Health & Wellness

Handling Financial Stress: 3 Tips to Calm Your Stress by Planning Ahead

Think back to the last time you were faced with handling financial stress. Perhaps it was during the holidays or your paycheck was less than you’d planned. Maybe your bank account took a big hit due to an unexpected medical bill or you didn’t have the money to buy an anniversary gift for your spouse or partner. Whatever the case, worrying about your finances can cause a lot of stress, which impacts your health in many ways.

The good news is that there are ways you can manage this stress so that it doesn’t cause a myriad of health effects. Let’s take a look at some ways you can stress less about money and some of my top tips for handling financial stress so that you’ll be prepared if you experience stress related to money matters in the future.

The Money and Stress Connection

If you’re stressed about finances, you aren’t alone. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, a recent survey showed that money is the No. 1 cause of stress for Americans.

In fact, 72 percent of Americans reported feeling stressed about money in the last month, while 44 percent stated they regularly feel stress and anxiety due to financial problems. [1] Moreover, money has remained the top source of stress for Americans for the last 13 years. [2]

Handling financial stress - Dr. Pingel

Unfortunately, handling financial stress is weighing on our health, with more and more research confirming what you might suspect: Financial concerns are leading to many different problems and illnesses—from anxiety to depression to relationship troubles to an increase in headaches, stomachaches, and even insomnia! [3]

Even worse, studies have shown that financial troubles actually worsen mental health, while worsening mental health, in turn, increase financial woes. Researchers suggested this pattern may cause a “vicious cycle.” [4]

But that’s not all. A 2018 study followed more than 4,500 people before, during, and after the Great Recession that lasted from 2008 to 2010. Their findings? Both blood pressure levels and blood sugar levels increased during the recession for the participants.

Interestingly, the changes in these markers of heart health were more significant in people under 65, who were still working, and people over the age of 65 who also owned their homes and were responsible for the maintenance and all the costs involved in owning a home. [5]

The good news? Studies have also shown that there are steps you can take to mitigate the many effects of handling financial stress. So, let’s take a closer look at things you can start doing immediately to help lower your stress and protect your health and wellbeing.

3 Tips for Handling Financial Stress

1. Plan ahead.

It’s a given that some situations are easier to plan for than others, and it’s impossible to plan ahead for every financial curveball you’ll be thrown. But there are a few situations that impact your finances that you know are coming. For example, the holidays along with any anniversaries and birthdays come around during the same time each year.

So, take a long, hard look at your finances and determine an amount that you can set aside with each paycheck or once a month—whatever works for you. Commit to a specific amount and either put it in a separate account or in a special place at home. When those special occasions roll around, only draw from that fund.

You can also do the same for an emergency fund to help cover any costs incurred from unexpected medical expenses or other situations that may arise, such as job loss. Ideally, you want to have about six months of income set aside. And while this may take a while to accomplish, once you hit that number, you can spend any extra savings on something fun!

Additionally, when it comes to planning ahead as a way of handling financial stress, try to make a plan for how to handle your stress when financial concerns do happen. What do I mean? Have a plan for what to do to help mitigate your stress during those times. Want some suggestions? Keep reading for some specifics in the next two tips!

2. Take a time-out for yourself.

If you find that you’re in the midst of handling financial stress, you can make a plan for how you’re going to calm your stress and anxiety. How? Well, one way is to take a time-out for yourself.

It can be hard to calm a racing mind, especially when you’re concerned about money, but there are a few ways you can disconnect. Start by physically removing yourself from the location in which you were dealing with the stress. So, for example, step away from your desk for a few moments.

Find a quiet spot and try to practice meditation or take some deep breaths. Believe it or not, it really does help.  Both breathing and meditation are both great exercises to help decrease your anxiety and stress, which will help to put your mind at ease. They work by instantly calming both your mind and body. [6]

Additionally, according to a 2009 study, practicing transcendental meditation helped to decrease blood pressure and improved anxiety, depression, anger and hostility, and coping skills in college students. [7]

Those benefits could come in useful when you’re handling financial stress, right?

3. Ask for social support.

If you find that you need additional support while handling financial stress, one of the best things you can do is reach out to a trusted friend or family member. Now, I’m not suggesting that you ask them for financial help. Interestingly, studies have shown that simply having a shoulder to lean on has a very calming effect.

In fact, a 2014 study revealed that people with high levels of financial stress and minimal social support were six to seven times more likely to experience poor psychological wellbeing and numerous psychosomatic symptoms. These symptoms included pain, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, depression, dizziness and more. [8]

Interestingly, in comparison, those with high levels of financial stress who also had significant social support were about 50 percent less likely to experience poor psychological wellbeing and psychosomatic symptoms!

Other studies have also shown that friendships can actually help improve your health by providing a buffer to stressful situations. [9] Both giving and receiving social support has been shown to support healthy blood pressure levels, lower inflammation, and more. [10]

While it can be uncomfortable discussing financial situations with others, it’s easy to see how important it is to have a support system and people you can turn to in times of stress. Simply sharing your concerns and feeling supported can be a great therapeutic aid when you’re handling financial stress.

Key Takeaways

  • Worrying about your finances can cause a lot of stress, which impacts your health in many ways.
  • According to the American Psychological Association, a recent survey showed that money is the No. 1 cause of stress for Americans.
  • Financial concerns are leading to many different problems and illnesses—from anxiety to depression to relationship troubles to an increase in headaches, stomachaches, and even insomnia!
  • Luckily, there are things you can do to help you when you’re handling financial stress. These include: planning ahead, taking time for yourself, and asking for social support.

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