May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and we wanted to highlight how finances can gravely affect someone's mental health. The constant need to balance your budget and constantly accounting for your rent/mortgage, paying for groceries, paying for bills, medical expenses and the need to save for retirement can be overwhelming for many people. According to the American Psychological Association, roughly 72% of adults report varying levels of stress that result from worrying about finances and 44% say their finances are the leading cause of their stress, meaning almost 3/4 of adults in the US will suffer from financial stress. With this article, we want to spread awareness of the negative impact of financial stress and the different coping mechanisms you can use to combat it and keep your mind at ease.
The Impact on Your Health:
Financial stress can have an impact on your mental and physical health, both directly and indirectly. Here is how financial stress impacts Americans.
Delaying Health Care: 51% of American adults have said that they have skipped or delayed medical care due to financial costs.
Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms: 34% of American Adults say they overeat or eat unhealthy foods due to stress, while 26% say they skip meals for the exact same reasons. Additionally, data suggests that both men and women that have reported higher levels of stress tend to drink more.
Poor Mental Health: 46% of people who have debt say they also have mental health disorders, and those with debt are 3 times more likely to contemplate suicide due to their debt. Stress can also lead to other emotional and mental issues, such as anxiety or irritability, depression, panic attacks and bouts of sadness.
Poor Physical Health: Stress can result in physical ailments. Some of the physical symptoms of stress can be aches and pains, chest pain or a feeling like your heart is racing, exhaustion or trouble sleeping, headaches, dizziness or shaking, high blood pressure, muscle tension or jaw clenching, stomach or digestive problems and a weakened immune system.
How To Manage Financial Stress:
Financial Stress is something that can feel like as if it is taking over your life and that there is no way out. This is not true. Here are some tips on how you can cope or eliminate the stress of dealing with finances and some steps you can take in order to alleviate some of your financial burdens to eliminate the causes of your stress.
The best way to deal with stress is to eliminate what is causing the stress to begin with.
Increase Your Income: If you are in need of additional pay or believe you are underpaid, you can approach your boss or management about a pay increase to alleviate some financial burdens.
If this fails you should consider looking for new employment with an increased salary/wage. Many people are comfortable in their current place of employment and are afraid to leave, but this can be to the detriment of one's health. Finding a new employment opportunity can also be used as leverage to get a raise at your current employer. This can allow you to remain somewhere you are more comfortable.
While searching for a new opportunity, or if you are unable to find one, you can always supplement your income with additional sources. You can get a second job or create a "side hustle" in order to supplement your income. This method can also be a stress creator, so make sure your health comes first when trying this method.
Create/Optimize Your Budget: Take the time to review your schedule, declutter and organize your budget. Try to eliminate any non-essential bills; a little can go a long way.
Understand and Manage Your Debt: Do your research and take the time to review and understand your debt. Pay attention to interest rates and start paying off your debts with the highest rates first to avoid paying higher costs over time. Studies have also shown that paying off one account at a time will allow you to clear your debt quicker.
Investing and Asset Management: Have your assets work for you. Investing is important for credit and stability. Invest in yourself with financial products, stocks, mutual funds, etc and real estate (look to buy a condo or co-op instead of renting). This can help with your long-term ability to be financially independent.
Use Stress Management and Relief Techniques and Resources:
As you work on sorting out your finances there are steps you can take to improve your health.
Engage In Self-Care: There are several things you can do for stress management that you can do for yourself. Try any physical activity, ie. yoga, walking/running, working out, etc., these can lift your mood and will improve your mental and physical health. The right diet and eating healthy can also improve your mental health.
Keep a positive mental attitude, push out any negative thoughts, say no to additional & unneeded responsibilities, meditation, breathing exercises and take time to relax. Allow yourself to take mental breaks and block out the negativity. Try your best to prevent anything that can add to or create additional stress.
Music can be used as a therapeutic tool to not only reduce stress, but to also improve one’s overall emotional well-being. Research demonstrates that the use of music in addition to standard therapeutic methods can provide additional benefits for people with stress, depression and anxiety, compared to those who received just therapy without the use of music. This includes listening to music, playing a musical instrument, singing along to music and using guided imagery with music.
Seek Medical Advice: Don't be afraid to reach out to your doctor or a therapist. There is no shame in being so overwhelmed you need to seek medical advice. In some cases, medication might be prescribed, but you should only take the medication with a doctor/medical professional's approval and oversight.
If you explore these resources and techniques you are sure to find some that will help you mitigate and alleviate your stress.
Managing your finances can be overwhelming and daunting at times. It is key you do your best to prevent financial stress and take the steps necessary to improve both your mental and physical health that can be affected by financial stress.