Senior couple using a computer to figure out bills.

Financial Stress and Its Impact on Your Health and Wellness

When the American Psychological Association released its latest Stress in America survey, 72% of Americans reported feeling stressed about money at least sometime in the prior month.

Long-term, chronic stress can impact your health and wellness in several ways, and financial stress is no different.

There are many reasons behind this growing stress. Maybe you’ve lost your job and are worried about how you’re going to pay your rent. Or maybe you’re nearing retirement age but don’t feel like you’ll ever be able to stop working. Maybe it’s concern over medical debt, credit card debt or some future expense. No matter where the stress comes from, financial worry can have a negative impact on your health and wellness.

Learn more about financial wellness, its impact on your health and the steps you can take to get your financial stress under control.

What Is Financial Wellness?

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, financial wellness is defined as having financial security and financial freedom of choice. Financial wellness isn’t about a certain income level; it’s about having control over your day-to-day and month-to-month finances. It’s about how you manage what you have and plan for the future. This might include things like:

  • Man using a tablet to create a retirement budget.Meeting your financial obligations
  • Spending wisely
  • Building savings for long-term and short-term goals
  • Enjoying the freedom of having greater choices now and in the future

When your financial wellness isn’t where you want it to be or when you don’t feel like you have control over your finances, it can cause you to become stressed, which can impact your overall health and wellness.

How Does Financial Stress Affect Your Health?

Long-term, chronic stress can impact your health and wellness in several ways, and financial stress is no different.

  • Stress can create tension in your relationships.
  • Stress raises your blood pressure and increases inflammation in your body.
  • Stress can increase your cholesterol levels.
  • Stress may increase your risk for depression or anxiety.
  • Stress can impact your physical health, causing symptoms such as an upset stomach, difficulty sleeping, muscle tension and weight gain.
  • Stress can make you more vulnerable to illness.
  • Stress can lead you to make unhealthy choices in order to cope, such as drinking too much, making poor food choices or turning to prescription drugs.

What Steps Can I Take to Reduce My Financial Stress?

Everyone’s financial situation is different, but here are some suggestions you may be able to use to reduce your financial stress and get back on track:

  • Track your spending. Take some time to track all of your spending, so you can see where your money is going and where you might be able to make some changes.
  • Create a budget. Once you’ve tracked your spending, you can use that information to make a budget you can stick to. This should help you cut down on impulse spending and unnecessary purchases. There are several free budgeting apps you can use to get started.
  • Start with small changes. Try to find little ways to begin making better financial choices. For example, make your coffee instead of buying it. Pack a lunch when you head to work. Meal plan each week instead of paying for delivery fees and fast food. Eliminate any subscriptions you have that you don’t use.
  • Identify your spending impulses. Sometimes our spending is more related to our emotions rather than our actual needs. We may buy things to make ourselves feel better when we’re depressed or lonely. We may go shopping to avoid thinking about an issue we’re having at work or home. We may gamble to try to escape the boredom of our lives. If you know what emotions are causing you to spend, you may be able to work on healthier ways to cope with them.
  • Make step-by-step plans to reach your financial goals. Everyone’s financial journey looks different – maybe you’re trying to get out of credit card debt, or maybe you want to save for retirement or purchase your first house. Whatever your goal is, make a plan to get there. Breaking a big goal into small, concrete steps can make it seem more manageable.
  • Make use of the tools you have available to you. You may have access to tools that can help you reach your financial goals through your bank or your employer. For example, a lot of employers offer financial wellness programs to help with money management skills such as budgeting, reducing debt and repairing credit. Many banks also offer automatic savings options, such as directly depositing a small amount of each paycheck into a savings account, or a bank card that will round up your purchases to help you save.
  • Improve your financial literacy. If words like budgeting and investing are new to you, it’s important to learn more and get good financial advice. Do you have a friend who could help? Is there a financial literacy course you could take – either online or in your community? Check out VA’s financial literacy resources to get started.
  • Reduce your debt. When you feel overwhelmed by debt, it’s easy to become stressed about how you’ll ever get out from under it. Start by understanding your debt, learn what your interest rates are and how many creditors you have. Once you have a good understanding of your debt, you can make a plan to start paying it down. This may include paying off the debt with the highest interest rate first or calling each creditor to ask about lowering your interest rate. The Federal Trade Commission has a lot of information on how to deal with debt.
  • Eat healthy and exercise.Make your health a priority. Oftentimes, when we’re stressed about money, we don’t make the best choices for our overall health. For example, we may put off going to the doctor due to financial reasons, leading us to miss important screenings and preventive care. We may feel too exhausted to exercise or make poor food choices when we’re stressed. Instead, we should focus on eating a healthy balanced diet, exercising regularly and incorporating stress reduction techniques into our daily routines. Try reducing stress with yoga or using a simple mindfulness or meditation exercise to help you relax.
  • Get support. You don’t have to be ashamed of your financial stress or situation. Talking to a trusted friend or family member, looking for a class to take in your community, or opening up to a counselor about the impact it’s having on you can be a good place to start.

What Resources Are Available to Help?

Don’t let financial stress get the best of you. Take charge of your financial wellness and your overall health may improve too!

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