Things to note:
- Financial stress can contribute to high blood pressure, weight gain, fatigue, and heart disease.
- To regain control of your finances, start by following a budget and building an emergency fund.
- To improve your mental state, try to tap into a support system. Chart any progress you make.
For most of us, money woes can lead to financial stress. And the fewer resources we have, the harder it can be to deal with financial worries. To make matters worse, financial stress can lead to health trouble, which could bring new financial problems and make it harder to solve existing woes.
Living with financial anxiety can be difficult, but there are things you can do to combat the stress and preserve your mental and physical health. Information can be a powerful ally in the fight against financial stress and difficulties. Best Egg’s Financial Health services provide tools and access to your credit score so you can learn about your financial health and work to reach your goals with less stress.
Below, we’ll look at the problem of financial stress and offer tips on how to cope with it.
What are the most common causes of financial stress?
There could be many causes of money stress, especially in tough economic times. Many could drain extra money from our regular monthly expenses—that little cushion that gives us breathing room — and this could make it difficult to stay in control of our personal finances. Here are a few examples of the types of money matters that can keep us up at night:
- Credit card debt or student loan debt
- Medical bills, both expected and unexpected
- Home or vehicle repairs
- Increased daily costs, like for gas and groceries
- Past-due bills, maybe with additional late fees
- A depleted emergency fund
- Legal costs
- Yearly dues or costs, like car insurance
- School fees, tuition, or trips
- Unexpected expenses for family issues
- Uncontrolled spending
Any one of these might cause financial anxiety, and sometimes these issues can come in bunches. Worries build up and often contribute to poor mental and physical health. And stress-induced poor mental health makes it harder to improve your financial difficulties.
What does financial stress feel like?
When you’re stressed about money, your mental health is at risk. Illnesses like anxiety and depression can be a real concern. Money anxiety can often amplify existing emotional tensions and stress levels. In addition to the financial stress, there could be increased relationship stress as well.
Money worries might also cause physical symptoms, such as:
- High blood pressure. Stress can make your blood pressure rise, often causing headaches and increased risk of stroke.
- Heart disease. High blood pressure adds to the risk of coronary disease and heart attacks.
- Trouble sleeping. Lying awake thinking about financial problems when you should be resting saps your daytime energy.
- Weight gain. Dealing with financial stress may lead to overeating as a coping mechanism.
- Being tired all the time makes everything worse.
These also might come in bunches—with one possibly leading to or worsening another. The significant stress of physical health issues compounds the other problems. But know that with the right approach, you could manage your stress along with your finances, and see your way to better mental and physical health.
How do you overcome financial stress?
There are several ways to reduce the stress that stems from financial issues. Some are based on taking control of your finances, and some are based on managing the emotions that arise when you are stressed.
5 ways to change your financial situation
- Stop digging. Deciding to “get away from it all” by taking a vacation might seem like a great stress reliever, but it does little to manage stress in the long term. When you return, the stress will be waiting for you—and it will be joined by the vacation costs you incurred to take your trip. Then there’s “retail therapy”—shopping when you feel bad and buying things to cheer yourself up. Although it might provide short-term happiness, it doesn’t last and you’re right back to dealing with financial issues. Don’t increase debt or take on new debt unless it is part of an overall strategy.
- Create a budget. It might seem like a budget would increase money related stress, but it can be a crucial step toward reaching financial stability. A budget can help relieve stress, not increase it.. With a budget, you decide what money stays in your bank account, what’s spent, and if there’s enough money left over for nonessentials. If your financial goal is to save money, a budget etches that in stone and helps you figure out how to make it happen. You’ll know how much you can put away every month. If you want to send more money to a credit card company to pay down that debt, you’ll know how much you can afford.
- Set up an emergency fund. Even if you’re struggling, putting aside a few dollars each month for unexpected expenses may help you ease the worry. Just knowing you have the emergency fund is often a great comfort. Budget a small amount for it—even $10 a month will get you started. Eventually, you could reach the common, long-term goal of having a few months’ living expenses set aside.
- Seek practical financial advice. There are many ways to accomplish this — you could speak with a financial planner, take some courses on money management, or talk to a credit counseling service about restructuring debt and payment options. Each of these activities puts you in the driver’s seat to learn more about managing your finances.
- Call your creditors. Tell them you’re having payment troubles. Ask about repayment options. Or ask to lower your interest rate — even if it’s just for the short-term. Tell them that you want to do everything possible to make the minimum payments, but you could use some leeway.
5 ways to change your mental state
- Acknowledge mistakes. Much financial anxiety stems from dwelling on past financial mistakes. Instead, acknowledge the mistakes, vow not to repeat them, and move forward. Work to overcome issues, not lament over them.
- Decide to make changes. Determine what you can change. If income is the issue, look into a side job. Perhaps sell any unneeded items for extra cash. If overspending is a problem, make a budget your priority and decide to stick to it.
- Create a support system. Don’t try to handle the stress all by yourself. Set up a financial date night with your significant other to go over money concerns and discuss what each of you might do to help. Talk with parents and siblings and ask for advice. They might have faced some of the same issues. If things seem like they are more than you can handle, consider seeing a professional therapist or counselor.
- Record your progress. When you make progress, make note of it. If things slip, write down why and what steps you’ll take to address the issues. Clearly seeing progress and obstacles goes a long way to reducing ongoing stress.
- Check your bank balance regularly. Uncertainty can fuel anxiety, so know your checking and savings account balances and how they stack up to your budget. No guesswork means fewer surprises. Even if you discover that you’ll be short on funds for a given month, it might not be fun, but you’ll know in advance. It won’t scare you at the last second—and the knowledge lets you plan for how to handle it.
Relieving financial stress
With solid planning, and the right ideas, you could have a good shot at beating financial stress. A working budget, some mental health boosters, and slow-but-steady progress could put you back in control of your finances. And being on the right track can sure ease the worry.