Money Health

How to Deal with Financial Stress

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Debt is a highly pervasive issue in our current culture. U.S. adults have an average of $29,800 in personal debt, exclusive of mortgages, according to Northwestern Mutual’s 2019 Planning and Progress Study. While this has decreased from previous years, which should be good news, 15 percent of Americans believe they’ll be in debt for the rest of their lives.

This type of stress goes well beyond our wallets and bank accounts, affecting our well-being and overall happiness. If you’re struggling with debt, then you will want to learn how to deal with financial stress as part of your overall plan for a better future.

How does financial stress affect your mental health?

Money is the second-highest cause of stress, according to the 2017 American Psychological Association’s Stress in America report, with 61 percent of Americans admitting it’s their most common source of stress. What’s more, people are ashamed of their debt due to the stigma that surrounds it, even though so many of us are in debt (even if we don’t admit it).

Nearly half (39 percent) of Millennials said they’d rather tell a new partner they have an STD then admit to serious debt, according to a 2017 SoFi survey. According to the Northwestern Mutual study cited earlier, 20 percent of people who are in debt report that it makes them feel physically ill at least once a month.

If that’s not enough, a 2016 study of British undergraduate students found that financial difficulties can lead to depression, high anxiety, and alcohol dependence. This means that for many, the key to good mental and physical health includes learning how to deal with financial stress.

The question is, how do you both manage debt and maintain your health and well-being? Here are three strategies for how to deal with financial stress while you figure out strategies for planning a more-secure financial future.

Take a social media detox

While the age of social media fosters a digital connectedness, it also has a dark side, especially for those dealing with anxiety. When you feel low about your financial status and log onto social media, you immediately compare yourself to others. You see updates on who bought a house, went on vacation, had a child, or celebrated another financial and life milestone. Instead of feeling happy for their fortunes (although many of them also may be feeling financial stress), you feel inadequate.

A 2017 study published by the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking confirmed this vicious cycle: “For women and men, Facebook use was associated with greater social comparison and greater self-objectification, which, in turn, was each related to lower self-esteem, poorer mental health, and greater body shame.”

The problem is that simply logging off can be challenging. Another study reported in Science Daily in 2019 concludes that when social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram cause stress, you’re more likely to develop addictive behaviors towards them.

Don’t let social media add to your financial stress. Instead, take a social media detox. Log out of your accounts, delete the apps on your phone, or use an app that makes it impossible for you to access social media on your phone during certain hours of the day.

Understand your current financial situation

You’ll never truly figure out how to deal with financial stress if you don’t first understand your current situation, warts and all. Data from that same Northwestern Mutual study showed that 20 percent of people don’t know how much debt they have (or even how much debt is too much debt). Additionally, more than one in three Americans (34 percent) don’t know how much of their monthly income goes towards paying off their debt.

Set aside an afternoon to take stock of your situation, including your income, assets, savings, and—most importantly—your bills and debt. This will give you a better idea about where you stand and help you identify potential problems and possible solutions. Sometimes, just not knowing where you stand can create a tremendous amount of anxiety.

Then, look for common financial stress points, such as poor spending habits or carrying too much of a credit balance, which will also help you identify ways to overcome them.

Explore options for mental health counseling

Overcoming anxiety and stress can be challenging if you don’t have the right set of tools. A therapist or psychologist can help you uncover those tools and develop skills to relieve anxiety as you learn how to deal with financial stress.

While seeing a mental health professional like a therapist or psychologist can be costly, that person can also be the key to your stress relief. If your health insurance doesn’t cover the costs enough to make it financially feasible for you, there are still options:

  • Ask about financial assistance. This is often available for patients who can’t manage the financial burden but need support.
  • Look for free financial support groups, online and offline. Sites like MeetUp can help you to find groups in your area.
  • Check out the Freedom Debt Relief debt settlement program. A 2018 study showed that graduates of Freedom Debt Relief’s debt settlement program reported feeling 21 percent less stressed after completing the program. They also reported stronger relationships and improved quality of life.

You are not alone and you don’t need to wage this battle without support. If you’re struggling to find relief from your debt and the stress it’s causing, consider all of your options. Support and happiness is there for you as you discover how to deal with financial stress—you just have to seek it out.

Get help planning a solid financial future today

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed by debt, then it might be time to take action. Freedom Debt Relief is here to discuss options for dealing with your debt and learning how to deal with financial stress, including our debt relief program. Our Certified Debt Consultants can help you relieve stress by going over your options for a brighter financial future. Find out if you qualify right now.

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Jessica Thiefels is the CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting and has been writing for more than 10 years. She’s written for AARP, Reader’s Digest and Lifehack and regularly contributes to The Financial Diet, Homes.com and more.