What Are Some of The Effects of Financial Stress?
Financial stress is a difficult reality for many people, including those who are employed. Like any source of overwhelming stress, financial problems can take a huge toll on your mental and physical health, your relationships, and your overall quality of life.
Feeling beaten down by money worries can adversely impact your sleep, self-esteem, and energy levels. It can leave you feeling angry, ashamed or fearful; fuel tension and arguments with those closest to you; exacerbate pain and mood swings; and even increase your risk of depression and anxiety. It’s not uncommon to experience physical ailments such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and an increase in blood pressure.
You Are Not Alone
If you’re worried about money, you’re not alone. Many of us, from all over the world and from all walks of life, are having to deal with financial stresses and uncertainty at this difficult time. Whether your problems stem from a loss of work, escalating debt, unexpected expenses, or a combination of factors, financial worry is one of the most common stressors in modern life. Even before the global coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic fallout, an American Psychological Association (APA) study found that 72% of Americans feel stressed about money at least some of the time. The recent economic difficulties mean that even more of us are now facing financial struggles and hardship.
Helpful Ways to Manage Financial Stress
Finding ways to manage financial stress means taking a realistic look at your finances. It sounds simple enough, but it requires taking a step back from your everyday life, and making a few changes so that you can see your situation from a different but helpful perspective.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The field cannot be well seen from within the field”. I believe a modern interpretation of that great commentary as applied to financial stress would be, we need to think outside the box when it comes to coping with financial anxiety.
There are many ways to deal with financial stress. Some people pray or meditate, others exercise or play sports. Many people find comfort in being with family and friends, and others learn relaxation techniques such as yoga, tai chi or deep breathing exercises.
Ideas to Help Manage Your Money Better
If you’re already experiencing financial stress, coping with it can seem impossible; however, here are some helpful money management tools that you can incorporate into your daily life and hopefully relieve some of the tension.
Balance your budget and track your spending habits. The daily grind of managing a household budget can be stressful and time-consuming. One easy way to get started on balancing your budget is by using an app like Mint, which automatically records all of your transactions for you. The app also allows you to track bills and shows you how you are spending your money.
Curb impulse buys. Try instituting a rule that before purchasing anything that costs more than $5, you must wait 24 hours (for big purchases that cost more than $100, wait at least 72 hours). Chances are, after waiting a day or two, we’ll realize we really didn’t need whatever it is you were so excited to buy anyway. Another question to ask yourself prior to making an impulse buy is, will this purchase adversely affect someone around me? If you’re on a tight budget, maybe the money you were going to spend could be used for something someone in your household actually needs.
Plan your meals. Plan your meals ahead of time and go grocery shopping on a weekly basis. Meal planning and shopping every few days can lead us to waste food and overspend. Write out a list of what you’ll eat for the week and buy only those items on Friday or Saturday (when grocery prices are typically lower). And if you don’t finish all of your groceries before their “sell by” date, freeze them if you can. Oh, and don’t forget: Never go shopping hungry. If you do, you’ll end up with a basket full of expensive and unneeded snacks and junk food. Trust me, I’ve done it and I regretted it every time.
Find free activities to do. By reducing your entertainment budget and instead opting for free activities like visiting a museum or going on a hike, you can save money and relieve financial stress at the same time. Plus, taking a break from work and spending more time with loved ones is never a bad thing. If you need some ideas, search Google for, “free things to do near me” and see what comes up. Maybe you’ll find an animal preserve or a place of interest you never knew about.
Reassess your standard of living. If you have been wondering how long you could survive on less income – with no increase in bills or expenses – it’s worth trying it for a month. Even if it turns out that you need as much money as you make right now to pay off debt, going through this experiment will help put you in a position to at least think about making some changes. You can record a daily video of your experiences and post it on YouTube. You never know, you may end up helping someone else with your results.
Set up a monthly savings plan. Getting into the habit of setting aside a certain percentage of your income will help ensure that you’re able to handle small emergencies without making hard decisions on the fly or dipping into any retirement funds prematurely. It’s important to have a savings plan and stick to it.
Seek professional help. Many times, an independent financial advisor can help you plan a roadmap for your finances. Some financial advisors offer a free consultation and can meet with you on an hourly basis as well.
No Matter How Hopeless You Feel, There Is Help Available
There are many ways to manage financial stress. The important thing is not to let the pressure get to you so much that it starts affecting how well you sleep, what foods you eat, or the quality of time spent with friends and family members. Remember: there’s no such thing as “too late” when it comes to reevaluating your finances and saving money. Many people are surprised to learn that some of their health issues are being exacerbated by financial stress. When financial stress is severe, it’s important to get professional help. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, please consider seeing a doctor right away. By tackling some of your money problems head on, you can find a way through the financial maze we all live in, ease your stress levels, and regain control of your finances – and your life.