Whether it stems from job loss, credit card debt, an unexpected medical bill, or a combination of things, financial uncertainty is one of the most common stressors people experience.
Like any source of overwhelming stress, financial problems can take a huge toll on your mental and physical health, relationships, and overall quality of life. Financial stress can affect your emotions, leaving you uncharacteristically angry, fearful, and depressed, and can lead to tension and arguments with loved ones and friends.
In the worst cases, debt and financial stress can lead to feelings of suicide. If you are or someone you know is showing signs of suicidal thoughts or actions, contact any of these numbers for immediate assistance.
No matter how hopeless things seem, however, help is available. By tackling the source of financial stress head on, you can find your way through to a less difficult financial situation.
How Financial Stress Impacts Your Health
Any amount of stress takes a toll on your body, and financial stress can sometimes feel all-consuming. Medical debt, credit card debt, and student loan debt all contribute to the overwhelming feelings of financial stress. Even short-term financial worries can have lasting impacts.
Poor mental health
Financial difficulties are a common cause of stress and anxiety. The impact on people’s mental health can be particularly severe if they resort to cutting back on essentials, such as heat and food, or if creditors are aggressive or insensitive when collecting debts.
Financial adversity drastically reduces recovery rates for common mental health conditions. People with debt are more likely to have depression than those without financial difficulty.
Delayed access to health care
When you’re under financial stress, you have less access to money for day-to-day necessities, much less the substantial amounts typically required during emergencies. In 2018, 30% of Americans admitted they have delayed getting medical care because they couldn’t afford it.
Although delaying health care can save money in the short term, holding off can potentially lead to more serious medical issues and, in turn, higher costs. However, Americans spend more than twice as much as comparable countries on health-care costs, so this is likely a contributing factor.
Unhealthy coping behaviors
Financial stress can also influence your likelihood of engaging in unhealthy coping behaviors, such as overeating, withdrawing from social circles, and abusing alcohol and/or drugs. These activities can also increase your financial burden, if you’re spending money you don’t have on these habits.
Poor physical health
Stress can wreak havoc on your physical health and financial stress is no exception. Constant stress can lead to headaches, poor sleep, digestive problems, heart disease, and more. When our bodies are under constant stress, our immune system also suffers, leaving us vulnerable to colds, flus, and viruses.
Four Tips for Coping with Financial Stress
Many of the ways to deal with other kinds of stress also work on financial stress. For instance, getting enough exercise, eating a healthy diet, drinking enough water, and getting adequate sleep can all benefit you physically while dealing with financial pressures.
Take a hard look at your finances
This may seem like an obvious first step, but when you’re in the thick of financial problems, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the simplest of tasks. Start by making a list of financial obligations that take priority ‒ things like rent, utilities, and loan payments. Then list the things you’d like to work toward, like resolving credit card debt, building up savings accounts, and paying for car repairs. You can also keep a daily or weekly list of what you spend money on, to see where costs can be cut.
Make a plan
Just as financial stress can be caused by a wide range of problems, there’s a wide range of solutions. Your plan to tackle debt and financial stress could include:
- Creating a weekly/monthly budget, which might mean limiting spending on certain things
- Reach out to utility companies to see if they offer any payment plans
- Seeking government assistance, like SNAP
- Finding a higher-paying job or negotiating a higher salary/more hours with your current employer
- Contacting loan providers to try to lower the interest rate on your mortgage, credit cards, or student loans
If you’ve taken a good look at your finances and made cuts where you can and your bills are still more than you’re bringing home, you’ve got three options: more income, less spending, or a combination of the two. How you go about achieving those goals will require strict adherence to a financial plan.
Explore extra ways of generating income
Blogging, driving for a rideshare service, doing grocery delivery, and selling online through platforms like Etsy are all ways you can get a little more money in your pocket. A side gig is one option to pad your monthly budget, but depending on the job, this may bring more stress than it’s worth.
Ask for help
The stigma around debt can mean that people struggle to ask for help, but there’s no reason to be ashamed. Asking for help doesn’t mean asking family and friends for cash; it means relying on others who’ve had similar experiences to provide guidance. It can also mean seeking professional support, in the form of financial counselors, or consulting life coaches or Health Coaches. These coaches can help you plan a path to overcome your financial stress.
Self-care is a conscious action that you take to promote your own physical, emotional, and mental health. It’s also vital to build your resiliency to any financial stress you may be experiencing. Self-care doesn’t have to cost any money and can really help when it comes to de-stressing. Activities like spending time outdoors, performing breathing exercises, exercising, and simply changing your sheets are all free ways to practice self-care. Obviously, self-care won't solve your financial troubles, but it can make you feel a bit better in the meantime.
The Bottom Line
Financial stress is something nearly everyone will deal with at some point in their lives. Whatever your unique circumstances are, there are ways to get through tough economic times, lower stress levels, and ultimately, take back control of your finances.
The information provided in this article does not constitute professional and/or financial advice; instead, all information and content are for general informational purposes only.