This week’s blog is written by guest author Lily Francine
In a society where debt has more than tripled since the 1980s, and where housing has skyrocketed to a point that it can take up to 10 years to save for a down payment, financial problems are running rampant — and they’re taking a toll on people both physically and mentally.
The financial-mental-physical connection
Our financial well-being has long been connected to our physical health, but the symptoms go far beyond just stress. More and more research between the two reveal that we get affected in more ways than one, some of which are serious enough to get us hospitalized.
In fact, a 2013 Northwestern University study found that people aged 24-32 with significant debt have higher diastolic blood pressure — this is an age group who should be at the peak of their health. Higher blood pressure is a risk factor for heart problems and strokes, which goes to show just how salient finances can be to our health.
Aside from this, problems with finances have also led to 51% of Americans experiencing muscle tension and lower back pain with 41% reporting migraines or other types of headaches. What’s more alarming, however, is that plenty of Americans are not going to the doctor with these problems — all so they can save more for other pressing bills, or to avoid high healthcare costs. It’s a vicious cycle which puts a strain on people, as they worry about finances and debt, their health suffers, and then getting more in debt because of various sicknesses and conditions.
But aside from potential physical health issues, problems with finances have an impact on our mental state, too. They are often major factors that cause depression, anxiety, and social isolation. In fact, 23% of Americans report feelings of depression in relation to debt, while 29% report severe anxiety. These can be a catalyst to an all-around unhealthy lifestyle, as some people may have difficulty coping, leading to unwise, stress-driven purchases, which, in turn, brings about more struggles. Bad finances can also lead to harmful habits such as smoking, drinking, or stress eating — all of which can also encourage low productivity and motivation.
Helen Undy explains to The Guardian that these situations are often caused by the double stigma surrounding mental health and our money, as people are more comfortable talking about all sorts of sensitive topics — but money and mental health are still taboo. “It can make it difficult for people to open up about what they are going through and seek help,” shares Undy, who serves as the chief executive of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute. “This has to change as it is destroying lives.”
Five ideas to get you started
Taking action to improve financial health is the key to eliminating these physical and emotional stressors. With feelings of anxiety potentially weighing down on you, it can be difficult. But this is why Chicago-based psychologist Dr. Nancy Molitor told Marcus that the first step is to acknowledge money’s emotional impact. “It’s important to just own it and say, ‘You know what? This is very overwhelming, and I’m angry or sad that I didn’t deal with this earlier,’” she explains. The goal here is to acknowledge and accept, then appeal to your more rational side to find ways to handle it.
You can start building a better financial lifestyle with these simple steps:
- Go to debt management or a non-profit credit counseling organization if you are struggling with debt
- Speak to a financial advisor
- Focus on spending less than you earn (check out this old blog post about debt for some tips)
- Create a weekly or monthly budget
- Automate your savings to ensure you have something set aside for emergencies
These steps help ensure that you get the maximum use out of every dollar that comes out of your income. Adopting a more mindful approach, and tackling how to address your financial problems, can ensure your optimal wellness and prosperity.
You can get started by downloading ‘Conscious Spending in 30 Minutes or Less’ and other free tools and resources from the Creative Money Library.
Author Bio: Having transitioned from full-time financial advisor to full-time parent, Lily Francine is a freelance financial consultant and stay-at-home mom. For the most part, she caters to small businesses, but she also likes to help individuals in dire need of financial assistance whenever she can. In her downtime, she can be spotted tending to the garden at her home in Portland, Oregon.