Image of a teddy bear in bed with a thermometer and bandages signifying financial stress affecting health.

Financial stress can have major effects on your health. Stress, in general, can cause heart attacks, strokes, and many other serious health issues regardless of the source. Learn about the effects of financial stress on your health and what you can do to prevent or reduce it.

Are you stressed about your finances?

Financial stress can affect nearly every facet of your life, this we know. Chances are, if you're reading this, you've experienced some level of financial stress yourself or you know someone who has. While we can agree that it affects you in some way, do you know exactly HOW financial stress can affect you physically? If you constantly find yourself consumed with much money you have (or don't) and how you're going to keep a roof over your head, get to work, and possibly feed your family than you could certainly develop one of several stress-related health conditions. If these conditions go unnoticed or untreated it could even result in very serious, sometimes life-threatening illnesses.

We're not saying that you should ignore your finances by any means. In fact, tackling them head-on and as soon as you're able is something we highly encourage. Of course, you should be concerned if you're having difficulty paying your bills. Being concerned about your finances is the best way to have a good handle on them; keep them under control. Our hope is that you recognize the point at which worrying about your finances progresses into stressing about your finances in an unhealthy way. It's imperative that you understand the effects of financial stress so that you are aware of the risks involved in continuing to foster financial stress in lieu of seeking help with your debts.

Are you prepared for a financial crisis?

A large amount of debt, a job loss or overtime reduction, medical bills, or simply being irresponsible with your spending could cause undue financial stress. We call each of these instances a financial crisis. Even if you are financially responsible, an unexpected expense could be all it takes to send you into financial duress, especially if you're not prepared to cope with it. A financial crisis is very difficult to plan for, and unless you've created a crisis budget to prepare for a crisis a significant amount ahead of time, you could find yourself in a very hectic frame of mind. Imagine driving to work and an irresponsible driver causes you to get into a collision. Now, hopefully you're alright, but if you need to go the hospital those bills can add up fast. It doesn't stop there; your car is now unusable. Do you have the money to purchase a used car out of pocket so you're able to make it to work? These crisis' are often a slippery slope.

Are student loans causing you financial stress?

Student loan debt is another concern that is rapidly increasing. Student loan debt topples credit card debt for Americans and it is now the second largest form of debt in the country. Recent college graduates spend tens of thousands of dollars in the hopes that they will graduate into the work force and begin a lucrative career in their field. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many twenty-somethings. In fact, according to Forbes.com, about one-third of millennials regret going to college because of the debt they've found themselves in upon graduating. It's becoming all too common a story that a student graduates, cannot find a job in their field (let alone one that pays above minimum wage for an entry level position), and is required to make monthly payments on their loans that they cannot afford. The average student has $37k in debt. These graduates had very little time to save in their college years, and are now responsible for their own bills which also need to be paid in order to survive. Talk about stress!

How does financial stress affect your health?

Financial stress affects your health in many ways and these health issues can affect your home life, career and make it feel that is impossible to ever turn things around. If any of these effects of stress are causing you duress, please, consult your physician immediately.

Two of the most common effects of financial stress are anxiety and depression. These two conditions usually go hand-in-hand. Each one is a debilitating condition that makes it hard to focus at work, spend time with your family, and keep up with your bills and other financial responsibilities. The stress of having too much credit card debt, college loan payments, or medical bills can weigh on a person and cause severe anxiety and depression. If you are behind financially and are feeling discouraged and hopeless or have feelings of constant worry and poor concentration, you may be seeing signs of one of these disorders.

Anxiety can manifest in many ways, but most people that suffer with it report panic attacks where their chest feels like it's tightening, it becomes difficult to breathe, and it's often coupled with the inescapable sense of impending doom- the idea that something terrible is happening, it's growing, and it won't go away. Anxiety is mental as well as physical. Even if you aren't in the throes of a panic attack, you may still be experiencing racing and unwanted thoughts, profuse sweating, trembling, nausea, and a rapid heartbeat.

Depression goes beyond just general feelings of sadness and self-doubt. There is a wide array of physical and mental symptoms associated with depression that may include trouble sleeping, a change in appetite (over eating or under eating), a lack of interest in favorite activities, risk-taking behavior, and particularly dark thoughts. Depression could be caused by the divorce or death of a loved one, and now the financial burden remains on you to support your household with only one income. Depression should not be taken lightly, and yet it can be a very unfortunate response to stress caused by personal and financial problems.

According to webmd.com, the idea that stress is 'in your head' is a common misconception. Stress is an inherent physiologic response to a threat. When you're extremely stressed, your body enters the "fight or flight" mode. Adrenaline (a hormone that increases heart rate, pulse, and blood pressure) races through your veins during a stress reaction and you either want to utilize this adrenaline to 'fight' through the current situation or take 'flight' by running away, or avoiding the situation as much as possible. Physical responses occur inside your body when you're stressed, regardless of the cause, and they can drastically affect your body and lead to severe health issues even if you're not aware of it. Pay attention to what your body is telling you.

Other conditions that can be caused or worsened by financial stress:

  • Heart Disease/Attack
  • Gastrointestinal Problems
  • Weight Gain/Loss
  • Eating Disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Insomnia
  • Psoriasis
  • Cancer
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Substance Abuse

What can I do to prevent stress-related illnesses?

Whether the stress is caused by something you're not prepared for, or because you have insufficient money management skills you need to understand that you CAN do something about it and for your sake (and in most cases your family's sake) you MUST. We all experience stressful situations at some times in our lives, but it's how we deal with that stress that shapes our experiences afterwards. For instance, let's say that you were laid off suddenly and the holidays are right around the corner. Allowing yourself to succumb to the symptoms of financial stress could cause depression, anxiety, and other illnesses that could actually make it very difficult to find another job quickly, if at all. You will be able to find a job faster if you're focused and diligent and you will interview much better with a clear head. Instead of 'flight', try a positive method of utilizing 'fight'- sign up for unemployment services if you're having difficulties with immediately finding new employment. Then take some time to freshen up your resume and spend a few hours a week searching for new prospects. No matter the situation, it will be a long, hard road, but that stress could loom over you until you've conquered whatever may be causing your financial stress.

Tips for stress relief

  • Consult Your Doctor
  • Deep Breathing
  • Meditation
  • Talk to someone
  • Listen to music
  • Eat a healthy snack
  • Yoga
  • Exercise

Better yet, be proactive. Consult the source of the stress, and spend some of your time working towards changing that. Write a budget and get your finances down on paper. See what you make, what your monthly responsibilities are, and what your debts are. Even getting it all on the page will help you confront it. Take small steps. Make the budget, and take a break before you come back to tally up the totals. Once you do get some numbers down, don't panic! Remember, your health is your most valuable asset.

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