If money concerns are a top stressor in your life, you are not alone. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, 72 percent of Americans have felt stressed about money during the past month. This is a substantial amount of worry surrounding finances and future planning. This level of stress has both mental and physical implications and finding ways to address this concern can help you to regain control of your life. While it is evident that there is a link between health concerns and financial stress, there is comfort in knowing that there are proven ways to take control of your finances and alleviate some of this overarching stress.
Stress about finances can cause you to internalize feelings that weigh on your mental health. This is why it is important to recognize the times that you may be particularly anxious and try to find a link back to the reason why you are feeling this way.
Causes anxiety and depression
Financial stress can lead to anxiety and depression, especially if you are in large amounts of debt, to begin with. These feelings can get worse if the debt continues to compile, which can lead to avoidance and denial of your financial situation. This can turn into a vicious cycle because if you’re already stressed about money it can cause the problem to escalate by putting off paying down debts or addressing the situation head-on.
Financial stress has been proven to mimic depression and PTSD, meaning you can experience the same symptoms as someone who has actually been diagnosed with depression. This is because when you are feeling extreme levels of stress, your body gives off hormones to suppress and sedate your feelings (this is your body’s way of making you feel calm). When these feelings become suppressed for a long period of time, you are more prone to develop depression.
Creates feelings of embarrassment
Another way that financial stress can take a toll on your mental health is by creating feelings of embarrassment. It has been culturally passed on to not talk about money or finances so asking for help can sometimes lead to feeling ashamed. Because it is common to feel judged in regard to your financial health, you may like you must face this problem alone. Internalizing feelings of shame, guilt, or embarrassment can weigh on your mental health and make the problem seem like it’s getting worse with nowhere to turn.
Impacts some relationships
If you are experiencing financial stress that puts a strain on your mental health, it is possible that your relationships are being impacted more than you might realize. For example, maybe you find that you avoid going out places with friends or family because you don’t want to spend money. Or perhaps you have found that you are lashing out at people more because of underlying financial-related anxiety. Additionally, money is the top reason for fights in marriages and the second most common cause for divorce. The fact that money issues can dramatically take a toll on your emotional and mental state shows that getting ahead of your finances is worthwhile and a huge step in the right direction towards eliminating stress.
Consider how your body is impacted when you are dealing with something mentally taxing. On the contrary, how do you think about situations when you’re sick, hurt, or not feeling well? There is a significant connection between your mental and physical health, so if you are stressed out about finances, it is possible that you are also experiencing physical symptoms, as your body and mind are connected.
Avoiding the doctor
Did you know that approximately 50% of Americans have put off going to the doctor because it’s unaffordable? This also means that financial stress can lead to avoiding purchasing healthcare because it is another added monthly cost. It is important to remember that checkups and well visits are essential to maintaining optimal health. Prioritizing your health is the most important thing that you can do for yourself in the long run, which is why having a financial plan in place that includes adequate funds for healthcare is crucial.
Because it has been proven that financial stress can have the same symptoms as depression, it is evident that the physical symptoms that occur with depression are also present when you are anxious about money. Because your brain and digestive system are connected, your body is impacted when you are feeling anxious or particularly overwhelmed. This causes your body to go into “fight or flight mode,” and the response from your nervous symptom can cause digestive issues to occur. Experts have found that some of the digestive issues that can occur because of overarching stress are:
In severe cases, IBS and IBD are possible symptoms that can arise from prolonged anxiety as well. Furthermore, stress can sometimes make you feel like you don’t want to eat, which can cause a host of other digestion issues as well.
Loss of sleep
It is important to understand the significance of getting a good night’s rest for your body’s overall wellbeing. Unsurprisingly, one of the most common factors impacting sleep is financial stress. According to data from the Better Sleep Council, poor sleepers are “1.4 times more likely to live paycheck to paycheck compared to those who rated their sleep as excellent.” Getting enough sleep impacts your overall health because your body needs time to decompress, rest, and recover from the day so that in the morning you can wake up feeling rejuvenated.
How to get control of your finances:
Financial stress has the ability to cause unwanted negative health implications that can impact various aspects of your life. Although this is true, keep in mind the ways you can take control of your life and your finances by following these simple steps to promote a healthier future.
Look at the overall picture
Securing a healthy future starts with financial planning and goal setting to achieve stability. It is important to first look at your overall financial profile and understand the large debts you may have to see where funds are being allocated. This then gives you a clearer picture of places that you can cut unnecessary spending. For example, maybe you have multiple music streaming subscriptions that you pay for each month when you really only need one. Cutting back on multiple small expenses can add up, especially if they are recurring month after month.
Plan for the unexpected
Life has a way of throwing curveballs at you, so it is important to keep this in mind, even when it seems like things are going smoothly. For example, if you just got a promotion or a raise, it can be tempting to start spending more money on items you have always wanted. Before you start making purchases, try to be rational, and consider establishing a savings account that could keep you afloat for a few months, should an unexpected event occur.
Additionally, it is essential to look into ways to protect those that depend on you from unanticipated situations. While you may have a life insurance policy through your employer, it might not adequately cover your loved ones. Since there are many options for life insurance available, it might be less overwhelming to look into different policy options that best fit your needs to ensure that you are adequately protected and that you are not spending more than necessary for your particular situation. Finding the right life insurance coverage can seem overwhelming at first but once you have a policy secured, you will have much more peace of mind, which could alleviate some looming stress you may have.
Give yourself credit
While it can be easy to fall into the trap of comparing your financial situation to others, remember that the principles of personal finance are a tough concept to grasp. The fact that you are taking the initiative to start planning is an achievement to be celebrated. Sometimes it can be easier to tackle smaller tasks, so try to find ways to chip away at smaller debts first. For example, if you have a credit card with a balance of $500 and another with a balance of $2,000, try to pay off the lower balance first. Once you have taken the plunge to eliminate that smaller debt, you will inevitably feel accomplished and want to start taking on the bigger debts that you may have.
Each step that you take towards achieving financial wellbeing can promote better physical and mental health. Since mental and physical health are heavily impacted by your stress levels, finding ways to relieve and alleviate financial stress is a good step to take towards achieving optimal health.
American Psychological Association. “American Psychological Association Survey Shows Money Stress Weighing on Americans’ Health Nationwide.” American Psychological Association, 2015, www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2015/02/money-stress?mod=article_inline.
Better Sleep Council. “Top Factors That Impact Americans’ Quality of Sleep.” Better Sleep Council | Start Every Day with a Good Night’s Sleep, June 2019, bettersleep.org/research/sleep-surveys/survey-causes-of-good-and-bad-sleep/.
Carter, Shawn M. “Over Half of Americans Delay or Don’t Get Health Care Because They Can’t Afford It-These 3 Treatments Get Put off Most.” CNBC, CNBC, 29 Nov. 2018, www.cnbc.com/2018/11/29/over-half-of-americans-delay-health-care-becasue-they-cant-afford-it.html.
Iliades, Chris. “How Stress Affects Digestion: Everyday Health.” EverydayHealth.com, 16 Oct. 2018, www.everydayhealth.com/wellness/united-states-of-stress/how-stress-affects-digestion/.
Policygenius. “Life Insurance: Free Quotes & Policy Information.” Policygenius, 2020, www.policygenius.com/life-insurance/.
Ramsey Solutions. “Money Ruining Marriages in America: A Ramsey Solutions Study.” Daveramsey.com, 2018, www.daveramsey.com/pr/money-ruining-marriages-in-america.