A little bit of stress about our finances can be all you need to get serious about your money and get into healthy habits. Too much, however, can be very bad for your mental health.
Like other types of stress, financial stress has two components. The first is objective financial difficulty, where you don’t have enough money to pay your bills. The second is subjective, which is how you see and think about your current and future finances.
While the two are related in most cases, sometimes they are not. Some people can have trouble meeting all their expenses without being overly worried about it. Others still worry about money even when they are reasonably secure.
The point is that stress is a personal matter that looks different for every person. Generally speaking, however, stress about finances often leads to:
- Poor sleep. When you lie awake at night because you are worried, your body and mind will eventually suffer.
- Lower self-esteem. It is easy to feel ashamed and like a failure when you have to say ‘no’ to your children or ask your parents or siblings for money.
- Relationship trouble. Money is one of the biggest reasons why relationships and marriages fail. Financial stress can make you angry and irritable, you lose interest in your partner and, eventually, even the strongest relationship could end because of it.
- Anxiety. Money can be a safety net; without it, you may feel vulnerable and anxious.
Worrying about unpaid bills can cause anxiety symptoms such as a pounding heartbeat, sweating, shaking or even panic attacks.
- Social withdrawal. Financial worries can cause you to withdraw from friends so that you spend more and more time on your own. This will only make your stress worse.
- Depression. Studies have found that people on earning lower incomes are at the greatest risk of becoming depressed. But it is also true that people who are unhappy with their financial status – even if they do have more than enough to make ends meet – can also be depressed.
- Substance abuse. Often people turn to alcohol or drugs to help them forget about their troubles.
If you experience any of these signs, here are some tips you can try to help yourself.
- Ask for help. Simply sharing your burden with someone you trust can make a huge difference. When you keep thinking about your problems, they tend to become bigger and bigger; when you share them, you will definitely start to see them differently.
- Take small steps. Instead of trying to fix everything at once, decide on one or two things you can do differently and do them. Maybe it’s just tracking your spending for a week to get a handle on where your money goes. Every little thing you do, will also make you feel more in control.
- Be kind to yourself. Yes, you probably made some bad money decisions in the past, but that doesn’t mean you cannot do better from now on. Also, your financial situation doesn’t determine your worth as an individual. If you remember that, you will feel less sadness, shame or guilt.
- Take care of yourself. Try to eat more fruit and vegetables and less fatty or sweet foods. Get some exercise, even if it is just a walk in a park. Make an effort to see the people you love. If you need medication in the short term to sleep better, ask your doctor. Take a break from the media and the news – you don’t need a stream of bad news flowing into your mind.
- Practice gratitude. When you feel overwhelmed by money worries, it is difficult to see any good in life. To help change your thinking, be grateful on purpose. You can do this by every day writing down three things you are grateful for. Start a gratitude chat on WhatsApp with a few friends and share your gratitudes.
Money stress can be destructive, but you can deal with it. Bayport is always available to help.