Managing the Stress of Financial Crises

By Kelly Burch

Most people worry about money from time to time, but then there are financial crises—things like losing your job or home, identity theft, and major debt—that can make you feel like you’ll never recover. These situations not only cause stress, but they can also make you feel unsafe. You may think you’ll never overcome them.

Seeing a solution is easier when you can access resources meant to help you. Finding those resources often is the hardest part, so here’s a list of organizations and programs that can help you in a financial crisis, plus tips on how to cope when a crisis hits.

Safety Resources for Homelessness

Safety is always the first concern during a crisis. Here are some resources you may need immediately, especially if you’re facing homelessness.

  • The National Runaway Safeline connects homeless youth with immediate resources. You can find info online (where there’s a chat feature) or by calling 1-800-RUNAWAY (1-800-786-2929). The hotline is available in English and Spanish.
  • Safe Place provides safe spaces and resources to youth in need nationwide. You can find a local Safe Place online or by texting “safe” and your location (city, state, and ZIP) to 4HELP (44357).
  • Covenant House provides emergency shelter for any young people—including pregnant people—who are homeless or in unsafe homes in 34 cities. You do not have to be religious. 
  • Catholic Charities provides emergency shelter to all young people, even if you’re not religious. Search “Catholic Charities + youth homelessness + [your city]” to find help from this organization. 
  • 211 is a hotline you can use to get free information on local services.
  • Stand Up for Kids provides housing and other support in 16 areas around the U.S. Call 1-888-365-4543 or search your area online.

Social Safety Net Resources

Young people too often feel like they have to solve their problems alone, but there are resources available. Apply for programs you’re entitled to, such as unemployment, cash assistance, and government health insurance. If shame creeps in, remind yourself that they exist to help you and anyone when they need it.

Finding Other Community Resources

When situations feel insurmountable, we can get overwhelmed and shut down. In those moments, remember there are organizations and resources designed for exactly these situations. Many are location specific, so finding them can be tricky. Here’s how you can get started:

  • Community Action local nonprofits are aimed at fighting poverty. Search “community action + [your city]” to find local resources.
  • NeighborWorks is a national nonprofit that provides community resources, including housing support and even financial counseling in some areas. Search the organization in your state for specific local resources.
  • Student Debt Crisis Center is a nonprofit that helps people with student loans navigate the repayment process, while also advocating for changes to how we pay for higher education.
  • Talk to your school guidance counselor.
  • Call local homeless shelters. Even if you’re not facing homelessness, they often know of other resources.
  • Search terms such as “community resources for teens” in your region.

Remember, there are people whose entire job is to help people in tough financial spots

Coping When Crisis Hits

Connecting with resources can be a huge relief, but financial crises take a real emotional toll too. Here’s how to manage the emotions of financial crises:

Grieve. When you or your parents lose a job or your home, it is a huge loss. Give yourself time to grieve. It can be as simple as taking half an hour to talk with a friend or school counselor. It’s about feeling your emotions rather than trying to stuff them down.

Realize it’s not a reflection on you. Financial crises are made worse by shame, which can come when you judge yourself for a job loss, having poor credit, or even identity theft. But none of those situations are a reflection on your worth as a person, and they can happen to all of us. Even if a mistake—such as showing up late consistently—contributed to the situation, you’ll be able to learn from it in the future. Making mistakes and learning from them is part of being human and how we grow. 

Write it down. Wrestling with big, scary situations can suddenly seem less daunting when you write down your fears. It can also help you find resources. Focus on breaking a big issue like homelessness into smaller steps, such as finding a safe spot for tonight and accessing transportation to work. When you identify the steps you need to take, you can focus on finding support for each one. 

Inventory your resources. During a crisis, you may feel like you have nothing. When you name your fears and challenges, however, you may see tools that can help you manage them. Maybe a friend mentioned you could crash at their place or a neighbor offered you a job a while back. Perhaps there’s a drop-in resource center for youth near you. If you have skills such as caring for younger siblings that can help you find work, that’s an asset. Write down these strengths, skills, and resources. 

Ask for help. Not sure where to start applying for benefits? Wondering what’s available in your town? Ask anyone and everyone. Remember, you can’t know what no one has told you. When you’re able to push past any lingering shame or guilt, you’ll realize that more people than you think may have solutions. If you’re not ready to ask in real life, try social media: TikTok even has videos about filing unemployment.

Navigating a financial crisis is really hard. If things ever feel overwhelming, reach out to emergency resources

If you need help right now:

  • Text HOME to 741-741 for a free, confidential conversation with a trained counselor any time of day.
  • Text or call 988 or use the chat function at 988lifeline.org.
  • If this is a medical emergency or there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.

Remember to be kind to yourself. You should never feel like you have to handle a crisis alone. There are organizations on your side that are able to help you overcome this setback.

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If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.