need that. You don't deserve that.

You haven't earned that. That's too expensive, even if it's like $5. That's too expensive.

You don't need that. Or it could be kind of like on the extreme end, if there was like a lot of money mismanagement. It could look like, oh, it doesn't matter how much it costs, or you earned that.

You deserve that, but more accessibly. A lot of what I've seen has been the scarcity mindset. It's saving everything, keeping everything, even hoarding things and not wanting to spend money.

And when you do, and let's say you don't need that thing anymore, it's difficulties getting rid of stuff. And it's difficulty spending. What do you recommend for people who grew up poor, grew up with a lot of money struggles, and dealt with all of the kind of stigmatization and shame that goes with it?

And maybe they don't have a scarcity mindset, but they feel almost like a fraud. They feel very uncomfortable being-- even if they are financially stable, they feel like it's not real. They feel like they're somehow cheating the system or they don't deserve to be there.

They don't belong there. How do people get over that feeling of still being, quote unquote, "the poor kid?" I would recommend that they take a deep breath in, and they exhale. And they say to themselves, I'm safe now.

I'm OK now. It's that dialogue that we have with ourselves that can really heal. I'm safe now.

I'm OK. I don't have to live in survival mode anymore. I've earned my spot here.

I think every human has earned their spot, period. But I've earned my spot to be where I am today. And I'm OK.

We could all take-- It's developing a mantra that works for them. But these mantras can help challenge a lot of that unhelpful self-talk. How do I get out of the, quote, "instant gratification" mindset?

Being OK with-- it's learning to accept that sometimes things are going to feel like this, and that's OK. The thing about instant gratification is you do something, it feels good, so you get a ton of dopamine that gets released in the brain, so that kind of puts you on a high. And then it goes down.

So there is kind of like-- it makes sense. And instant gratification and that mindset makes sense. So it's practicing and being OK with just being like at a regular level for a long period of time.

And any time you want to do something, like that instant gratification mindset, you just want to ask yourself, is there anything else that I can do? There's a lot of self-exploration that goes on to some of these questions. It's, what feelings am I trying to avoid by engaging in frequent instant gratification?

What feelings am I avoiding sitting with? What feelings do I need to lean into before going into this thing that's going to give me instant gratification? Have you ever heard-- I was reading recently about-- I think it was like some tech guy.

It's always some tech guy doing stuff like this. But he was talking about doing a dopamine fast where he-- he did like a week or something. This like sounds insane now that I'm verbalizing it.

But basically, he was like, I went an entire week trying to not do anything that gave me that quick hit of dopamine, so like not eating anything like super yummy, not like going on social media, not like watching TV, or like just basically forcing himself to like get rid of all of the usual dopamine crutches that he would go to throughout his day. And he was like after doing that for-- I can't remember how long he did it. But he was like after doing that, even the simplest activity was like so intensely pleasurable. [LAUGHS] So what was his purpose of that?

Just to-- I feel like-- well, let's be clear. I feel like the tech guy is always into self-experimentation and doing these things to bio-hack their body and stuff. But I think it was also just coming from a feeling of like being overstimulated and being overreliant on, as you put it, those really quick hits of dopamine.

And I think for a lot of us it is something like picking up our phone and scrolling it and seeing those little notification buttons and having that feeling of immediately distracted and immediately taken out of, like you were saying, whatever feeling you were sitting in, whatever thought you were having. Now you have a cookie, or you open up the phone, or you do any of these things, and you don't have to think about it anymore. And I'm going to incorporate your answer into my answer, is practice enjoying the little things.

That's mindfulness. Yeah, being very mindful of the little moments. I'm definitely someone who is very sugar dependent, and I always read about people who go on like 30 days with no sugar.

And then they're like-- before, they were eating cookies and whatever every day. And then they were like, I did 30 days no sugar, and now a strawberry is like unbearably sweet to me. It's like so intensely sweet when you have-- which totally make sense.

But you think about it, and you're like we're probably doing that with everything in life. Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. How do I break the ice around talking about money?

I need friends that aren't afraid to talk about it. They sort of answered their own question. How do I break the ice with talking-- well, I think it's important-- consent.

Not everybody wants to talk about money or feels comfortable sharing their money situation. So breaking the ice is as simple as like, hey, guys, do you want to get together and create a budget together? You don't have to talk about specific numbers because culturally-- because we want to consider culturally, it's not OK in some cultures.

So I think it's very important to be very sensitive to that. But even if it's just saying, hey, guys, I'm really trying to tighten down my finances. Do you guys want to join me in creating a budget together?

Or hey, guys, I read this book that I thought was really good on money. Do you mind if I share it with you all? So it's introducing the concept in those kind of ways and bringing it back to yourself.

I read this book. You guys want to talk about it? That's honestly how my friend started to talk about money with me.

She shared a book with me. And then now I just can't stop talking about it. That is interesting.

It's nice to-- I feel like it's much more nonthreatening to bring up something like a book or a documentary or something like that. It's like the gateway drug. Yeah, it's, hey, here's this thing that was really helpful to me.

I don't know if it's going to be helpful for you guys. But here it is, and here's what I learned from it. And what are you guys learning?

What are some of the hacks that you guys have? So it's just coming from a place of curiosity. Out of curiosity, what's the money book that got you started?

Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. A friend got it to me as a birthday gift. I was like, this is random gift.

Did I do something to deserve this? But I thought it was great. I thought it was so great.

So do you still follow the Ramsey method? No. Not yet.

Not yet. OK. Listen, I mean-- Oh, no, but I look at the envelopes online all the time.

Like, I'm going to do this one day. You should. I mean, listen.

My opinion is always whatever budgeting strategy gets you to move your ass basically is the right one. Everyone has a completely different one. But the difficult part is just actually doing it every day.

Yeah. OK, how do you handle financial-- how do you handle financial differences between friends and family? And I actually would break this question into two parts.

How do you handle cultural differences, like two partners in a marriage who have completely different money cultures and backgrounds? How do you bridge those differences? And then how do you manage money disputes between friends and family?

Before it gets to a dispute, you want to honor what your boundaries are with money with family. Am I going to let people borrow money? I think it's important to identify if I let people borrow money, will I genuinely be OK with them not paying me back?

Because any time we allow someone to borrow money or we allow money to get involved, there always is that risk of rupture. Now let's say that we're past that, and now there's a money dispute. And this is going to be the answer for the other one, too.

Communication is everything. Sharing your perspective, being able to listen to them and to hear what their perspective is-- seeing if there is some sort of way to come to the middle. And if there isn't, it's identifying what your boundaries are towards money in the future.

And it depends on what the money dispute is between friends and family. So if it's somebody didn't pay you back and they're not going to pay you back, it's how, would you like to move forward in the relationship after that? Because you can still move forward in the friendship.

But are you going to let them borrow money again? So communication. Communication is everything.

And then cultural differences in a relationship when it comes to money, being able to try to understand where your partner is coming from culturally with money and not trying to change it, not trying to shift it, but really just being understanding of it. And it goes both ways, and then sharing what your relationship is with money and how you talk about money and deal with money. I think that being able to find the middle ground when it comes to being in a relationship and talking about money is really important.

My hard and fast rule with lending money to anyone is never lend any money that you cannot afford to treat as a gift. And I actually think it's healthier to go into a money lending scenario expecting it to be a gift. And I think one thing that I've done in the past-- I've been loaned money this way, and I've loaned money this way.

I will explicitly say like, I'm not expecting you to pay me back. If you can and you want to pay me back, of course I appreciate that. But I'm not like waiting for it, and I'm not going to give you a deadline for it.

Because ultimately, if the person can pay you back and they find it ethically and morally important to pay you back, they'll find a way to pay you back. It may be on their own time, and you don't want to add a time limit to them that's now going to really burden them financially. But if they don't want to pay you back, if it's not a priority to pay you back, to me, you don't want to be in the business of like forcing someone to pay you that money back.

You should be lending and receiving the money in a spirit of we both want to do this. And the reality is some people may not want to prioritize paying you back. They may not put it up high on their list, and they may be OK with never paying you back.

But that's who that person is, and you kind of just have to know that. You can't force them into being someone that they're not. And if the person is of the nature that they don't even want to pay you back even if they could, do you really want to even be lending them money in the first place?

I like that rule. Yeah, my rule is very similar. Don't lend money that you're going to miss.

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And the thing is that ultimately, a lot of what does and doesn't allow people to pay someone back or to find money for something, it's just a question of time.

So as soon as you put that deadline on it, that's when it gets stressful. That's when it gets to be a lot of pressure, where in another situation, that person might have no trouble paying you back just on an extended timeline. But now it's not a worry.

And plus, you never want to feel like when you see that person, every time there's like a ticking clock in the background. It's so unpleasant. It really is.

It really is. And just sticking with the scenario, a middle ground is-- this might feel yucky for some people, but a middle ground could be like a payment plan. Yeah.

If that person says, I'm going to pay you back, but they're just always saying it but they can't do it in a large amount. Totally. Totally.

But I also think it's-- and this is maybe like more existential. But I actually think that in life, money is extremely fluid. Money is something that comes-- it comes and goes between people.

It comes into people's lives. It goes out of people's lives. There were people in my life when I had no money who were very generous with me financially.

And I could not-- if they had made loans to me, I could not have paid them back at that time. But years later, I'm in a different position financially, and I can be really generous with them with money. And I think just generally when you're talking about money between loved ones, what you're really talking about is banking on that person.

You're investing in that person. You're placing a bet on that person to some extent. And when money comes into their life later, if that was a good bet, it will pay off, and the money will come back to you.

But I don't like the idea of you're doing it almost as a bank trying to turn an interest on them. Just got to be patient.

That's a really good example. Thank you for sharing that. Oh, of course.

Yeah. Those friends definitely played the long game with me, but it worked out for them. The first five years were touch and go, but then it worked out.

How do I prevent burnout? Taking a break. Taking breaks.

So if we're talking about burnout with work-- ooh, there's so many different types of burnout. So if we're talking about burnout with work, making sure you're taking your lunch breaks and your regular breaks not at your desk, not in front of your computer. If you're an entrepreneur, making sure that you're not checking your emails on the weekends.

I actually recommend my clients who are entrepreneurs to delete their little email app on their phones at the end of every workday, re-download it again in the morning or delete them on the weekends and re-download it again on Monday. So it's having like very firm boundaries with what it is that you're doing. If it's burnout with family, parenthood, making sure that you are carving out you time that is just you.

Because burnout exists when we overwhelm ourself with stress over an external situation, whether it's family, work, passion project, whatever. And so we have to remember what our identities are outside of those things, and we want to nurture those identities. So it's beyond self-care and taking breaks.

It's nurturing the identities that we have outside of the thing that's causing us burnout. I like that. Man, I might have to try that email thing.

Do it. Let me know how it goes. It's kind of hard. [LAUGHS] I'll admit it's kind of hard.

Man, I should really delete my email. What a good feeling must that be. I'm definitely going to do it on vacation.

Now I'm never going to keep it on my phone during vacation. That's really-- [INAUDIBLE] And only check it when you're on a computer. How do I improve money anxiety, which I have even with a good job?

So if I were this person's therapist, I would ask if the money anxiety could talk, what would it say? So we want to unpack and uncover the narratives that are being replayed in our minds over and over. Is the money anxiety saying, you can't afford that?

Is the money anxiety saying, but what if you lose your job? You should save your money instead. We want to unpack what that money anxiety's saying.

And then we want to be able to develop a very self-compassionate type of language to ourselves. And examples of self-compassionate language when it comes to money anxiety is-- and with the scenario you have a good job is you have stability now. You can afford it.

You're OK. Don't need to worry so much. You're taking care of yourself.

Your bills are paid. You have money in your savings. You're on track.

So it's being able to really validate ourselves and practice a lot of self-soothing statements. But I would first ask ourselves, what is the money anxiety saying to us? If it could talk, what would it say?

You spoke earlier about being in a situation-- so we talked about-- we had that question from our audience member who is responsible for helping their parents retire. And the way you said I get it to me suggested maybe you've been in a situation of having to help a family member or have been close to people who have or you have some familiarity with that situation. And I feel like, especially with an aging population, an increasingly atomized population with cost of living rising, it's getting harder and harder to make it by.

More and more people I think are finding themselves in situations where they feel an obligation to-- it could be a parent, a sibling, an adult child, a niece or nephew-- where they feel a responsibility to take care of them financially. But that's a huge gray area. First of all, is it really an obligation?

To what extent are you supposed to subsidize them at the expense of yourself? How do people determine what is healthy to expect of themselves? And how do people navigate a relationship with a family member that may be burdened by having financial need on one end?

Because obviously, if the person feels that their need is not being met, that they want more from you, that in and of itself can create a lot of strife. So you want to ask yourself what is realistic. What is realistic?

And what is within my capacity? And then if it's a family member that wants more and wants more and demands more, it's important to ask yourself, what is my limit? And how would you recommend navigating it with someone if you feel that you have reached your limit and it's not enough for that person or they want more?

That's a good question. So this all depends on the person's culture. Because in some cultures, it's completely OK to set a boundary and say, I'm not doing that, and walk away.

In other cultures, it would look very different. But if that person wants more and you feasibly cannot do more, then it's looking like having a conversation with them and collaborating together to find out what are alternative resources that can be done to help empower that family member to find their own way that isn't going to put a lot of emotional stress on you. Because I think oftentimes we might feel that we're the only ones that can do it or we're the ones that have to do it.

But then we forget that the people were doing it for have agency too and can sometimes do-- can do it for themselves if they're taught to. Yeah. It's really interesting.

It's also when I think about the kinds of-- one of the things that we stress a lot on TFD is the importance of estate planning and doing things like creating a will, partially because when people die, whether expectedly or unexpectedly, without seriously allocating for next steps and partitioning out their affairs and all that, it can cause huge conflict between the people who are left behind. It can also incur huge costs. Similarly, when you look at something like divorce, that's a situation in which two people who planned to spend a life together are suddenly navigating having to separate their entire life.

How do people enter into these-- how can people enter into these fraught financial situations as the best version of themselves? How can they be more healthy in navigating complicated financial situations with others? My first answer was compassion, compassion with yourself for what you're going through-- and this is going to be hard-- but compassion for the other party, too, if you're able to.

Being the best version of ourselves requires us to have compassion for ourselves and others. So it's just being able to practice doing that. And then when we're in these situations, making sure that you have a support system that you can lean on and bounce your ideas off of is going to be really helpful.

Because our support systems will check us if our thoughts are going in a negative direction or they'll check us if our thoughts are false or inaccurate. So being able to have somebody-- multiple people you can bounce your thoughts and feelings off of will be really helpful. How do you personally practice and find compassion for people with whom you may be in conflict or you may not necessarily share their point of view?

How do you find that compassion? I remind myself that everybody's doing the best they can with what they have, what they know, and the childhood that they were given. Everybody is doing the best they can with the tools they have and what they know in that very moment in their life.

It's hard. It's hard, but that's what I try to do. And for people who are-- I think a common sentiment that we hear about from our audience and just from people navigating money generally as it intersects with relationships and mental health is a feeling of resentment-- resentment toward your parents maybe for how they raised you with money, resentment toward other loved ones who might be putting financial pressure on you, resentment even at your former self for having made decisions that put you in a bad financial place.

How do people move away from feelings of resentment? And how do people make peace with these bad financial decisions that they may have made or situations that they may have been placed in? So one way to move from resentment, number one, is to acknowledge that the resentment is there and to acknowledge why it's there.

And then ways in which we can soften the resentment is-- it kind of goes back to the other question-- is try to find empathy for the situation and the people involved. Because resentment is like burnout, like relationship burnout too in a way. We want to pay attention to the dialogue that we're having that surrounds the resentment and see if we can gain-- and see if we can practice taking a little bit of perspective-taking, to try to see the situation in other areas.

Because the thing is, is when we become resentful, we become narrowed in and zeroed in on all the negative aspects of that person and that relationship. So maybe we can practice widening the perspective a little bit just to see what other aspects the relationship holds for us, whether it was-- whether there's positive things that we can remember or just neutral things. So practicing things like that plus, again, compassion for all the parties can help soften the resentment.

Talking to those people, too, about what's bothering us if they're safe and just sharing what we're experiencing also helps soften resentment because resentment also comes from when we hold things, when we hold things in and we don't say anything. So is there something you can do about that? Can you say something?

Because things aren't going to change if people don't know that what they're doing is causing you resentment. So can you say something? And then your second question-- there was a second question attached to that.

Mostly just about making peace with these things that have happened, whether it was your decision or someone else's action. I feel like a lot our-- a lot of us get caught in loops with our finances and with our financial histories that it's really hard to-- as an example, the student debt thing. So we have plenty of audience members who are several hundred thousand dollars in student debt.

And even though they might understand that they're not alone and even though they might understand that they were making an investment in their future, it's so hard not to constantly relive that. Like, I cannot believe I did that. I put myself in all this debt.

And you just feel like you're stuck in that situation and not able to make peace with it. Gosh, there should be some sort of student debt support group. There really should But really putting into-- I'm going to answer the question, but I'm going to commentary.

Really putting into the context the person that you were when you signed those student debt loans isn't the person that you are today. The person that you are today is more money savvy, has more awareness about money and bills and interest. But the person who signed those student loans didn't have that much awareness.

I remember when I signed my student loans. The workshop, if I knew what they were really saying now-- I don't regret where I went to school. Great school.

But I might have-- maybe I would have felt like I could have chosen another school. They don't explain all these things very thoroughly, especially when you're really young. So I just think it's just remembering the context in which you signed those papers.

You didn't know then what you know now. So being able to be really kind to yourself is going to be really helpful. And to answer your question, radical acceptance is one way to make peace.

And radical acceptance, it's beyond accepting. It's being able to accept something that really shouldn't be a certain way but acknowledging that it is, that it is and you're no longer fighting it because fighting causes suffering. You're accepting that this thing is there.

It is not good. And there's nothing you can do about it. So you're not agreeing with it.

You're not saying it's OK. You're just saying, I see it, and I'm not fighting it anymore. Yeah, yeah.

I really like your point also in the previous question about when you're in conflict with someone, you have a negative experience with them, in this case with regards to money, you can tend to only notice the things about them that are negative and to always view them through that prism. And I feel like similarly with an action with your student loans, if you are in a place where you feel very bitter about the payments, you feel resentful at your former self, you may not even be taking the time to think about all of the good things that have come from taking those student loans. Like, you become singularly focused on the ways in which it was bad.

Yeah, yeah. Like, think about all of the experiences maybe you had while you were at that school, the friendships that you developed that maybe you wouldn't have developed if you went somewhere else. There are other things that we could look at, too.

Totally. Before we get into our rapid fire, because we do our rapid fire with every guest, one last question that comes up super frequently from our audience on the topic of money and mental health is so much of good personal finance is about prioritizing a version of yourself that is years and sometimes decades down the road, a version of ourselves which most people have a hard time visualizing or making decisions for. How do people get better about thinking in those long, long terms that humans aren't necessarily wired to think in and prioritizing that future self?

How do we get better at envisioning that future self? Yeah, and I know for a lot of people that can be hard, especially if they have a history of living in survival mode, that even thinking long term can feel very scary. So if it's really difficult to think long term abstractly, then I'm going to go back to a letter writing exercise.

And so writing a letter to your future self and just what you hoped that they would have accomplished by that time or what you hoped that they would have been able to save money-wise or the relationships that they've had or the house that they're living in or the friendships that they've had. Sometimes it's easier for us to write things down on paper and do exercises like that. So I would recommend that people can just write a letter to their future self.

I really like that. Mm-hmm. And then save it.

Oh, and we're in the digital age. So write an email to your future self and then have it auto send for like 10 years from now or something. Oh my god, could you imagine?

Also, I'm all about the inspiration board. I love making inspiration boards on Pinterest and stuff. And you can make an inspiration board for your future self.

Oh, that's a good one. Yeah, especially for the visual learners. Go through magazines and then cut it out and just make an inspiration board.

I also-- I like that. Thank you. And to my long term TFD followers, you will know this I beat this drum constantly.

But I only follow influencers on Instagram over the age of 50, and it is life changing. Seeing all those women who are much older than myself living amazing lives and being so multidimensional really reminds you that there's a lot of life left to live, and you want to be financially stable for it. So as promised, we have our rapid fire questions that we ask all of our TFC guests.

Use your own definition of rapid fire, but quick hits. The first one being, what is the big financial secret of your industry? That you are able to be a social worker and still make money.

Nice. To go into that, within the field, there is a glorification of living paycheck to paycheck and a lot of shame that if you're making money, then you're not in the field for the right reasons. So that's a thing.

So the biggest secret is you can take care of yourself and still be in the field for the right reasons. That's a big secret. What do you invest in versus what are you cheap about?

I invest in my car because there was a time where I didn't, and I would pay a lot of money fixing it all the time. So now I've invested in a good reliable car. And what am I cheap about?

Pass. I can't think of something I'm cheap about. Jewelry?

I'm cheap about jewelry. There you go. Yeah.

Yeah. I don't know. I can't relate to just those people who have big collections of super fancy jewelry.

I'd rather have clothes myself, personally. What has been your best investment and why? My business, my private practice.

And because it's allowed me to make my own hours, work with-- and select the clients that I work with while at the same time being able to take care of myself. What is your biggest current money insecurity? I know nothing about stocks.

And I know nothing about stocks. Or this is so basic, but I know nothing about high yield savings accounts. And my goal is to learn about that this year, this month.

What has been the financial habit that has helped you the most? So Dave Ramsey's total money makeover, even though I am not great at this, it is using my debit card over my credit card. And then when did you first feel successful?

And what does that word mean to you? I first started to feel successful when I started to work as a social worker and just seeing the progress my clients are making. So I think for me, that started in graduate school, to be able to see myself using my passion as a career.

Wonderful. I love that one. Well thank you so, so much for taking the time with us, Alyssa.

Where can our audience go to follow more of what you do, learn more about you, et cetera? So I am on Instagram, and my handle is @alyssamariewellness. And they can find all things about me there.

Yes, and are you-- just out of curiosity in case people ask, are you currently accepting new clients? So I personally am not accepting new clients. But I do own a group practice, and all the clinicians in my practice are incredibly talented, and they're accepting new clients.

And you have to be based in California because I get a lot of inquiries from all over the world. So I just want to make that statement. Well, listen, to all of our Californians out there, you guys know where to go for your mental health needs.

Thank you, guys, so much for tuning in, and please take care of yourself when it comes to your money and mental health. A great way to do that is joining Alyssa's upcoming workshop with TFD on Tuesday, March 16. We will link you to all about that in the description.

It's all about changing your money mindset, rehabbing your relationship to money emotionally. And as always, thank you, guys, for tuning in, and we will see you next Monday on another episode of The Financial Confessions. Bye, bye, guys. [MUSIC PLAYING]