Financial stress is the leading cause of stress in America. According to the American Psychological Association, 80% of respondents said they were very stressed about their money situation. And women bear the brunt of it, worrying about their job stability and the health of their family.
Why Financial Stress is so Worrisome
All stress is bad; there really isn’t a “good” type of stress. However, financial stress seems to be the most harrowing on our health. Check out the following ways debt can affect our overall well-being.
Poor Coping Behaviors
When we find ourselves in desperate need of debt relief, we often try to numb the associated anxiety. Many people try to drown their sorrows in alcohol, take up smoking, or find themselves overeating. Naturally, these practices just lead to more stress, rather than relief from the problem.
In addition to the extra stress, these practices are famous for their ill-effect on our health.
Health Problems Spiraling Out of Control
When we have less money, we have to pay close attention to where our precious dollars go. Often times, certain necessities take a backseat to others. We might cut back at the grocery store and eat less nutritious foods. Numerous health problems can arise out of poor nutrition.
Or, we might postpone a trip to the doctor until we have more money. Unfortunately, there is always somewhere that extra money needs to be spent, and our health concerns get pushed to the back burner. Eventually, small problems turn into major health issues.
Lack of Sleep
How many times have you laid in bed, trying to come up with a solution to your money problems? Those sleepless nights rarely produce debt relief; instead they just c0mpound the problem.
With less sleep, our bodies have a hard time fighting off infection. Our immune system bears the brunt of those lost hours. Additionally, our cognitive function takes a severe nose dive. How can you rationally analyze your problem if you can’t think straight?
Financial stress often leaves us feeling anxious, frustrated, and hopeless. These negative emotions just add more stress to the ever-growing mountain of worry. And the more stress you experience, the more likely you are to engage in poor coping behaviors and the cycle becomes never-ending.
Is it Possible to Change Financial Stress into Debt Relief?
When we are in the thick of things, financial stability might seem farfetched. But it is possible. Here are a few things that will help get you back on track.
1. Take a good look at your situation.
Do you really know how your finances stand? Carefully analyze your accounts and your bills. Maybe things aren’t as bad as you think they are.
Or, if the situation is direr than you thought, you’ll have a better idea of what needs to be done. This will help you feel more in control (a feeling you probably haven’t had for a while). Feeling like you have control of the situation is the first step towards dealing with it.
2. Create a budget.
If you haven’t already, make a budget for your family. Budgets are one of the most helpful tools when it comes to money management. Knowing exactly how much you spend each month will help you determine exactly how much you need to earn.
A budget also helps you identify major areas of spending. You might be able to find ways to cut corners.
3. Make a plan.
You can’t just say you want financial freedom. You’re going to have to work for it. It won’t magically appear on your doorstep one day!
Make a plan. Which debts do you need to pay off first? Can you earn some extra money? Relief will come much quicker and easier with a plan.
4. Start saving money.
While paying off your debts is important, it is also important to save money. It may be difficult if you are living paycheck to paycheck. However, it is an essential practice.
Creating a small nest egg, often referred to as an emergency savings account, will keep you afloat if trouble should arise. Rather than go further in debt when emergencies happen (a trip to the ER, a flat tire, a broken washing machine), you’ll be able to weather the storm.
5. Pay off your debts.
Once you have a pretty significant emergency fund established, start aggressively paying down your debts. Order your bills from smallest to largest. Focus on paying off the smallest one first. Once you have that one under control, move on to the next one.
Get rid of all your loans and sources of debt as soon as possible. This will help you avoid additional interest payments. Once you’ve gotten out from under your debt rock, you can focus on long-term stability.
6. Get professional help.
Sometimes, it is just impossible to wade out of the debt swamp. You might need professional help. Debt relief might only come in the form of foreclosure or bankruptcy. In these situations, you’ll want to consult a bankruptcy attorney or a foreclosure lawyer.
Financial stress doesn’t need to eat you alive. Rather than bury your head in the sand, confront your debt head on and take the necessary steps to rectify the situation.
Julie Johnson works for a lawyer at Ziegler Law Office who specializes in Clearwater debt relief. As an assistant to the Clearwater bankruptcy attorney, Julie has seen firsthand how debt can wreak havoc in the lives of women.