According to the American Psychological Association (APA), stress in America is becoming a public health crisis. More and more people admit to experiencing chronic stress, which can cause numerous illnesses, both physical and psychological.
A 2010 survey conducted by the APA on stress in America revealed that 44% of respondents claimed stress levels had increased in the past five years. And of those surveyed, 76% listed money as their number one stressor.
Chronic stress can easily be overlooked as a way of life, but to do so is dangerous. While we all know some of the obvious symptoms of stress – sweating, elevated blood pressure – it can have much worse long-term consequences. For instance, chronic stress can lead to insomnia, depression, and even a shortened life span due to illnesses such as heart disease, obesity, and cancer, all of which can be caused by or worsened by chronic stress.
If you are dealing with financial stress, it’s important to know that you CAN reverse the course. Here are a few ways to lessen the stress:
List Your Debts On Paper
This might be the last thing you want to do, but it shouldn’t be. Much of your financial stress could arise from the unknown. Not knowing how much you owe or where your debt-free “finish line” is can cause a lot of anxiety and fear. Address your fears by eliminating the unknown and you may find you’re simultaneously eliminating stress.
Talk About Money
Conversations about money are “taboo,” but I consider this a serious societal flaw. Whether with your spouse, significant other, or even your children, setting up a weekly meeting to talk about money is vital. Talking about the logistics, the emotions, the hardships etc… will bring you into more intelligible terms with your finances, and being able to talk openly will make you feel more in touch and less stressed.
Join a Financial Community
Sometimes talking about money isn’t the problem, but finding the right people to talk to is. A support system that provides advice and accountability may help to reduce your stress. I find personal finance blogs to be a great place to start. Not only do they provide excellent free resources, bloggers often write about their own financial journeys in a relatable and actionable way. When you surround yourself with people who are experiencing similar crises, you’ll ditch the “me against the world” mentality.
Write a Letter to Yourself
If you’ve never written yourself a letter, you should start now. This is a great way to release any and all emotions, experiences, thoughts, etc… that are causing you stress. Leave no stone unturned. Start your letter by addressing why you’re angry, sad, depressed, frustrated—in a word, stressed. Finish on a positive note, writing down everything you would do to make your situation better if you had complete control. Maybe something you write down will inspire you to take action. Even if it doesn’t, letting the emotions out of you is an important step in reducing stress.
It’s true that life can be a tough mountain to climb sometimes, but that makes the view from the top even more worth it. With a little effort, you can turn things around and avoid the consequences of doing nothing. All you have to lose is a little stress.
What do you do to rid yourself of financial stress? Share your best tip in the comments below and help a fellow PerkStreeter out!
Brad Chaffee is a PerkStreet Customer Columnist who also authors Enemy of Debt, a place where he passionately but candidly tackles the psychological issues related to our own habits and behaviors regarding money. Brad and his family crawled out from under $26,000 of debt and some major bad habits to become debt-free in 20 months, and he believes that if they can do it, you can too! Aside from his blog, you can connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.