Are you suffering from financial stress? Let's look at what financial stress can do to you, and how to reduce financial stress (even if you can't solve the money problems right now).
Stress can do bad things to your body — and financial stress is no different.
Which is sad, because the American Psychological Association just reported that 72% of Americans felt financial stress at least once in the last month. And financial stress was also the #1 cause of stress in the 2020 PwC's annual employee financial wellness survey.
While everyone’s body reacts to it differently, some of the common ways stress manifests itself is through:
- sleep deprivation
- panic attacks
- obsessing over money
My own personal-stress-hell is listed above, but I won’t go into detail. Suffice it to say, I try to avoid and mitigate stress as much as possible.
This is especially true of financial stress, as this seems to be the worst kind. I’ve witnessed firsthand the effects of financial stress on the moods, relationships and health of the people in my life.
It is partly why I made a resolution so young to live frugally and to stash away as much of my paycheck as possible. My thoughts have always been that if I stash enough money away then financial stress will not enter my life.
While I would love to say that my strategy has paid off and I have had no financial stress of my own, it would be a false statement. This is partly because of circumstances — being laid off twice — and partly because of the pressure I put on myself when it comes to meeting financial goals and beyond.
Let's first talk about the causes of financial stress, and then move into what it can do to your health, and how to get out from under it.
What Causes Financial Stress?
Some financial situations cause financial stress in one person, and not in another. That's because, everyone is different. Each person's tolerance for bad financial events is different.
Here are some common financial stress examples:
- Selling a home (we're going through this, right now!)
- Trying to make a financial decision on a major purchase (like a car, home, or college)
- Not making enough income to pay all your bills
- Losing a job and trying to survive a layoff financially
- Witnessing a financial recession
- Dealing with debt
- Losing control of finances and dealing with unexpected financial problems
- Your company being bought out (typically, this means big changes to come!)
- Looming tax day when you know taxes are going to be due
- Car breakdowns
- Looming government furlough
- Major renovations and repairs needed on your home
- Making the jump from an apartment to a home
- Unexpected expenses
I could go on, and on, (and ON). But instead of doing that, let's jump into how this stress can affect your health and what to do about it.
Can Financial Stress Affect Your Health?
Even if I did have millions of dollars, wealthy individuals are also not immune to physical effects from financial stress.
- Chef Gordon Ramsay discusses the enormous amount of financial stress he was under when his business was on the brink of bankruptcy in 2009. He took such measures as running at 4:30 in the morning with 20 kilograms of weights to relieve the pressure.
- During the Michael Jackson trial, it was argued that Michael was so stressed over his failing finances and huge obligations that he resorted to a deadly concoction of drugs to sleep and otherwise sedate himself.
In other words, you BETCHA, financial stress can affect your health.
Not only that…but a study has shown that you can actually lose 10 – 12 points on your IQ due to financial stress. Yikes!
So, how do we deal with something that everyone seems to go through, and that can be quite detrimental to our health? I’ll share with you some of my stress-antidotes.
Pssst: dealing with financial stress in a marriage? I've got a free marriage and money resource guide for you that will help.
How Do You Deal with Financial Stress?
If you're dealing with financial stress symptoms, then you've got to get on top of your financial stress. You might be wondering, “how do I stop thinking about money?”
I know it seems bleak right now. But I want you to shift your money mindset from scarcity to abundance, and instead, set your sights on financial wellness.
Remember — your money situation may or may not change, but YOU can change how you deal with it all. And that's what will make a big difference for your health and mental state.
#1: Gain Perspective
One of the ways that I immediately take my stress level down is by asking whether or not I and/or my family and friends are in a life or death situation.
This helps me to gain perspective on the situation, and I feel relief almost immediately.
Another quick solution with almost immediate results is watching a horror movie. You may not like them, but after viewing one I can say things are not so bad. After all, I am not being chased by vampires, serial killers, or werewolves.
A final way I have found that helps with gaining perspective is to watch or involve myself in something greater than my small, little life. Whether this be through religion, watching something like Planet Earth, or focusing on helping others, realizing my problems are a very small detail of this world that we live in really helps get them off of my back.
These methods are very effective for me; however, I find that the effects of them are short-term. I believe to truly get rid of the stress, we must take action.
#2: Financial Stress Management – Take the First Step
A lot of stress is created by delaying action. We feel stress when we are not in control of something. Our minds are allowed to create a lot of scenarios (and most of them far exaggerated) while stuck in a holding pattern and moving nowhere.
There is a sort of comfort in paralysis because we know what the situation is in the place we are currently at. To work our way out of something means going into the unknown.
This is what creates what I like to call mental obstacles to things that are ordinarily very easy (making a phone call, sending in a form, etc.).
Instead of sitting around stressing about something, I personally like to delve right in as soon as possible because taking something head on always alleviates the stress.
Taking the first step could mean a multitude of things depending on what financial situation you are facing (IRS issues, creditors calling, paying for college, debt questions, cash flow problems, saving money for something you wish to do, etc.).
But I think every problem is first tackled by getting informed.
This means calling someone to ask questions, doing research, and seeking help. I find that getting information about something not only alleviates part of the stress, but usually makes the situation much less scary than the scenarios I have created in my head.
Once you are informed, chances are you will know what to do next, thus moving the process along to its eventual resolution.
#3: Box the Situation Up to Establish some Boundaries
I have found that if I let it, my mind will continue wrapping itself around a situation ad nauseam. It creeps into my sleep, while I am working on something, when I shower, eat, etc.
Since finances affect many areas of our lives, it is only natural that you might be thinking about your particular financial situation all of the time. Something to learn to do is to box up the problem and stash it away for times when you can make progress on it. Otherwise, you will worry your life away (literally!).
The way that I work on this is ask the question,
“is there anything I can do about this right now?”
If the answer is no, then I push it out of my mind.
Another tip about this? The American Psychological Association says that you should make one big financial decision at a time. You don't want to suffer from decision fatigue, so by boxing up the other decisions, and diverting your attention to the most important and urgent one first, you can give yourself a little financial stress relief.
#4: Find a Stress Reliever
Dance it out, do some yoga, go for a run; you need to find something physical to release the stress that has built up inside of you. Once when I had to meet with the owner of a company I worked for about a project that was not going well (I was the junior working on the project, but no less stressful), I tensed up all over. To keep my body loose and functioning for what amounted to a very bad week, I did 4-6 sun salutations each morning right before heading out the door. It truly did help.
Just like stress affects everyone’s body differently, what works to alleviate your stress may be different from someone else. I hope I’ve given you some good starters in alleviating your stress, and helping you move forward to the eventual resolution.
Do you have any financial stress right now? What are some ways you de-stress and work through the situation?
Amanda L Grossman
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Tuesday 10th of July 2012
I definitely have financial stressors! Like you mentioned, feeling in control does help so what I usually do is write down a plan. If I can see on paper that things can be worked out, then I feel better instantly - even if the actions to be taken will be difficult.