Overcoming Your Anxiety with Numbers through Play

Your long-held math anxiety may be the reason why you’re delaying your financial plan. To ease the tension and reduce “financial planning anxiety”, we’re going to gamify the process.

In high school, my blood pressure would rise for this dreaded anticipation of math time.

What made it worse were the math teachers who had the bad habit of embarrassing students for giving the wrong answers.

Anxiety should be a normal part of life. But this anxiety during those periods was so intense, it should have a name. Years later, psychologists did label it as a new type of clinical condition: Mathematics Anxiety

You probably can relate to this. Math anxiety has you feeling like running away to avoid the subject as much as you can. You feel tension when it comes to crunching down the numbers. You hear Algebra, Trigonometry, and Calculus, and you sprint away. Math anxiety is common and it can range from mild tension and apprehension to a strong aversion from mathematics.

I mention math anxiety because it is somehow correlated with financial planning anxiety; perhaps, even, it is the direct cause of it. If you a strong aversion to Math as a student, it could be the reason why you’re procrastinating on your financial plan.

Think about it. You may be reluctant to perform simple budgeting for the same reason why you hated math years ago. For example:

  •         When you’re about to do number crunching, you feel stressed out.
  •         Simply thinking about math brings various negative emotions, including procrastination, reluctance, and phantom headaches

Financial planning anxiety is compounded with the feeling of permanency.  You believe that because you’ve been bad at math, you feel you always will be. You’ve given up trying to improve.

 Of course, you could muster up the courage to just do it. We’re not against that. The problem with this is that you’re forcing financial planning on yourself that you add more negative feelings about it. 

So it is equally important to finding where the tension and anxiety are coming from. Ask yourself, why are you apprehensive with financial planning?

Fortunately, there’s a solution and it is the same for both math and financial planning anxiety.

Before that, let me reinforce the good news further.

In an article published by the University of Cambridge, Centre of Neuroscience in Education, researchers have observed that math anxiety is not sufficiently correlated with math proficiency and performance. Indeed, it is a chicken and the egg problem—we still don’t have a clue which caused which.

What this means is that no clear evidence exists saying that your math anxiety translates to poor math performance. 

So if you think that you’re poor at math because you are apprehensive about it, you’re thinking about it all wrong.

In reality, your anxiety comes from your poor, first impression about math and, subsequently, about financial planning—an impression brought about by math teachers who gave you a bad time in class. But it doesn’t say squat about your math abilities. 

This brings us to the things you need to do to overcome anxiety.

Re-frame it. 

Re-learn it.

If you don’t understand some math problem that may have held you back in high school, it may not be your fault why you didn’t get it. Most likely, it was poorly explained. Look for alternative explanations from the internet. Watch brilliant math tutors from YouTube. I find it particularly useful to see illustrations rather than equations to understand its logic.

Once you overcome that barrier, you’ll realize that most of your negative self-talk about your math abilities was unfounded.

Financial planning has its own difficulties, however. Though it may seem easier to overcome because most of it is arithmetic, it is more personal—too personal, in fact—that the fear is not about getting the right answer, but on arriving at some harsh reality. Quite often, people don’t want to see the real score of your financial condition.

To get through this, all you have to do is, again, re-frame it by finding alternative ways to do it.

The easiest way is to hire a financial planner who can ease your way through the plan. The job of a financial planner, unlike math teachers, is not to embarrass you in front of the class, but to act as a therapist. If there is a problem, they’ll fix it.

Some financial planners, like us, go a step further.

Financial planning is often delayed to the last hour due to anxiety. If that is the only one holding you back, then we have to tackle anxiety as much as we can.

With Gamification, we are developing an ambitious project of gamifying financial planning. The plan is to stuff game elements into the process to reduce anxiety and aversion.

Several studies confirm that Gamification can help ease the tension and anxiety associated with the stressor (like math and financial planning), enabling the person to perform what needs to be done. It boosts motivation and engagement.

The idea isn’t novel. Before gamification, psychologists understood the advantages of Play Therapy in counseling. During play, the mind becomes disarmed, unencumbered by normal pressures. A good game puts you into a groove, and you become a different animal altogether.

The only challenge for us is implementing a good gamified process in financial planning. Essentially, we’re are coating broccoli with candy with this.

Some mobile apps were designed specifically to help users ease various forms of tension and anxiety through gamification elements. Check out SuperBetter, Calm, Personal Zen, Mind Ease, Happify, Headspace, just to name a few.

If individual anxieties can be alleviated by gamification, why not financial planning?

Indeed, gamification is one of the most effective ways to re-frame your perception and help you re-learn things that have bogged you down. This time around, through play, it will get more interesting and less driven by anxiety.   


For gamification consultation, email us at gamify@i-teachoptions.com.

For financial planning, fp@i-teachoptions.com