Financial Stress Can Shorten Your Life; Here’s What To Do
- Financial stress can create serious health issues like fatigue, sleep disorders, headaches, overeating and weight gain, increased use of tobacco or alcohol, anxiety, depression, early death, and a slew of other diseases you haven’t even thought about
- There are tangible steps you can take to improving your financial health
Did you know that financial stress affects 48% of the U.S. workforce? This stress can often manifest itself in various ways. For some, it’s the immense panic that overtakes you at the thought of opening your credit card monthly statement. For others, it’s thinking about how you’re going to afford a house or rent, an unexpected emergency cost, continuously overspending, or worries about not saving enough for the future. Let’s face it, in one way or another, we are all affected by financial stress.
And how can you not be? You look at any news sites and the first information to catch your eyes is about layoffs at various companies, the historical debt the nation is in, or my personal favorite, clickbait articles about how a 23 year old has managed to save $100,000 in three years on a $50,000 yearly salary *eyeroll*. With all this information constantly bombarding us, it is hard to not feel financially stressed. To make matters worse, a recent survey found that income is not an indicator of financial stress and a quarter of Americans living paycheck to paycheck with zero savings earn over $160,000.
When these thoughts come across our minds, it can be easy to ignore, after all, it’s not like anyone knows what’s going on in your mind. Tempting as that might be, I’m here to tell you to do something about your financial stress because it is literally wreaking havoc with your body and health! And trust me, unexpected medical bills are definitely one way to further increase your financial stress.
Now that’s out of the way, lets see exactly how money stress can break you down and what you can do about it.
Reasons You Have Financial Stress
Chances are that you’ve had to deal with a difficult financial situation lately. Maybe your income dropped and now you can’t pay your bills, there was an unexpected expense that drained your savings, your debt keeps on building up and you can’t pay them down, or you had a medical issue and insurance didn’t cover all of it (seriously though, why is healthcare so expensive?).
Why You Should Confront Your Financial Struggles
It is imperative to sort out any financial stress you’re experiencing due to its impact on your health. Among the most common health issues financial stress can create are fatigue, sleep disorders, lack of concentration, headaches, overeating and weight gain, increased use of tobacco or alcohol, anxiety, depression, early death, and a slew of other diseases you haven’t even thought about.
And as your health problems worsen, treatment can can become more expensive, put you in more of a financial bind.
In fact, it’s no coincidence that research shows financial stress and mental health problems often go hand-in-hand. A study found that individuals with depression and anxiety were three times more likely to be in debt. Other studies have even found a link between debt and suicide. A slight decline in mental health (long before you’d meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental illness) can be linked to increased financial stress. And increased financial stress can lead to poorer mental health.
That said, we compiled a few helpful tips on how to deal with and manage your money problems.
Step 1: Get to Know Your Finances
Sometimes, the fear of the unknown can do more damage than confronting that fear. As a first step, just rip open the bank statements, or medical bills. This is undoubtedly hard, but at least you know exactly what the situation is.
I often tried to ignore bills and statements that I was getting, thinking that maybe if I did that, the whole problem would magically disappear. Spoiler alert, it didn’t. In fact nothing makes the letters disappear. The only thing that comes close to doing that is you opening the letters and seeing exactly how the current situation looks.
Imagine suspecting that you’re suffering from an illness but not wanting to get tested to find out what is wrong. So every day you just suffer, knackering your mind about what could possibly be wrong. Eventually, you go to the doctor and she tells you one of two things, either you have nothing to worry about or that this is a problem that needs treatment immediately. Either way, you leave the doctor’s office feeling relieved that you now know exactly what’s been troubling you.
Step 2: Download Your Financial Stress
So now that you know exactly what is wrong, what do you do about it? Write it out. Make a list of exactly what you are stressing about. Do not underestimate the importance of writing it out. When you do that, you’re transferring the stress from your mind onto the paper. We all know how our minds tend to amplify even the smallest problems. When you see exactly what is causing you stress, you will be much better equipped at devising ways to tackle those problems.
Step 3: Identify Your Relationship With Money
Once you’ve written your financial stress down, try to discuss and analyze your relationship with money. This could be part of a search for comfort, luxury, love, power, or something else. Identifying your deeper relationship with money and recognizing that it does not guarantee happiness or security can allow you to move forward.
Step 4: Ask For Help
Money can be such a taboo topic and most of us have been taught not to discuss it. If you only knew the amount of information you could gain from sharing your current situation! Maybe a discussion with a trusted friend can lead to a helpful recommendation? If you can ask a trusted source their opinion on how to cure a specific ailment, why not ask how other people are handling their financial stress?
Get help from a trusted friend, family member, or financial planner to decide the best next steps to take. Sometimes it’s not just about paying off the highest debt first or starting to save. It’s about starting to address the problems on your list that give you the most anxiety. Don’t ever underestimate the importance of an objective opinion and potentially some financial expertise you don’t have yourself.
Step 5: Make A Plan And Follow It
And no, the plan is not to play the lottery and hope to win. Having a game plan for how you plan to save and spend will do wonders to making you feel in control of your finances. Feeling in control can in turn often be empowering.
Remember to be realistic and that your plan should take into account your financial situation and map out the best way to meet your goals. Remember, just like how it took time to get to this point, it might also take a while to get out of it. The important thing is to continue trying and change the plan if it’s not working!
Step 6: Accept What You Can’t Afford
Maybe you won’t be able to attend the NBA playoffs or take that all-inclusive vacation to the Caribbean. You will need to let go of what might not be possible at the moment and focus on what you need to do to get back in control. There is a lot of wisdom in the saying that “a dream delayed is not a dream denied.” Just like how you might not be able to go out when you’re sick, doesn’t mean that you can’t ever go out again, you focus on getting better and once that happens you start going out again.
Same with your finances. You may need to make a few sacrifices now in order to become financially healthy again. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on your plans forever. It just means that they are simply postponed.