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Staying out of stress financially

If you are at that phase in life where money has become a constant source of stress, know that you are not dealing with it alone. In the current market, facing a financial crisis could stem from a number of reasons, which include loss of work, mounting debt, unforeseen expenses, or a combination of factors.

Consistent economic difficulties since the pandemic mean that even more of us are grappling with financial hardships. Facing financial problems is one of the most common reasons leading to mental and physical health struggles, taking a toll on your overall quality of life and all your important relationships. 

It is easy to get bogged down by continuous financial difficulties, but no matter how hopeless the state of affairs seems to be, help is always available. It is not wise to run away from these problems as that is a sure-shot way of exacerbating them while by tackling them on time you can keep your stress levels in check, and gain better control of your finances. 

Understanding how financial stress impacts your health

If you are feeling overwhelmed with stress around personal finance issues, you will soon find it affecting your mind, body, and social life. Here are some ways in which it can manifest:

  1. Disturbed sleep: Sometimes insomnia is a direct outcome of your stress, leaving you with disturbed sleep, and worrying about unpaid bills through the night. 
  2. Weight gain: If your financial struggles are big enough to stress you out, it can unbalance your appetite. You might indulge in binge eating causing you to anxiously overeat or skip meals
  3. Depression: Living with persistent money problems can leave anyone feeling down and struggling to concentrate and make decisions
  4. Anxiety: Money is a safety net; without which one may feel vulnerable. All that worrying can trigger anxiety or panic attacks
  5. Relationship challenges: Money is often among the most common issues for fighting among couples
  6. Social withdrawal: Financial worries can clip your wings and cause you to withdraw from friends, curtail your social life, and retreat into your shell—which will only make your stress worse.
  7. Physical ailments: Sometimes there are also negative physical manifestations of this stress such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
  8. Unhealthy coping mechanisms:   such as drinking too much, abusing prescription or illegal drugs, gambling, or overeating. Money worries can even lead to self-harm demonstrating a cyclical link between financial worries and mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. 
  9. Financial problems adversely affect your mental health. The stress of debt or other financial issues leaves you feeling depressed or anxious

Talk to someone 

When you’re facing money problems, there’s often a strong temptation to bottle everything up and try to go it alone. Many of us even consider money a taboo subject, one not to be discussed with others. You may feel awkward about disclosing the amount you earn or spend, feel shame about any financial mistakes you’ve made, or embarrassed about not being able to provide for your family. But bottling things up will only make your financial stress worse.

In the current economy, where many people are struggling through no fault of their own, you’ll likely find others are far more understanding of your problems. 

Not only is talking face-to-face with a trusted friend or loved one a proven means of stress relief, but speaking openly about your financial problems can also help you put things in perspective. Getting professional advice Depending on where you live, there are a number of organizations that offer free counseling on dealing with financial problems, whether it’s managing debt, creating and sticking to a budget, finding work, communicating with creditors, or claiming benefits or financial assistance . 

Take inventory of your finances 

The first step to devising a plan to solve your money problems is to detail your income, debt, and spending over the course of at least one month. A number of websites and smartphone apps can help you keep track of your finances moving forward or you can work backwards by gathering receipts and examining bank and credit card statements. Obviously, some money difficulties are easier to solve than others, but by taking inventory of your finances you’ll have a much clearer idea of ​​where you stand. 

Include every source of income

  • Besides salary, you should also include bonuses, benefits, alimony, child support, or the interest you receive
  • Track all your spending down to a tee
  • List your debts, including past-due bills, late fees, and minimum payments due as well as any money you owe to family or friends. 
  • Identify spending patterns and triggers. 
  • Once you’re aware of your triggers you can find healthier ways of coping with them than resorting to retail therapy 
  • Eliminate impulse spending. 

Financial problems sometimes go beyond money 

Sometimes, the causes for your financial difficulties may lie elsewhere. For example, money troubles can stem from problem gambling, fraud abuse, or a mental health issue, such as overspending during a bipolar manic episode. To prevent the same financial problems from recurring, it’s imperative you address both the underlying issue and the money troubles it’s created in your life. 

Make a plan and stick to it. The plan to address your specific problem could be to live within a tighter budget, lower the interest rate on your credit card debt, curb your online spending, seek government benefits, declare bankruptcy, or to find a new job or additional source of income.

If you’ve taken inventory of your financial situation, eliminated discretionary and impulse spending, and your outgoings still exceed your income, there are essentially three choices open to you: increase your income, lower your spending, or both. How you go about achieving any of those goals will require making a plan and following through on it. 

Identify your financial problem

Having taken inventory, you should be able to clearly identify the financial problem you’re facing. It may be that you have too much credit card debt, do not have enough income, or overspend on unnecessary purchases when you feel stressed or anxious. Or perhaps, it’s a combination of problems.

Make a separate plan for each one. 2. Devise a solution. Brainstorm ideas with your family or a trusted friend, or consult a free financial counseling service. You may decide that talking to credit card companies and requesting a lower interest rate would help solve your problem. Or maybe you need to restructure your debt, eliminate your car payment, downsize your home, or talk to your boss about working overtime. 3. Put your plan into action. Be specific about how you can follow through on the solutions you’ve devised.

Perhaps that means cutting up credit cards, networking for a new job, registering at a local food bank, or selling things on eBay to pay off bills, for example. 

Monitor your progress. As we’ve all experienced recently, events that impact your financial health can happen quickly, so it’s important to regularly review your plan. Are some aspects working better than others? Do changes in interest rates, your monthly expenses, or your hourly wage, for example, mean you should revise your plan?

Create a monthly budget 

Whatever your plan to relieve your financial problems, setting and following a monthly budget can help keep you on track and regain your sense of control. Include everyday expenses in your budget, such as groceries and the cost of traveling to work, as well as monthly rent, mortgage, and utility bills.

For items that you pay annually, such as car insurance or property tax, divide them by 12 so you can set aside money each month. If possible, try to factor in unexpected expenses, such as a medical co-pay or prescription charge if you fall sick, or the cost of home or car repairs.

Set up automatic payments wherever possible to help ensure bills are paid on time and avoid late payments and interest rate hikes. Prioritize your spending. If you’re having trouble covering your expenses each month, it can help to prioritize where your money goes first. For example, feeding and housing yourself and your family and keeping the power on are necessities. Paying your credit card isn’t—even if you’re behind on your payments and have debt collection companies harassing you. Keep looking for ways to save money.

Most of us can find something in our budget that we can eliminate to help make ends meet. Regularly review your budget and look for ways to trim expenses. Enlist support from your spouse, partner, or kids. Make sure everyone in your household is pulling in the same direction and understands the financial goals you’re working towards. 

Manage your overall stress

 Resolving financial problems tends to involve small steps that reap rewards over time. In the current economic climate, it’s unlikely your financial difficulties will disappear overnight. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps right away to ease your stress levels and find the energy and peace of mind to better deal with challenges in the long term. [Read: Stress Management] Get moving. Even a little regular exercise can help ease stress, boost your mood and energy, and improve your self-esteem. Aim for 30 minutes on most days, broken up into short 10-minute bursts if that’s easier. 

Bottom line

problems can cause you to feel like a failure and impact your self-esteem. But there are plenty of other, more rewarding ways to improve your sense of self-worth. Even when you’re struggling yourself, helping others by volunteering can increase your confidence and ease stress, anger, and anxiety—not to mention aid a worthy cause. Or you could spend time in nature, learn a new skill, or enjoy the company of people who appreciate you for who you are, rather than for your bank balance. Eat healthy food. A healthy diet rich in fruit, vegetables, and omega-3s can help support your mood and improve your energy and outlook. 

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