Financial stress is debilitating and having ways to cope with financial stress is crucial for our overall wellbeing.
According to APA’s latest Stress in America survey found that 72 percent of Americans reported feeling financial stress and wanting techniques to cope with money issues.
I’ve experienced financial stress that impacted my mood, work performance and relationships. It deeply impacted the qualify of life.
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Some studies have shown prolonged stress negatively impacts our physical and mental wellbeing.
Lauren Choi, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, wrote, “The body reacts to stress with a “fight-or-flight” response, releasing adrenaline and cortisol, major hormones associated with stress. In situations of persistent stress, the body adapts to adverse conditions by establishing a new state of equilibrium, and the elevated levels of these chemicals can cause significant physical harm to vital bodily systems such as blood pressure, heart rate, memory, mood, and immune functioning.”
Whether you’re stressed about money or stressed about a lion chasing you for its dinner, your body reacts the same way.
During the days of my heightened stress for which I had many, I coped with financial stress through unhealthy behaviors. I was overeating to feel satisfied and had way too many alcoholic drinks to loosen me up. I was spending more money to feel in control. As a result, it magnified my financial issues. I wrote about this in greater detail in my book, You Only Live Once.
How Financial Stress Affects Your Wellbeing
Financial stress can be especially problematic. Money influences how our world operates. Unfortunately, there is no way of escaping money, and being reminded of it can keep the stress hormones rising.
So what happens to you during financial stress?
Physical ailments: Stress has been linked to rises in hormones that can lead to headaches, heart diseases, diabetes, and sleep issues.
Mental illness: Financial stress can lead many to believe there’s no solution to their money crisis leading to depression and anxiety.
Emotional instability: Stress can impact your hormone levels creating changes in your mood that you cannot control.
And if we’re experiencing these health issues, the financial issues can compound with increased medical expenses. It becomes very important to identify and cope with financial stress.
Financial Stress: Causes and Symptoms
When I was financially stressed, I had periods of depression and bouts of anger. It impacted my sleep pattern and hurt my relationships. So, what are the other signs you’re financially stressed?
- Financial arguments are a regular occurrence
- Avoidance of phone calls
- Difficulty sleeping
- Exhaustion and tiredness
- Digestion issues and irregular appetite
- Unexplained mood changes and feelings of anger or apathy
- Physical muscle pains, spasms, and migraines
- Lower sex drive
- Social distancing and inability to connect with others
Many situations out of your control can lead to financial stress such as:
- Job loss
- Fewer work hours available
- Unmanageable debts
- Lack of savings
- Unexpected bills or expenses
- Medical issues
How to Cope with Financial Stress
Learning to cope with financial stress begins with a better awareness of your finances. We often don’t have the complete financial picture. It leads to a narrow view of the money situation creating blinders to possible solutions.
I want you to understand there is always a solution to every financial situation. Some include:
Breaking the debt mindset
From my experience, most financial stress is related to high debt levels. Debt is a weight that we feel even though it lacks a physical form. The more debt you have the less freedom you feel. Think of debt as hours you’ve allocated to work rather than fun. It’s an obligation. With debt, the pressure increases the more of it we hold. What can you do? Find ways to reduce debt through negotiation, consolidation, or elimination.
Multiple income sources
Being dependent on a single source of income can cause a great deal of uncertainty. Feeling like you’re not making enough to cover your expenses is stressful. I want you to learn how to get a pay raise and the importance of multiple income streams.
Have a budget
Yes, a budget sounds boring but it’s quite helpful. Budgets are spending plans that help you allocate your money. Through the budgeting process, you can calculate your cash flow and determine areas to cut back. I want you to know budgeting isn’t an act of deprivation but an act of direction.
Learn how to start and stay on track with a budget.
General Stress Management
It’s important to manage your stress while working to fix your finances. Acknowledge you are both financial stressed and taking action over your finances. That sense of clarity can improve your mood for the better. You’re no longer suppressing the feelings or ignoring the situation. There’s relief knowing you’ve take on the reigns and have a plan of action to follow.
Power of breath
Focus on your breathing. Be more aware of how your breath changes. The American Psychological Association wrote, “Stress and strong emotions can present with respiratory symptoms, such as shortness of breath and rapid breathing, as the airway between the nose and the lungs constricts.”
Notice your breathing. Are you taking shorter and shallow breaths? For me, learning breathing exercises have been a game-changer. My ability to recognize my breath and techniques I’ve learned has helped me take back control during highly stressful moments. When my mind races and my breath changes I am able to catch myself. I’ll take intentional deep inhales and slow exhales.
Meditation is not suppressing thoughts. It’s an opportunity to let your mind rest. There has been anecdotal evidence of meditation as a stress reliever but new studies are showing meditation’s impact on the brain and body.
I personally can attest how meditation has helped me. Even a few minutes to interrupt a busy stressful day can be enough to change my mood. Now, I understand how difficult it may be to sit “still” for meditation. Or how challenging it may be to be left with our own thoughts. There are different meditation techniques that can fit into your life. I enjoy using the Calm App.
Get up and move. I’ve shared many times that some of the best way to change your emotion is to get into motion. Others have been quoted saying directing your energy in motion changes your e-motions.
Start simple. Get up where you’re feeling stressed. Off the bed, couch or desk. Get on your feet and give yourself a nice big stretch. Move your arms and start walking. Maybe you can walk right out the door and do a nice brisk stroll around the neighborhood.
Take a walk, do some jumping jacks, take a yoga class online, or a 7-minute exercise.
We’re all creative in some way. The mindful shifting of attention from doing to creating can improve your wellbeing.
Feeling stressed? Use the situation to inspire your art. Let it inform your writing, painting, graphic design, crocheting, furniture building, and whatever else comes to mind when you think of creative works.
I’ve found journaling to be a great way to turn thoughts in my head into a physical object. I use both my smartphone and a paper journal to write down my thoughts.
Connect with friends
Focus on engaging with your friends, not discussing your situation. Simply being around others can be a good distraction from your thoughts.
Often the time spent with loved ones can alter our mood in a positive way. I want you to consider the idea that you may not be in control of your finances right now, but you can control how to connect with family and friends.
Sometimes we simply need to say “no.” This can give us back time and energy to deal with the situation causing our stress.
It may be good to say “no” when our manager asks us to join another project. Or to say “no” when asked to attend events or outings that cost money.
Follow your plan to fix your financial situation. Set boundaries and say “yes” to activities that help you resolve your money issues and relieve stress.
In conclusion, financial stress can impact the quality of the life you live impacting your physical and mental wellbeing. It’s important to know how to cope with financial stress as it happen. But its equally important to address the root cause or issue. Doing so can help you create a plan and take action giving you back peace of mind.