Signs You’re Dealing With Financial Stress

Updated April 12, 2023

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Managing Financial Stress

Financial stress occurs more often than you might realize. The stigma associated with discussing finances keeps people from talking about the stress it causes or even seeking help. Money ranks as the number one stressor in America, and 1 in 2 people report feeling unable to control certain financial aspects in their life. This article examines signs of financial stress, bodily symptoms of financial stress, and how to deal with financial stress.

Symptoms of Financial Stress

Stress impacts multiple bodily systems. The American Psychological Association reports that stress may cause issues in the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. It can cause menstruation irregularities in women and reproductive problems in men.

In this section, we detail physical signs of financial stress, including weight fluctuations, sleep troubles, and tension headaches. We also talk about one of the other major symptoms of financial stress, relationship strife.

1. Weight Fluctuations

Weight and stress levels correlate. Stress may cause your weight to fall or rise to unhealthy levels. You may wonder exactly why weight loss or weight gain manifests as one of the effects of financial stress. As far as weight loss, stress can speed up your metabolism and adrenaline sometimes suppresses appetite.

In the relationship between financial stress and weight gain, the quality of consumed foods may play a role. Financial stress may prevent individuals from making healthy food choices. Meal prep takes extra time and energy, so getting fast food may feel appealing after a hard day's work. Unhealthy food also costs less than healthier alternatives, and stress impacts our ability to metabolize high-fat foods quickly.

2. Sleep Troubles

Stress's impact on your sleep may appear as insomnia or general poor sleep quality. A frustrating cycle may develop, as stress causes low-quality sleep, and insufficient sleep causes more stress. The Anxiety & Depression Association of America provides more information on the relationship between sleep issues and stress.

3. Tension and Headaches

Our bodies hold stress in the form of tension, which may lead to muscle pain and headaches. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports that our brain's nerve endings react to stressors, sometimes causing migraines. While research already supports that stress causes tension and headaches, researchers still must figure out possible treatments.

4. Relationship Strife

Unfortunately, stress also impacts our relationships. Relationship strife could indicate that you're dealing with financial stress. In one study, 36.7% of divorced participants cited financial struggles as a significant contributor. While money issues may not cause a divorce directly, they can certainly contribute to the final decision.

How to Work Through Financial Stress

Now that we identified some signs of financial stress, we discuss how to manage financial stress. By implementing these actions, you can start to regain control of your money and mitigate the effects of financial stress.

1. Talk to a Professional

If your budget allows, consider seeking financial counseling to learn how to manage financial stress. Some financial planners may offer pro-bono services to struggling individuals, especially students. Even if you do not qualify for free services, a financial counselor may save you enough money to cover their services' costs.

Certified financial health counselors help individuals develop plans to earn more money, spend responsibly, and follow a budget. You can carry the lessons you learn from a financial planner for the rest of your life.

Some financial health counselors offer free resources, including informative blog posts, free worksheets, or podcast episodes. These resources may provide sufficient guidance, and you may not need to pay for additional help.

Traditional mental health counselors can help you learn how to deal with financial stress through healthy coping mechanisms. Financial pressures continue throughout life, but knowing the signs that you're dealing with financial stress allows you to respond appropriately.

2. Create a Budget

Budgeting marks one pillar of financial wellness. That said, creating a budget does not help you unless you stick to it. Before making a budget, list all of your expenses for one month. Then, look for ways to save on each line item. You may discover that you spend more on eating out than you realized, or that your phone bill costs more than you thought.

When forming a budget, do not forget to factor in an emergency fund. This can ease financial stress when unforeseen circumstances arise. Aim to fill your savings with enough money to cover 3-6 months of expenses. This money can cover rent and groceries in case of job loss, car repairs, or hospital bills.

3. Exercise Regularly

Researchers have documented the positive relationship between exercise and stress reduction for years. If you need a side job to ease financial stress, your schedule may not allow for much exercise time. Consider trying at-home workouts, even in 10-minute increments. Going on fast-paced walks with friends and family provides quality time and movement all at once. Doing chores around the house enables you to stretch and get your body moving, especially if you move fast.

4. Develop Healthy Sleep Habits

Anyone can implement simple sleep hygiene habits. Avoid looking at blue light or bright electronic screens 2-3 hours before bedtime. Knowing your body's limits when it comes to caffeine may also help.

Many individuals find that easing into the night with a routine helps improve sleep. Aim to make this routine enjoyable or even a time for self-care. Reading or meditating before bed may signal your brain to unwind for the day.

5. Social Support

If you experience signs of financial stress, reach out to a friend or family member for help. Your support system wants to see you succeed, and they often love to lend a hand. Leaning on social support may entail borrowing money or asking someone to cosign a loan. Your friends could serve as accountability partners who help you stick to a budget. Research shows that social support reduces a person's feelings of hardship or stress.

Expert Interview

Q. How does a stressful event affect the body?

When you are stressed, your body releases adrenaline and cortisol, hormones that cause the "fight or flight" response. Your blood pressure rises, your heartbeat speeds up, and blood flow to your muscles increases.

Q. How does chronic or ongoing stress affect the body?

Chronic stress can cause insomnia, stress headaches, a weakened immune system, digestive problems, poor concentration, and memory issues.

Q. Are there any scientifically supported ways to reduce stress or manage stress?

The effects of exercise and meditation have been extensively studied and can help to reduce stress. Social connections, a healthy diet, and sufficient sleep can also contribute to stress management and relief.

Q. What can I do to take charge of my mental health and financial stress?

Recognizing that you have a problem with debt and learning to find ways to manage it can greatly help to improve psychological well-being.

Get a greater sense of control over your debt with lifestyle changes that help you lower expenses or increase income. Write down every single income source and all your monthly expenses. Start identifying things you can cut back on to reduce expenses or things you can do to increase your income if you struggle to reduce expenses significantly. You can seek the help of a credit counselor to help you through the process.

You can then seek ongoing psychological support to help you manage some of the daily stresses and anxiety you feel as a result of shouldering your debt. There are now many virtual and in-person options for psychological support that you can turn to.

Q. Do you have any advice for balancing financial needs and health needs when considering healthcare?

Many people put off seeing a doctor due to concerns about medical costs, which can lead to more serious complications. Those can cause even higher out-of-pocket costs and worsen stress.

When planning your monthly budget, set aside the funds for health needs and explore any options available to you to finance healthcare costs, such as installment payments.

Q. What resources do you think are underrated or underutilized in managing health and financial stress?

There may be free or affordable options to see a credit counselor. There are also affordable mental health support options. Sometimes joining a support group may be incredibly helpful so you get the emotional and social support that you need.

Portrait of Dr. Brian Wind

Dr. Brian Wind

Dr. Wind is a recognized leader in clinical psychology at local, state, and national levels. With 20 years of experience, Dr. Wind is an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt University, has been integrally involved in healthcare technology development, and serves on JourneyPure's executive team.

Latest Posts is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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