“Ask Brianna” is a Q&A column for 20-somethings or anyone else starting out. I’m here to help you manage your money, find a job and pay off student loans — all the real-world stuff no one taught us how to do in college. Send your questions about postgrad life to askbrianna@nerdwallet.com.

This week’s question:

“I feel overwhelmed by my student loan and credit card debt, and I have nothing saved. I don’t want to even look at my accounts. How can I get past my fear and tackle my finances?”

Repeat after me: It’s not too late.

You are not a bad person. You don’t have to fix everything at once. Asking this question means you’ve already taken a huge step. Plus, nearly everyone has felt anxious about money — they probably just didn’t tell you.

“It’s something that everyone has to deal with, but nobody really talks about,” says Kristy Archuleta, a program director and associate professor of personal financial planning at Kansas State University.

Money is so tied to emotion that Archuleta, a licensed marriage and family therapist, is part of a movement to develop the new field of financial therapy. She says financial therapists “help people think, feel and behave differently with money as a way to improve overall well-being.”

If you’re totally overwhelmed by your financial situation, taking the first step to look at your finances can be the hardest part. Start small and ask for help. When you set goals and use them to guide you, you’ll start a positive cycle of progress.

Picture financial freedom

To start, focus on what you want your life to look like, Archuleta says — the big, nebulous, existential stuff, not what’s possible with the money you have in the bank right now. How do you want to feel when you wake up in the morning? What activities and interests do you want to pursue? What kind of environment do you want to live in?
You may find it hard to imagine yourself sitting on the porch of your dream house in the country without the credit card debt that’s keeping you up at night now. But let the future motivate you to address your money concerns, instead of focusing on mistakes you made in the past.