If you experience stress on a regular basis, you’re not alone. We all have stress for one reason or another. Finances are one of the most common causes of stress. While stress is unavoidable, there are things you can do to reduce your experience of stress and ways you can effectively manage financial stress.
What Exactly Is Stress?
Stress is a term used to describe the experience of feeling overwhelmed by the demands of life. It is caused by the difficulty of keeping up with those demands. There are many obligations and responsibilities that can cause stress—parenting, relationships, finances, and work are especially common sources.
Facts About Stress
Stress is a natural and unavoidable consequence of living in a world full of pressures and demands. It’s important to know, however, that not all stress is bad—in fact, stress is actually an essential part of your survival. Have you ever taken a minute to observe what happens to your body when you are stressed? Your heart rate increases, your muscles tense up, and your breathing gets faster. Your body engages in the fight-or-flight response—a reflexive behavior activated to protect you from a dangerous or threatening situation. In this state, you’ill either run or fight for your survival.
But stress can also be helpful when you are not in danger. It can motivate you to push through a difficult task, such as taking a test, giving a presentation, or working overtime. It can help you focus, stay on track, and resist the urge to quit or give up when you are experiencing challenges. Consistent and intense stress, however, can harm your physical and mental health.
How Stress Impacts Your Health
While stress can be beneficial, chronic stress can have a negative impact on your physical and mental health. If your body is repeatedly experiencing the fight or flight response, it doesn’t receive a signal to return to its normal, stable state. For this reason, the disrupted systems within the body are unable to continue functioning normally. Unsurprisingly, chronic stress can increase your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and other illnesses. The areas of your body that are most affected include:
Your reproductive system
Your digestive system
Your cardiovascular system
Your sleep hygiene
Your immune system
Chronic stress also impacts your mental and emotional health. Constant pressure and chronic fight-or-flight responses can increase the frequency of negative emotions and moods. You may experience chronic irritability, sadness, or anger.
Finances continue to be a top stressor for many people. In fact, in a 2014 survey of over 3,500 people, 72 percent of Americans reported feeling stressed out about money at least once within the past 30 days, with 22 percent feeling extremely stressed out.
As of 2014, statistics reveal that:
64 percent of Americans feel that money is a moderate-to-severe source of stress for them.
77 percent of parents with children under 18 years old report money as a major source of stress.
75 percent of Millennials (ages 18-35) report that money is a major source of stress.
76 percent of Generation Xers (ages 36-49) report that money is a major source of stress.
31 percent of people in relationships report that financial stress is a major source of conflict in their relationships.
12 percent of Americans denied themselves medical care due to financial stress.
Know Your Signs of Stress
Stress affects each of us differently. Some of us may withdraw and isolate ourselves, while others may turn to unhealthy ways of coping. Recognizing your internal and external signs of stress is the key to effectively managing and tolerating stress. Internal indicators of stress can look like:
Heavy or fast breathing
Stomach pain or discomfort
Behavioral signs of stress include:
Overeating or under-eating
Arguments and relationship problems
Excessive crying or frequent crying spells
Alcohol and drug use
Increased consumption of nicotine
Reducing Financial Stress
Stress is a normal, naturally occurring part of life. While unavoidable, there are things you can do to reduce the frequency and severity of financial stress. A few small modifications in the way you think and in your decision-making can have a major impact on your stress level and overall quality of life.
Financial stress can be minimized by doing any of the following:
Keep track of your daily spending: Research suggests that tracking daily spending can help reduce the amount of money spent.
Try to avoid impulsive spending: Carry cash instead of credit cards when shopping to avoid impulsive purchases.
Make a budget and include your partner if you’re in a relationship: Make sure you are on the same page and have the same financial goals.
Make a plan and follow through: Identify the areas of your life that are causing the most financial problems (mortgage, credit card debt, etc.) and develop a plan to target those areas.
Reach out and ask for help: This could mean contacting financial institutions, such as your bank or credit card holders, or reaching out to friends and family for support.
Research shows that having a support system of people who are aware of your financial goals can help you stay on track and achieve your objectives. Friends, relatives, and co-workers can be of great assistance when you are dealing with financial stress and trying to recover your financial health.
Other Strategies to Reduce and Manage Stress
You may want to consider reaching out to a counselor or other healthcare professional for support. A licensed professional can be a great source of feedback and support in not only working through financial stress but also developing a game plan to target sources of financial stress. Utilize technology and applications designed to improve your financial health. For example, tracking and budget applications can help you keep tabs on your spending and help you stay on track with your financial goals.
Additional ways to manage stress include:
Maintaining quality sleep hygiene
Taking medications as prescribed
Reducing alcohol intake
Avoiding mind-altering substances
Finding economically friendly ways to relax and enjoy your free time
Maintaining relationships with friends and family
If you’re experiencing the signs and symptoms of stress, don’t wait to reach out for help. Help is available, and there are things you can to do today to help alleviate some of the stress you are experiencing.