Money and Mental Health: Ways to Cope with Financial Stress

money and mental health

By Michelle Lambright Black
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Feeling anxious or unsettled about money is a reality that many people may face. So, if you’re struggling with financial unease, it might comfort you to know that you’re far from alone in those feelings.

According to the 2022 American Psychological Association “Stress in America” survey, nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans admit to feeling stressed about money. The figure represents the highest percentage of people who expressed this concern since 2015.[1]

Below is a deeper look into what financial stress may look like in the United States today. You may also learn how these issues can affect your mental health, and some effective strategies that might help you cope with financial stressors in your own life.

What Does Financial Stress Look Like Today?

Throughout the country many households may be worried about money. The height of the pandemic may be (hopefully) behind us. Yet many people may have experienced more stress during the last two years than at any other time in their lives.[1]

Millions of Americans may be still struggling with financial difficulties, which may be stemming from loss of work (past or present) and inflation. The 2022 “Stress in America” survey reveals that the vast majority of people in the U.S. (87%) say that inflation is a significant source of stress in their daily lives.[1]

Income disparities may also mean that the financial challenges above may affect different households in different ways. When you add on factors like rising debt and lack of financial literacy, it’s no wonder that many people may experience financial pressure on a frequent basis.

How Financial Stress Affects Your Health

Experiencing stress about money may have a negative impact on your health—both mental and physical. Chronic stress may cause a variety of health issues, including those listed below.[2]

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Heart attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of Sleep
  • Muscle Tension
  • Digestive Issues
  • Depression
  • Fatigue

Ways to Cope with Financial Stress

There is no universal solution that can help you remove the financial stress in your life. More income might help, but even an unexpected financial windfall might not be enough to solve your problems.

Recognizing that more money might not solve all of your problems where financial stress is concerned, it’s important to find the right approach for your situation. Below are three ways to cope with financial stress that might help.

1. Create a plan

Jay Zigmont, PhD, CFP® is the founder of Live, Learn, Plan, a Mississippi-based financial planning firm. Zigmont encounters financial stress often among his clients, and works to build plans that help people sleep better at night.

“We all have a limited amount of stress that we can handle in life,” Zigmont says in an interview for this story. “If you are in continuous financial stress, you have less 'room' for the stressors of life and may be more on edge.”

If you’re not ready to meet with a financial advisor to create a plan for your future, it’s okay to start smaller. Creating (or updating) a personal budget and savings plan can be great ways to gain control over your spending and figure out how you may be able to cover your more immediate financial needs.

2. Talk to a professional

Many people may try to handle financial pressure all on their own. Yet there are times when you might benefit from talking to an experienced professional who may help you strategize how to manage that stress.

The American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America'' survey finds that just 20% of Americans have received professional mental health treatment since the beginning of the pandemic. However, 80% of those who did receive treatment state that they benefited from it.[1]

Dr. Larry Ford, DBH, LBHP, BC, and founder of Hands to Guide You, an integrated behavioral healthcare center, shares in an interview that “Money stress is a real thing and navigating this unprecedented time with a professional who can help is a great place to start.” In his interview, Ford also confirms that having a professionally-drafted plan and feeling confident that you’re moving forward may have a positive impact on your mental state.

Note that free or inexpensive professional services may be available for individuals in difficult circumstances. Operation HOPE, non-profit credit counseling, and community-based financial programs may all be worth considering. If you need mental health assistance but can’t afford it, consider looking for a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in your area that may provide services on a sliding scale.

3. Make time for financial education

Improving your financial literacy can go a long way where money stress is concerned. The more you read and understand about money, the more empowered you may begin to feel.

The Self Blog can be a great place to find educational articles about a wide array of financial topics. Your financial institution may also offer free resources that you can utilize. Additionally, MyCreditUnion.gov has a helpful financial literacy section that may be worth exploring.

Beth Lawlor, President of U.S. Bank Private Wealth Management, says in an interview that education is an important part of taking charge of your finances. She encourages people to take advantage of digital resources from their financial institutions, listen to financial podcasts, attend seminars, and more.

“Do anything and everything that will help you get more fluent in personal finance topics and become more confident about managing your money,” says Lawlor.

Bottom Line

It’s important to find effective ways to reduce and cope with financial stress. Ignoring such issues or trying to power through alone may not only put your financial wellbeing, but also your health at risk.

If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

Sources

  1. APA.org. “American Psychological Association, Stress in America.” https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2022/march-2022-survival-mode
  2. American Heart Association. “What stress does to the body and how to beat it.” https://www.heart.org/en/news/2020/08/10/what-stress-does-to-the-body-and-how-to-beat-it

About the Author

Michelle Lambright Black is a nationally recognized credit expert with two decades of experience. She is the founder of CreditWriter.com, an online credit education resource and community that helps busy moms learn how to build good credit and a strong financial plan that they can leverage to their advantage. Michelle's work has been published thousands of times by FICO, Experian, Forbes, Bankrate, MarketWatch, Parents, U.S. News & World Report, and many other outlets. You can connect with Michelle on Twitter (@MichelleLBlack) and Instagram (@CreditWriter).

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Written on April 25, 2022
Self is a venture-backed startup that helps people build credit and savings. Comments? Questions? Send us a note at hello@self.inc.

Disclaimer: Self is not providing financial advice. The content presented does not reflect the view of the Issuing Banks and is presented for general education and informational purposes only. Please consult with a qualified professional for financial advice.

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