Has your credit card bill gotten to the point where you know you’ll be spending the rest of your life in debt servitude? Is the mortgage collector at your heels every day, with threats of foreclosure unless you cough up what you owe? Are your 4 jobs still not enough to cover all your basic necessities?

In short: are financial difficulties already threatening your sanity?

It’s a sad reality: life today is harder than it used to be. The recession means pay cuts left and right, while prices of goods jack up on a daily basis. Disreputable brokers and loan sharks take advantage of those desperate enough to accept any deal — easily trapping the unsuspecting into contracts with unfavorable rates. And the hardworking have given up on any semblance of work-life balance, with simple indulgences like a steaming cup of latte abandoned in favor of more pressing needs.

Can you keep your head together while battling financial difficulties? Yes! The following tips can point you to a good start:

Break your denial regarding your financial situation.

Start with an honest assessment of your financial state — get the paperwork out and see on paper exactly how much you have, how much you owe, and what income you can reasonably expect every month. When we live in denial over dire financial straits, we spend more than we can afford.

Have you maxed out your credit limit with no way to pay it back? Go call your bank and tell them you can’t afford it anymore.  Is your home-based business not turning a profit? Accept your losses and move on — don’t pretend that the market will suddenly shift in a couple of months. Your best friend is asking you to go on an expensive vacation? Swallow your pride and admit that you’re broke. Only when you’re true to yourself can you identify concrete solutions to your money troubles.

Educate yourself.

Handling money well is a skill — which means that it can be learned and mastered.

Find out ways on how you can increase your savings — even a little kept everyday can translate into something significant in the long term. Understand how banks and loaning institutions work — maybe you can consolidate all your loans into one, to relieve some of the pressure on your wallet. Consider refinancing your mortage; for all you know you took out a housing loan at time when interest rates are ridiculously high. Understand how passive income works. In short, find out all your options to get your finances back on track.

Relying on old habits, overly hyped loan packages and what your parents told you may not be enough when it comes to effective financial management — in fact, these things may actually be what got you into trouble to begin with! Don’t be shy with learning money smarts; good financial habits can go a long, long way.

Protect yourself.

Lastly, don’t make your money troubles the be-all and end-all of your life. It’s easy to become stressed and depressed about money problems, so always set boundaries between your emotions and your problems. It’s alright to anticipate and worry about bills, but not to the point when you become anxious over things you can’t control. If you can’t pay the collector, communicate your situations and ask what are your options. And remember: no matter how broke you are, you have resources at your disposal, like time, talent, friends and ethical loaning agencies. If you keep yourself solution-oriented, you won’t get overwhelmed. When you’ve done all that you can, then let go. Things have a way of working out in the end.

More importantly, take stock of the things that are going right in your life; appreciate the things that are free like your daughter’s first steps or your spouse’s thoughtfulness. Get encouragement from those who have had to declare bankruptcy and made it out triumphant on the other side. Pamper yourself from time to time — serving debts need not mean you have to stop being a person with needs. At the end of the day, money problems are simply that: money problems. They don’t define you as an individual.