How to Handle Financial Stress the Healthy Way

Updated: Dec 6, 2020

MONEY alone cannot give us the best quality of life we are aiming for. However, people need money to live (conversely, we shouldn't live just for money).

During a financial crisis, it is undeniable that we get so stressed because money is our mean to survive in a capitalist society. At one time or another, many of us reached a point when we get troubled how to make ends meet.

Financial stress, just like other life stressors (e.g. loss of a job, divorce, death of a loved one, chronic illness, occupational stress, etc.), if unhealthily handled can take its toll on our physical, emotional, social, and/or spiritual well-being.

Below are some possible healthy ways to cope with financial stress.

1. Self-assessment.

Perform self-assessment on how your body is coping to your current situation. Asking yourself questions like (but not limited to) the following can help determine how you're responding to financial stress:

  • Am I having difficulty falling or staying asleep? Do I feel well rested after my sleep?

  • Am I able to maintain a well-balanced diet?

  • Am I able to maintain good relationship with those people around me?

  • Am I experiencing any body pain?

  • Am I experiencing decreased energy or fatigue?

  • Am I experiencing persistent sadness, lack of concentration, hopelessness, or suicidal ideas?

If you answer, yes to any of these questions, it would be best to talk to your healthcare provider for proper medical advice. Early medical intervention cannot be overemphasized in our health maintenance.

Having your vital signs, heart rate, respiratory rate, (temperature), and blood pressure, monitored at times of great stress is a healthy practice because it may give clues regarding your body's reaction to any unfavorable condition.

2. Verbalize your feelings.

Find someone, a non-judgmental person, with whom you can voice out your emotions. Social support system, which may include a spouse, mother, father, sibling, pastor, priest, healthcare professional, or a trusted friend/ colleague, can help buffer stress.

In looking for a personal support person, remember that you cannot expect empathy from someone who is also overwhelmed by his/her own personal problems. That person's perceptions and reasoning could also be clouded by the his/her emotions and without a professional or optimistic moderator to lead a healthy and therapeutic conversation, both persons can end up feeling more helpless and hopeless.

Surround yourself with positive people who believe in the saying,

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."

3. Activities that promote comfort and alleviate stress.

Part of stress management is the use of various techniques that aid in providing comfort and alleviating stress. It may include:

Rest and Relaxation. Choose a quiet place. Close both of your eyes and perform slow rhythmic breathing. Relax your muscles, breathe comfortably, and relax your tensed muscles. You can do this for 15 to 20 minutes each day. If not contraindicated to your health, going for a good body massage can also help you to relax. As a general rule, 6 to 8 hours of good quality and uninterrupted sleep is healthy for us. A regular healthy sleep is important for our brain and other body parts to function well.

A literature review published in Nature and Science of Sleep cited several short- and long-term consequences of sleep disruption in healthy individuals.

Short-term consequences:

  • increased stress responsivity

  • somatic problems

  • reduced quality of life (QoL)

  • emotional distress

  • mood disorders and other mental health problems

  • cognition, memory, and performance deficits

  • behavior problems

Long-term consequences:

  • hypertension

  • dyslipidemia

  • cardiovascular diseases

  • weight-related issues

  • metabolic syndrome,

  • type 2 diabetes mellitus

Distraction. Divert your attention to something that creates a pleasant experience. It may include simple activities such as watching good, inspirational, or uplifting shows; listening to music (e.g. classical, praise songs); visiting friends and/or loved ones; walking in the park; visiting the beach; playing games (e.g.chess, cards); doing activities (e.g. crosswords puzzles); playing a musical instrument; and others.

Exercise. Generally, exercise promotes overall sense of well-being. Physical activity helps stimulate release of endorphins (feel-good body chemicals) by the pituitary gland in the brain. Seek consultation with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program especially if you have not exercised for a while or if you have health issues such as (but not limited to) heart disease, arthritis, recent surgery, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, pregnancy and others.

4. Eat a well-balanced diet.

According to a survey:

Four in ten Americans (43 percent) say they overeat or eat unhealthy foods to manage stress, while one-third (36 percent) skipped a meal in the last month because of stress.

The benefits of healthy eating cannot be overemphasized, especially in times of stress. Our body needs the essential nutrients we get from food to ensure that it functions well. Being well nourished can help us adequately synthesize information and deliberately act according to our goals and objectives. For an instance, B vitamins are necessary for maintaining healthy nervous system which includes the brain. We also need sufficient energy to carry out our activities of daily living .

One common problem that arises with stress is emotional eating (also called stress eating). We tend to respond to our feelings and look for comfort foods. If we'd grab a healthy bowl of food (veggies and/or fruits), that would be okay. But let's admit it-- we have the tendency to grab junk foods instead of the healthy ones. Try your best to be consciously mindful of what you eat. Supply your body with well-balanced nutrients to help armor yourself against the harmful effects of stress.

5. Identify previous coping mechanisms that worked well in the past.

Ask yourself whether a similar problem happened in the past. What did you do to make things better? Can you do it again now?

6. Focus on the present.

Don't dwell too much in the past that brought about your current financial situation. Move on. Stop blaming yourself or others and focus on the present to look for solutions to the problems.

In addition, identify your strengths and/or available resources and utilize them to cope with your financial stress. Avoid being impulsive as you make decisions. Try to be objective and rational as much as possible by focusing on the facts and following your plan to (financial) recovery.

If something does not work out as expected, evaluate the situation and revise your strategies. Keep on going.

7. Identify your short- and long-term goals.

Setting goals and objectives encourage people to take action. It can also serve as a road map to measure one's progress as he/she takes control of his/her current financial situation. Accomplish things one step at a time and do it consistently.

Sometimes, it doesn't matter how fast we can reach our goals. What matters most is that we'd get there because we don't give up. Remember that survival is the name of the game in life. Work and wait patiently towards success and be triumphantly rewarded at the turning of the tide.

Writing down your options or alternatives to solve your problems and identifying its pros and cons can also help you determine the best course of action to take.

8. Nurture your spiritual health.

When the future is unclear, a healthy spiritual well-being can give us hope, sense of purpose, and resilience. Spiritual and religious beliefs and practices can help us build strong coping skills amidst stress.

Pray and meditate to strengthen your faith, engage in meaningful conversations with the people you value most, reach out to others who need your help, do things that bring you joy and laughter, focus on your greatest achievements in life, read inspirational stories-- these are just some examples how you can grow your spirituality.

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