Money worries have long been a source of stress for American adults, but the pandemic has only amplified that stress for many households. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to get financial stress under control—it may be difficult to see a path forward for paying off debts, coping with rising housing costs, or saving for the future. Still, there are some steps you can take to rein in your stress for the benefit of your overall health and wellbeing. First, recognize that you are not alone. One study from the American Psychological Association found that 72% of Americans worry about money at least some of the time.
Understanding the Strain of Financial Stress
Worrying about money can make you feel out of control—you simply may not be able to change much about your income or your monthly bills. Over time, these worries can have significant impacts on your daily life. You may experience strain in your personal relationships, difficulty sleeping at night, trouble managing a healthy weight, guilt or shame about your financial situation, or physical ailments like headaches and stomach pain. These feelings may progress into depression or anxiety disorders, and they may have you seeking unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol, recreational drug use, overeating, or other risky behaviors. These vices all have costs of their own, so they may only serve to fuel a cycle of financial strain and negative impacts on your mental health.
Managing Money to Reduce Your Stress
A common pattern with people experiencing financial stress is keeping the problem to themselves and avoiding reaching out for help. However, reaching out for help doesn’t have to mean asking loved ones to borrow money—you may find that simply talking to someone about your stress can help you feel better. Seeking professional therapy can provide you with a trustworthy, unbiased perspective along with strategies for managing stress and accountability in implementing better money management habits.
If you constantly struggle to keep your finances balanced or feel that there’s just no way to reduce your monthly spending, you may reach out to your bank or credit union for help—many financial institutions offer free money management services and online tools to track spending, so you can reduce your spending and maximize how far your income can go. Some simple strategies you might utilize to optimize your budget include:
- Finding new ways to socialize – Instead of meeting friends at a bar or restaurant, suggest taking a group hike, having a picnic, or hosting a potluck at home. Often, it’s common to isolate when spending money is a factor in your social life. However, there are many lower cost ways to keep your social calendar filled.
- Meal planning – Food budgets can be tricky to manage, especially with the rising costs of groceries. A little forward planning can go a long way. Stock up on affordable ingredients like beans, rice, seasonal vegetables, and pasta. Cook large batch meals with these ingredients and portion them into single serving containers to eat throughout the week or even freeze for the rest of the month.
- Identifying areas of unnecessary spending – It may feel like your budget is locked in, but simply taking an inventory of how much you spend in a month may reveal some costs that you can cut out or reduce. For example, you might find that stopping at a convenience store for a daily snack is adding up each month. Instead, you might purchase your favorite snacks in bulk and portion them out for the week. Small changes like these can add up quickly and give you a little more breathing room in your budget.
Knowing When Financial Stress Is a Chronic Problem
Facing a large, unexpected expense or coping with credit card or student debt is common, and these are challenges that can usually be overcome with a little financial planning. However, you may find that financial stress ebbs into the territory of a chronic money disorder that affects your daily life over an extended period. If any of the following signs sound familiar, it’s time to sit down with a therapist to rethink your relationship with money.
- You hide how much you spend or keep your finances separate from your partner’s.
- Spending money is a coping mechanism for you to deal with loneliness or stress.
- You feel guilty about having money.
- You cannot seem to say no when a loved ones asks to borrow money.
- Working and making money are a centerpiece in your life.
Dealing with financial stress can take time, and money woes may be a consistent challenge in your life. However, there are ways to regain control over your financial situation. Finding healthy stress management strategies is a helpful first step. Connecting with a therapist through MeMD can provide the tools you need to get on track. Access our affordable mental health services by requesting a visit today.