By Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach®
Let’s put it out there: Americans are often way too stressed out. According to the American Institute of Stress, over 70% of people regularly feel physical and psychological symptoms caused by stress in their lives.
Unchecked, this stress can manifest itself in symptoms like lack of sleep, anxiety, and other drawbacks that negatively impact your life. Since you’re likely to have first-hand experience with stress, you know that having too much stress can make even the most mundane tasks seems overly complicated and unmanageable. Even worse: Prolonged stress can negatively impact both your health and your wealth.
Here’s a look at some of the ways that stress impacts your finances – including aspects of your health and career you may not have considered.
Coping Mechanisms for Dealing with Stress
When stress becomes overwhelming, people choose a variety of coping mechanisms. Some coping strategies are obviously harmful to their health, as well as costly to their wallets, such as smoking or excessive consumption of alcohol. Even when people don’t deal with stress by using potentially toxic substances like tobacco or alcohol, they may nonetheless use other negative short-term avoidance strategies.
For instance, one common way for people to deal with excessive debt is to put it off for another day, taking an “I’ll worry about that later” approach or hoping for a windfall in the future. Another stress-reduction method people use is to eat excessively as a reward for bearing the weight of the stress. Have you heard of “comfort foods” like fried chicken, pizza, cake or other carbs? Well, some people may not realize that they may be eating themselves to an early grave, because unhealthy foods are linked to higher rates of obesity, heart disease, hypertension and other ailments.
Unfortunately, the financial cost of treating heart conditions and other maladies just keeps skyrocketing year after year.
Stress and Medical Bills
Needless to say, stress can wreak havoc on your health. That, in turn, makes stress a financial drain in multiple ways. Prolonged stress can lead to depression and anxiety, which further cripples your ability to handle your finances. This, in turn, spirals into more and more medical issues, which will eventually manifest in added weight, disrupted sleep, and eventually an unplanned trip to the doctor’s office or emergency room. And while you may have health insurance to cover these issues, you’re only curing the symptoms, not the causes. Over time, high levels of stress can do serious damage to your health and cripple your finances. After all, out-of-control medical bills can drive you into personal bankruptcy in America. Additionally, one study found that those with significant financial stress are 13 more times likely to have a heart attack.
Stress and Shopping
Maybe you’re thinking that you don’t damage your health because of stress. If so, that’s good. But what about damaging your bank account in other ways? Splurging or purchasing an item on impulse can bring its own type of instant gratification, as a form of “retail therapy” to combat a negative mood or take your mind off of whatever stress is currently bothering you. While shopping and experiencing the euphoria of a so-called “shopper’s high” may temporarily work to boost your mood, it can become a financial problem in and of itself. Having a bad shopping habit can be disastrous for your wallet, especially as you need to purchase more and more to regularly reduce your stress, instead of addressing the stress itself.
Often, those who become shopaholics fall into a cycle of debt, as they blow their budgets, face cash-flow problems, and then have to deal with a shopping hangover (i.e. debt) that can last months, or even years.
Stress and Your Job
Lastly, stress does a number on your work productivity. It’s hard to concentrate on your job when you feel over-stressed. Typical symptoms include a lack of focus, an inability to concentrate, and reduced energy. Your thoughts may also feel fuzzy and undefined. While you may not be outright sleeping or nodding off on the job due to stress-related fatigue, your bosses, peers or others may notice a declining productivity, which can lead to problems at work, like reduced hours or even a lay off.
And any time out of work means missed earnings. Most of us can’t afford to be out of work or, worse, put a job at risk because of outside stress. So take the time to engage in healthy stress-busting techniques, like walking or exercising, writing in journaling, practicing meditation or yoga – or simply just reflecting on all the things in life for which you should be grateful. Ultimately, anything you can do to safely lower your stress levels is sure to step up your mental and physical health – and increase your financial wellbeing too.
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Extra Credit provides general information to help improve our Member’s financial lives. Every situation is different, so please contact us for guidance on your specific needs. The advice provided in Extra Credit is not intended to serve as a substitute for speaking to a loan representative, financial advisor, or BALANCE counselor who can help tailor a solution for you.
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