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HEALTH PLUS MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT

If you are worried about money, you’re not alone.

Money is a common source of stress for all adults. This proportion of stress brought on by inadequate finances and employment woes increased dramatically in 2020. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), 72% of adults report feeling stressed about money, whether it is worrying about job stability, paying rent, or feeling trapped by debt. This is pretty significant given financial stress is linked to so many health issues.

Financial wellbeing: What is it?

This sets the tone for your sense of security and feeling as though you have enough money to meet your needs. It is about being in control of your day-to-day finances and having the financial freedom to make choices that allow you to enjoy life.

However, after a year when words like “control” and “freedom” carried a different perspective, our financial wellbeing becomes an elusive goal for 2021. No one could have predicted the effect the coronavirus pandemic would have on the world, it has highlighted the importance of safeguarding not only our physical health, but also preserving our mental and financial wellbeing as well.

Impact on Your Health

Although any stress can take a toll on your health, stress related to financial issues can be especially TOXIC. Financial stress can lead to:

– Poor mental health:

In many instances, the link between mental and financial health is cyclical; poor financial health can lead to poor mental health, which leads to increasingly poor financial health, and so on. Several studies over the years, have shown that people in debt have higher rates of mental health issues like depression and anxiety than those who are debt-free.

– Delayed healthcare:

With less money in the budget, people who are already under financial stress tend to cut corners in areas they should not, like healthcare. According to a study by Harvard Health, 59% of American adults held off seeking preventative medical care in 2020 because of cost. Though this tactic may seem like a good way to keep costs down, delaying medical care can actually lead to worse health outcomes and higher costs, both of which can lead to more stress.

– Poor physical health:

Ongoing stress about money has been linked to migraines, heart disease, diabetes, sleep problems and more. Left untreated, these conditions can lead to life-threatening illnesses, which can plunge you even further into debt.

– Unhealthy coping behaviours:

Financial stress can cause you to engage in a variety of unhealthy behaviours, from overeating to alcohol and drug misuse. According to an APA survey published in 2018, 33% reported eating unhealthy foods or eating too much to deal with stress.

Coping with Financial Stress

Learning to cope with financial stress and effectively managing your financial situation can help you feel more in control of your life, reduce your stress, and build a more secure future. It starts with firstly understanding your financial personality and then courageously making clear, logical decisions with clarity on your financial goals.

Your financial personality

Each person has a different view of money and varying spending habits. This is based on your financial personality. Money can be a common source of conflict in the strongest of relationships, so take time to talk through your ‘financial personalities’. This is particularly important if you experience a change in circumstances such as redundancy, cut in salary or an increased demand by a health challenge. These changes can challenge your attitude to money and sense of financial wellbeing.

MAINTAINING YOUR FINANCIAL WELLBEING

1. Understand the debt cycle.

Understanding debt is the first step to getting yourself out of it. Identify your areas of spending. Journal your expenses if need be to help this process. Once you have identified areas within your lifestyle that increases your debt, you can then manage those expenses strategically, with a focus on reducing unnecessary expenses, as your situation adjusts.

2. Write down your budget

Knowing your income, and disposable income once your day-to-day expenses are covered, will give you confidence in your decisions. If your partner or spouse usually looks after the finances, be sure to talk the budget through with them, so that you both understand your financial personalities.

3. Declutter your budget.

Since change is the only constant, regular “budget checkups” are essential to improving your financial wellbeing. Take control of your finances by setting aside some time to schedule, organise, and declutter all finances coming in and out of your bank account. The more control you have, the less stress you will feel.

4. Avoid income comparisons.

Research shows that comparing ourselves to our friends or peers reduces life satisfaction. Keep in mind that we all have different priorities and find pleasure or enjoyment in different things.

5. Don’t forget general stress management.

As you work on improving your financial situation, you can reduce stress by practicing stress-reducing techniques and making other changes to create a low-stress lifestyle. Research in the field of neuroscience has shown that practicing gratitude regularly can help to rewire your brain structure. Feeling grateful stimulates the production of natural ‘antidepressants’ such as serotonin and dopamine, giving you a feeling of contentment and wellbeing. Try writing down three things you are grateful for each day despite any financial woes.

If you feel that the stress of your financial situation is too much for you to handle, it is important to share your concerns and not just keep them to yourself. Talk about your money concerns with trusted friends, family, or a family healthcare provider. You do not have to go into details if you are not comfortable with them, but the more you talk about your concerns with your support system, the less isolated and stressed you will feel.

Prioritising attention to your financial wellbeing will return invaluable immediate and long-term rewards.