4 ways financial stress could be ruining your health — and what to do about it

Did you know that money is the biggest source of stress for Americans? A survey by Northwestern Mutual found that money was the dominant source of stress for 44% of Americans, followed by personal relationships (25%) and work (18%).

Your financial situation is one that is considered in nearly every decision you make, which is why it’s difficult to not think about it. Buying groceries, planning a vacation, paying your mortgage, student loans, buying new clothes — all of these decisions require that you think about how much (or little) money you have.

Financial stress takes a major toll on one’s health, but there are ways to combat it.

Physical health

Financial stress, like other forms of stress, cause increased levels of cortisol, which can leave people at risk for developing heart attacks, strokes, weight gain, and cardiovascular disease. If left unmanaged, these can lead to long hospital stays (which only increase financial obligations and pile on more stress) and death. Make sure you are eating right, exercising, meditating, or engaging in activities that bring you joy. They don’t have to cost money, but the positive impacts on your mind and body will make a big difference.

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Mental health

Financial concerns also have a big impact on a person’s mental health and can lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts if not managed properly. Taking time every day to address these stressors is important — be it going through your budget to determine ways to save or talking to a financial advisor or therapist about your stresses — will help it not feel all-consuming. If necessary, ask for an evaluation to see if medication may be an option to help treat ongoing, acute depression and anxiety. Talk to someone about how you are feeling. It can feel embarrassing to open up about your finances, but keeping it inside is only impacting your mental health in a negative way.

Feeling out of control

Oftentimes, you find yourself looking at your bank account and thinking, “There’s no way I’ve spent this much money this month.” Find time to sit down and go line by line in your bank account to see where you are spending extra money you haven’t budgeted for. If you don’t, you may feel like you don’t have control over the situation, which can lead to even more stress. There are steps you can take every single day to ensure you’re in charge of your money, not the other way around. If you need ideas, talk to a financial advisor, your bank, or someone you trust to offer their advice.

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Sleeplessness

Financial stress often makes people feel like they are stuck with little idea of how to move forward. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness, which can impact a person’s ability to switch off at the end of the day. Sleep is a critical component of one’s health, and if you spend hours lying awake at night, the damage to your mind and body will get worse. Talk to your doctor if you have prolonged bouts of insomnia to see if there is something they can provide to help you rest. If not, you’ll become so mentally and physically exhausted that it will only lead to more stress.

We all experience stressful situations at some time in our lives, and dealing with financial stress is no different. It’s how we choose to respond to that stress that can make or break its impact on our health. Being proactive and not allowing ourselves to feel like victims when it comes to managing our money is crucial. If you can’t afford someone professionally, write down all of your incomings and outgoings and find places to cut. They may seem small, but it adds up over time.

If you are able, consider finding another source of income. There are many jobs you can do at home to earn additional money that can be put toward savings or paying off bills. If you lose your job, begin networking immediately so your bills don’t pile up. You are in control of your financial stress. Your health is your number one priority.

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