Stress is the body’s response to any demand made on it. It affects almost every system of the body, including heartbeat, breath, muscles and our brains. A little stress can be a good thing, if it motivates us to respond constructively to a threat or opportunity and if it doesn’t last too long. Unfortunately, stress resulting from financial challenges is often chronic, Unexpected expenses, the need to save for retirement and out of pocket health care expenses are major culprits.
Chronic stress is linked to physical health issues. High stress causes a fight-or-flight reaction, releasing adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones suppress immune system, digestive, sleep and reproductive systems, which, if sustained, may cause them to stop working normally. Employees with high financial stress are twice as likely to report poor health overall and are more than four times as likely to complain of headaches, depression, or other ailments.
Effects of financial stress on your health
While we all know deep down there are many more important things in life than money, when you’re struggling financially fear and stress can take over your world. It can damage your self-esteem, make you feel flawed, and fill you with a sense of despair. When financial stress becomes overwhelming, your mind, body, and social life can pay a heavy price.
Financial stress can lead to:
Insomnia or other sleep difficulties. Nothing will keep you tossing and turning at night more than worrying about unpaid bills or a loss of income.
Weight gain (or loss). Stress can disrupt your appetite, causing you to anxiously overeat or skip meals to save money.
Depression. Living under the cloud of money problems can leave anyone feeling down, hopeless, and struggling to concentrate or make decisions.
Anxiety. Money can be a safety net; without it, you may feel vulnerable and anxious. And all the worrying about unpaid bills or loss of income can trigger anxiety symptoms such as a pounding heartbeat, sweating, shaking, or even panic attacks.
Relationship difficulties. Money is often cited as the most common issue couples argue about. Left unchecked, financial stress can make you angry and irritable, cause a loss of interest in sex, and wear away at the foundations of even the strongest relationships.
Social withdrawal. Financial worries can clip your wings and cause you to withdraw from friends, curtail your social life, and retreat into your shell—which will only make your stress worse.
Physical ailments such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. In countries without free healthcare, money worries may also cause you to delay or skip seeing a doctor for fear of incurring additional expenses.
The vicious cycle of poor financial health and poor mental health
A number of studies have demonstrated a cyclical link between financial worries and mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
- Financial problems adversely impact your mental health.The stress of debt or other financial issues leaves you feeling depressed or anxious.
- The decline in your mental health makes it harder to manage money.You may find it harder to concentrate or lack the energy to tackle a mounting pile of bills. Or you may lose income by taking time off work due to anxiety or depression.
- These difficulties managing money lead to more financial problems and worsening mental health problems, and so on.You become trapped in a downward spiral of increasing money problems and declining mental health.
Dealing with financial stress
- Talk to someone
When you’re facing money problems, there’s often a strong temptation to bottle everything up and try to go it alone. Many of us even consider money a taboo subject, one not to be discussed with others. You may feel awkward about disclosing the amount you earn or spend, feel shame about any financial mistakes you’ve made, or embarrassed about not being able to provide for your family. But bottling things up will only make your financial stress worse. In the current economy, where many people are struggling through no fault of their own, you’ll likely find others are far more understanding of your problems.
- Getting professional advice
Depending on where you live, there are a number of organizations that offer counselling on dealing with financial problems, whether it’s managing debt, creating and sticking to a budget, finding work, communicating with creditors, or claiming benefits or financial assistance. Whether or not you have a friend or loved one to talk to for emotional support, getting practical advice from an expert is always a good idea. Reaching out is not a sign of weakness and it doesn’t mean that you’ve somehow failed as a provider, parent, or spouse. It just means that you’re wise enough to recognize your financial situation is causing you stress and needs addressing.
- up to your family
Financial problems tend to impact the whole family and enlisting your loved ones’ support can be crucial in turning things around. Even if you take pride in being self-sufficient, keep your family up to date on your financial situation and how they can help you save money.
Let them express their concerns. Your loved ones are probably worried—about both you and the financial stability of your family unit. Listen to their concerns and allow them to offer suggestions on how to resolve the financial problems you’re facing.
Make time for (inexpensive) family fun. Set aside regular time where you can enjoy each other’s company, let off steam, and forget about your financial worries.
tracking your finances in detail can also help you start to regain a much-needed sense of control over your situation.
Include every source of income. In addition to any salary, include bonuses, benefits, alimony, child support, or any interest you receive.
Keep track of ALL your spending. When you’re faced with a pile of past-due bills and mounting debt, buying a coffee on the way to work may seem like an irrelevant expense. But seemingly small expenses can mount up over time, so keep track of everything.
List your debts. Include past-due bills, late fees, and list minimum payments due as well as any money you owe to family or friends.
Look to make small changes. Cutting down on nonessential spending and finding small ways to reduce your daily expenditure can really help to free up extra cash to pay off bills.
Go easy on yourself. As you review your debt and spending habits, remember that anyone can get into financial difficulties, especially at times like this. Don’t use this as an excuse to punish yourself for any perceived financial mistakes. Give yourself a break and focus on the aspects you can control as you look to move forward.
Unhealthy coping methods, such as drinking too much, abusing prescription or illegal drugs, gambling, or overeating. Money worries can even lead to self-harm or thoughts of suicide.