Money Health

3 Ways to Cope with Financial Stress

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

This type of financial stress is affecting our well-being and overall happiness. If you’re struggling with debt, consider how it could be hurting your mental health and what you can do to alleviate the struggle.

How Does Financial Stress Affect Your Mental Health?

According to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America report, money is the second highest cause of stress, with 61% of Americans admitting it’s their most common source of stress. What’s more, people are ashamed of their debt, there’s a stigma surrounding it, even though many of us are in debt as well.

In a recent survey, 39% of Millennials said they’d rather tell a new partner they have an STD then admit to serious debt. According to that same Northwestern Mutual study, 20% of people in debt report that it makes them feel physically ill at least once a month.

If that’s not enough, a recent study of British undergraduate students found that financial difficulties can lead to depression, high anxiety, and alcohol dependence.

The question is, how do you both manage debt and maintain your health and well-being? Here are three strategies that can help you feel less stressed while you get your finances figured out.

1. 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 milestone and instead of feeling happy, you feel inadequate.

A recent study 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 Science Daily reports 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.

2. Understand Your Current Financial Situation

One of the most important steps in getting your financial stress under control is understanding where you stand. Data from that same Northwestern Mutual study showed that 20% of people don’t know how much debt they have. Additionally, more than one in three Americans (34%) don’t know how much of their monthly income goes towards paying off their debt.

Set aside an afternoon to take stock of your complete financial situation, including your income, assets, savings, and most importantly, your bills and debt. This can help you feel like you have a better idea about where you stand, as well as help you identify potential problems and possible solutions.

Look for common financial stress points, like poor spending habits, which will also help you identify ways to overcome them.

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3. 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 that make it easier to manage your 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 recent study showed that graduates of the Freedom Debt Relief’s debt resettlement program reported feeling 21% less stressed after completing the program. They also reported stronger relationships and improved quality of life.

Find Relief Now

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—you just have to seek it out.

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, and more.