Do you often find yourself thinking about your finances throughout the day? Do you lose sleep over your current financial situation or find it hard to enjoy everyday events because of financial uncertainties? If you’ve noticed that a large amount of the stress in your life is linked to money and you’re trying to figure out how to deal with financial stress, you’re not alone. Finances ranked as the No. 1 stressor in a recent survey for the second year in a row, outranking politics, work and family.
The Toll of Financial Stress
Sure, there’s such a thing as “healthy stress” when it comes to finances. Humans are equipped to deal with stress, which allows us to avoid danger and face challenges. That stress is the motivator that helps you make sure you’re staying on budget, paying your bills and saving responsibly for the future. But when the stress becomes persistent and you cross over from healthy worrying to unhealthy financial stress, it’s important to take the time to analyze what is causing that stress and create a plan to alleviate it.
According to Forbes, individuals with high financial stress are twice as likely to report poor health overall and are four times more likely to complain of ailments.
- Stress can lead to headaches, stomach aches and mental health concerns, such as anxiety, depression and trouble sleeping.
- Even more concerning, when stress continues for an extended period, it can lead to chronic physical conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes and greater psychological distress which can cause difficulties with family members, friends, and in the workplace.
- People under financial stress tend to cut corners when it comes to healthcare. 29% of American adults held off seeking medical care in 2018 because of cost. While it may save you money in the short term, delaying medical care can lead to worse health outcomes and even higher medical costs, which ultimately leads to more financial hardship.
Financial Stress in Good Times and Bad
It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic brought significant financial hurdles to many. From layoffs and businesses struggling to stay afloat to increased prices of goods and employment instability, this financial stress was felt coast to coast and around the globe.
During the pandemic, more than 40% of Americans worried about not having enough money saved during the economic crisis, with a quarter of Americans wondering if they had enough money to pay their upcoming utility bills, mortgage or rent. These stressors weren’t only felt by lower-income families. The stress levels were the same across all income levels, from those who made under $50,000 a year to those who made above $100,000 annually.
Of course, financial stress existed long before the pandemic and it will exist long after the pandemic is a distant memory. In 2018 and 2019, when unemployment was at its lowest point in years, the stock market was up and the GDP grew substantially, many Americans still suffered from financial worry.
Managing your Financial Stress
Focus on the things you can control.
Some causes of stress are out of your control and dwelling on those can lead to frustration and more stress. Instead, focus on the things that you can control to improve your financial situation. Start by analyzing your spending habits and create a simple food budget. You’ll likely need to take additional steps to keep your finances heading in the right direction but getting a handle on your food budget is a great way to see fast results and will help you gain a sense of control over your situation, motivating you to take your efforts beyond your grocery bill.
Start a side hustle.
This will look different from person to person, family to family. Take some time to consider your hobbies and the different strengths within your household.
- Is there a craft or hobby you enjoy, such as candle making or preserving jam, that you could sell locally for extra cash?
- Are you and your kids rock star cleaners? Offer your cleaning services to friends, families and neighbors for a small fee.
- If your house is feeling a bit cluttered and chaotic (which can bring about household stress itself,) host a yard sale for some extra jingle in your pocket. If you know your neighbors well, organize a neighborhood yard sale or ask if they have any lightly used items they’d like to donate to yours.
Pay the essential bills.
When money is tight, the initial question is usually, “What payments can I push off until next month?” Taking a detailed look at your monthly expenses is crucial at this stage because it highlights what must be paid this month, (rent, utilities, etc.) and what payments can potentially be canceled or pushed to next month (gym membership, cable services, streaming platforms, etc.). Prioritizing these expenses will ensure the essentials get paid first, keeping your household operating smoothly as you create a game plan to tackle the additional payments due.
Find your support system.
Having a strong support system is crucial when navigating a stressful time in your life. Having people to talk to who can provide help or guidance is important to your health. This could be family members, friends, a formal support group, religious organization, mentor, counselor or therapist.
Manage your overall health.
When it feels like money-related stress is consuming your entire life, it’s important to take time to focus on your overall wellbeing. Whether your financial difficulties have kept you from physical activity, meditating or building meaningful relationships with your loved ones, set time aside for these important parts of your life. Going on a jog, journaling, sitting down to catch up with an old friend, playing with your pet or just vacating your mind with a few episodes of your favorite TV show can help improve your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, improving your health, mood and giving you motivation to defeat your financial troubles.
And sometimes all you really need is to sit down with a financial professional who can help you sort through your financial challenges. Having an outsider’s perspective can help cut to the core of your issues, ask the hard questions and get you pointed in the right direction. If you are unable to make payments for loans or credit cards you have with Verve or think you could benefit from sitting down with a professional to discuss your current financial situation, call us at 800.448.9228 to discuss your options.