Do you get anxious when you think about money?

Even if this isn’t your usual behaviour, a lot of people are feeling anxious right now because no-one knows what is going to happen when the COVID19 pandemic is over.

Dennis Harhalakis is the founder of Cambridge Money Coaching and a Certified Money Coach (CMC)®.  Money Coaching deals with the unconscious patterns, beliefs and behaviours around money that we all have.  Understanding these behaviours and patterns is the key to achieving true financial independence and success.  This understanding is particularly important when facing the challenges of a sudden change in circumstances.

We asked Dennis to answer questions in the Drive the Network Facebook Group. This is a summary of that Q&A

Attidues to money

Helen Lindop How do you see the upheaval of COVID 19 affecting our attitude to our finances now we’re over the initial shock and can you see anything that lots of people are getting wrong that you’d recommend we avoid?

Dennis Harhalakis 17 million people in the UK have (had) less than £100 in savings and I really think we need to ask ourselves why that is. What sort of a society are we that leaves so many people with no cushion. Big question, but many people will be asking themselves why that is. So, for now, let’s say that it’s a really good chance for all of us to be far more conscious around our spending and what we really need to get by.

On my website there is a grid which summarizes what people should be thinking about.

When it comes to money, you can make the biggest difference by getting big decisions right and also the the decisions we make multiple times. The first is obvious and requires a robust decision making process. The second is about habits – subconscious actions – and whether they are undermining you. A robust decision making process is one that minimises the possibility of your conscious brain being highjacked by emotions from your emotional brain. We make bad decisions when we are hungry, angry/anxious, lonely, tired or otherwise disturbed.

When it comes to daily finances, everybody should have reviewed every single Direct Debit in their account and stopped the ones they don’t need.

Then go through all utility providers and insurance providers and make sure you are on the best deal, not standard tariff.

Avoid getting panicked into poor decision making

Helen Lindop Having hung around in some freelance groups I can see the urge to take work on the cheap is strong. Is this a time to stick to our guns and keep our value high? Or is this an emergency and we’d be fools to turn work down?

Berenice Smith That’s a really good question. Is it better to hold strong and wait for work to come in that recognises value or take a hit on costs?

Karen Arnott I’m getting quite a few enquiries for ‘cheap’ websites (yes, that’s the word they use). I have a canned response that points them at my ‘how we work’ page which has a rough breakdown of pricing, and invite them to book a call if the budget suits.

Dennis Harhalakis This has been covered by Ann and all I would add is that you should be asking yourself ‘ what is the very best use of my time’. We have to believe that things will return and so we should position our businesses for that point. This is really hard because we don’t feel confident about the future. It will vary – obviously some businesses needed to change fast or they wouldn’t be here anymore. And it depends on your cashflow too.

When we get anxious the urge to DO SOMETHING is really overpowering. That’s why this is so hard. When the best thing you can do is nothing (COVID wise) it clashes with all our neural programming. This is even harder for our businesses, because we need to have money coming in. So, self-care is really important and this will help in all areas.

Be aware of what your brain is trying to do when you get anxious and focus on what you can control. So, instead of thinking about marketing, call up some clients or contacts for a chat and see how they’re doing. That helps with the urge to DO SOMETHING without you wasting time on projects that won’t help you in the long term.

Should we invest savings to keep our businesses going?

Karen Arnott What’s your advice for running a business when the money has run out? Should we invest  from our savings and hope for a quick recovery?

Dennis Harhalakis It feels really scary to spend your savings, but today is what that rainy day fund is for. There are some thoughts on how to put psychological distance between yourself and the problem in this article.

I believe your clients will come back to you as soon as they are able. This is out of your control. What is in your control is who you are and how you are when they come back.

Look for tasks that build the long term vision for you and your brand. The current situation is not the new normal so don’t build your business around it.

If the money runs out, you may need to find a short-term stop gap but don’t change your business.

Helen Lindop I’m not sure if this is exactly your area, but I’m seeing the pivot word used a lot, and I’m concerned some people will unnecessarily abandon what they do and start a new business because they assume their existing audience is gone. If that’s accurate then it might be a good move, but I’m concerned some are driven by stress and fear rather than good research. Any advice?

Dennis Harhalakis That’s exactly right. The urge to do something in the sort-term may undermine our long-term plans. So ask yourself, has what I do and how I deliver it changed fundamentally? For some YES, absolutely. For others, no. If you can’t network and connect physically, focus on what you can do to help people now and in the future. The world is on hold and so we just have to wait it out if there is nothing that needs to change or that we can change.

We all need to help each other with what’s going on and that’s why Drive is so important right now. It doesn’t change the bottom line, but it will help us to focus on our decision making process. Our brains like to have a clear picture of the future to focus on – it’s one of the unique things about humans. But when then future is not clear, we see danger. And this is not you, it’s your brain. It’s what evolution has created as a way of keeping us alive.

When you feel anxious – and I think we all do at some point each day right now – recognise this feeling as your old defence mechanism and nothing more. Aha, you say, that’s the old lizard brain with it’s cortisol and adrenaline surge keeping me safe from sabre-toothed tigers.

If you can do this – the cortisol and adrenaline will be absorbed in about 30 minutes and you’ll feel better. It will pass. If you let the lizard brain take over, it will push you into panic. So, find something that will help you avoid being triggered.  There are many more triggers now and this is extraordinarily hard for us. The fear response is not designed to be on all day. You do need to recognise it and manage it.

Thinking about your business and the uncertain future will trigger you, but you can learn to manage the response by changing your thinking.

Money-wise, thinking about savings and cashflow can trigger most people. When you learn to face up to the anxiety it goes away and is replaced by dopamine. For those of you who find budgeting difficult, try Moneydashboard or Moneyhub. Spend a little time with It’s scary when you know you don’t have enough money but not focusing on it makes it worse. Please contact me directly for free guidance in this area.




Please remember that you do have choices and – even though you might not like any of them – once you start to believe that everything is out of your control, you lose the ability to figure out how to make things better.

If you’d like to speak to Dennis privately, contact him through his website

There was an anonymous question that we dodn’t catch in time to add to the Q&A so Dennis answered it here: