Most Americans face some level of financial stress. For some, it’s a matter of making ends meet, since 78 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. For others, it’s something more advanced, like worrying about a stressful investment. In any case, this stress is hard to avoid and easy to write off; most people simply accept that the stress is always going to be a part of their life, and don’t give it a second thought.
However, financial stress can add up to have a massive impact on your health and wellbeing. If you care about yourself and your family, you need to take that stress seriously.
Stress and Health
Stress is a natural part of life, and if you magically didn’t feel it in relation to your finances, you’d probably feel it elsewhere. That said, chronically high levels of stress can start to have a noticeable impact on your health in a matter of weeks to months.
The symptoms start out somewhat mild, including:
- Physical symptoms. You may start to feel muscle soreness, tension, or pain in response to stress. You could also experience headaches, have trouble sleeping, or deal with an upset stomach.
- Mental and emotional symptoms. You’ll also notice yourself feeling more anxious and restless in your daily life. You could also feel overwhelmed, sad, depressed, angry, or irritable.
- Behavioral symptoms. If you’re chronically stressed, you may turn to alcohol, drugs, or tobacco. You might withdraw from social activities, overeat, under eat, or find yourself prone to more outbursts.
Over time, your stress can add up to create an even bigger negative impact on your life. You could find yourself at higher risk for many chronic conditions and major health events like having a stroke.
Controlling Your Financial Stress
You first step in getting your stress under control is controlling your finances and your response to your finances. This is likely one of your biggest life stressors, and learning to manage it can be massively positive.
Fortunately, there are a few key steps you can take in this area:
- Educate yourself. First, try to educate yourself on financial matters. If you’re new to the world of personal finance, better understanding things like compound interest, budgeting, and good saving habits can help you feel more confident about your choices (and lead you to better long-term choices). If you’re more experienced, teaching yourself new things can help you resolve your biggest financial concerns, and can similarly boost your confidence.
- Revisit your budget. If you aren’t happy with your finances, take a look at your budget. Are there areas of unnecessary spending you could cut entirely? Are there certain problem points that need to be resolved? Establishing a better financial foundation here can drastically reduce your stress.
- Create an emergency fund. If you have a robust emergency fund in place, you’ll have much less to worry about overall; even losing a job is manageable, since you’ll have some money to keep you going for a few months while you look for a new position. Even if you only save a little each month, eventually you can build this to a size that keeps your stress at bay indefinitely.
- Put things in perspective. Try to see your financial losses and challenges in perspective. If you’re young, you have plenty of time to make up for your current circumstances. If you suffered a loss for the month, it’s still only one month out of hundreds you’ll have in your life.
Relieving Stress Overall
If you’ve taken these financial steps and you still find yourself stressed (from finances or other areas of your life), these strategies can help you keep the remainder of your stressors under control:
- Exercise. Physical exercise is one of the best ways to reduce and manage stress in your life. You’ll burn stress immediately upon moving your body, and will keep yourself in better shape, which can help you manage stress continuously.
- Take time off work. It may be difficult to take a vacation or even a few days off work, but if your job is stressful, this is a must. Mental health days are underrated.
- Get enough sleep. Schedule time for sleep like you would any important event in your life. Keep a consistent schedule of sleeping and waking up at the same times, and avoid caffeine and digital screens before bed.
- Spend more social time. Spending time with friends and family members will always make you feel better. Try to carve out more social time, if you can.
Stress is unavoidable, but it is manageable, especially in the context of your financial habits. Take your financial stress seriously, and work to keep it under control. Nothing is more important than your health and wellbeing.
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes.