What is consistently one of the biggest causes of stress to Americans?
That’s according to a recent study by the American Psychological Association (APA), which found that 60 percent of Americans say financial worries are a significant source of stress, with the cost of health care as the most common cause of that worry.
Another study, by John Hancock, found that financial stress affects most Americans. In their survey, 68 percent of respondents worried about their financial situation. The most common case of financial stress was debt, with 71 percent saying that it was a major concern.
However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t positive ways to manage financial stress. We have some ideas that could help you relieve your anxiety and possibly reduce your debt.
Ways to Relieve Financial Stress
1. Save More Money
Creating a budget and an emergency fund are the top two strategies mentioned by nearly every expert in the field.
These are the kind of things that sound simple, but can be difficult to pull off.
Yes, you can create an amazing budget spreadsheet.
Or start building an emergency fund.
But to do those things you may have to pay off debt first.
That is sometimes easier said than done, and the daily grind of life can get in the way: your car breaks down, you don’t get the raise you were expecting, you miscalculated your home remodel costs, medical bills popped up, kids needed money for school, etc.
So yes, having extra money on hand could help with financial stress. And it’s probably a good idea to put money away in a savings account whenever you have extra. But it’s not necessarily the only way or the easiest way.
2. Forgive Yourself
Psychologists talk about “avoidance coping,” which can mean avoiding a problem by not doing anything about it.
As Dr. Alice Boyes writes in Psychology Today, this can lead a person to stop working on a goal, feelings of awkwardness and delaying the start of a task you don’t know how you’re going to finish.
When it comes to dealing with stress over money, it’s not always just a matter of dollars and cents. It’s possible you feel bad about your situation, and that feeling could lead to inaction.
You’re not alone. Many people feel stressed about money and their financial situation.
Part of the process of dealing with it might be to stop beating yourself up and understanding that it’s normal and that you can take control.
Research shows that the number one way successful people manage stress is to have self-compassion. So cut yourself some slack, be kind and know that you can take one step at a time to regain control.
3. Reach Out for Help
You don’t have to take on all your financial stress by yourself.
Non-profit organizations such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling can be a good place to start.
They offer assistance from trained financial advocates who can work with you on issues relating to credit and debt, housing, mortgages, student loans and general financial education.
It may also help to talk over your money difficulties with family, friends or other support networks. The American Psychological Association suggests that social and emotional support can be very important when dealing with stress.
4. Simplify Your Debt
Getting rid of debt entirely may not be realistic, at least not right away.
What you can do fairly easily and quickly is consolidate debt. Whether it’s credit cards or medical bills, sometimes it’s hard to manage not just the amount you owe, but the administrative work of keeping track of when bills are due and how much money you’ll have coming in at that time.
A personal loan can help you reduce stress. 77% of customers who consolidated debt with a Discover® personal loan told us they felt less stressed.1 With a debt consolidation loan you can put multiple obligations into one monthly payment. From there you know exactly how much you’ll owe, on what day, and how long it will take to pay it off. Plus, the interest rate is typically fixed, and could be lower than the interest you are paying on your bills now.
This predictability may be helpful in dealing with financial stress, as some research suggests having too many decisions to make—i.e., how to prioritize a number of different debt bills—can create additional mental tension.
5. Use Relaxation Techniques
Not every attempt at getting rid of financial stress has to be a rigorous exercise in bookkeeping. According to WebMD, there are a number of ways to relieve stress that anyone can do for free.
Something as easy as deep breathing can slow your heart rate and lower blood pressure. A warm wash cloth on your neck and shoulders for 10 minutes could help you decompress. And even just a good laugh is known to lower stress hormones and endorphins that improve your state of mind.
Meanwhile, common activities like walking and listening to music have the ability to reduce anxiety and depression.
More Than a Numbers Game
Some people assume that just having more money would decrease financial stress. Even wealthy people worry about their financial obligations.
Sure, it’s important to get control of your spending, saving and debt. But it’s not the whole story.
Money can affect people in ways both psychological and mathematical. It can get in the way of your dreams or help you pursue them.
It’s a part of so many aspects of life, it’s no surprise how common it is for people to be stressed out about their finances.
Hopefully the techniques above help you balance that tension with financial peace.
1 ABOUT SURVEY
All figures are from an online customer survey conducted August 12 to August 27, 2019. A total of 648 Discover personal loan debt consolidation customers were interviewed about their most recent Discover personal loan. All results @ a 95% confidence level. Respondents opened their personal loan between January and June 2019 for the purpose of consolidating debt.