Five ways to tackle financial stress
Alice Haine | July 25, 2013
Illness caused by money worries can manifest in many ways, including sleeplessness, anger, resentment, tearfulness and agitation. Sometimes, it leads to severe anxiety or clinical depression. So how do you determine if you have it and what can you do to alleviate the symptoms?
Linda Sakr, a licensed counselling psychologist with the UAE's Ministry of Health and a regular contributor to cashy.me, the first dedicated personal finance social media platform in the Arab world - which first featured this article – reveals more:
When speaking with people who have symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression, psychologists often uncover financial issues as a concern. Men, in particular, often report feelings of high levels of stress and anxiety associated with their financial commitments and monetary pressures.
Traditionally, men have borne the brunt of financial responsibility for their family. Whether this is the case or not, many men identify at least a part of their success and confidence with their ability to provide for themselves and their loved ones.
High credit card debts, difficulty repaying your mortgage, job loss, loss of business income, a reduction in retirement funds and a decreased value of investments can all have a big impact on your lifestyle and financial security.
Common emotional responses to these types of financial pressures include stress, anxiety, muscular tension, insomnia, feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness, embarrassment, anger and angry responses, withdrawing from friends and partners, distress, grief over a sense of loss, feelings of sadness or despair, depression and, in severe cases, suicidal thoughts or actions.
Help is at hand
Support from a professional counsellor or psychologist can help to ease the stress, anxiety and other symptoms associated with financial pressure or financial crisis. Counselling helps to lessen the emotional and psychological impact of financial crisis by discussing the underlying cause of your symptoms and providing techniques that will help to reduce or minimise the impact of your stress and anxiety.
The American Psychological Society endorses the following tips to manage stress:
1. Pause but don’t panic
There are many negative stories in newspapers and on television about rising interest rates. Pay attention to what’s happening around you, but refrain from getting caught up in doom-and-gloom hype, which can lead to high levels of anxiety and bad decision making. Avoid the tendency to overreact or to become passive. Remain calm and stay focused.
2. Identify stressors and make a plan
Take stock of your particular financial situation and what causes you stress. Write down specific ways you and your family can reduce expenses or manage your finances more efficiently. Then commit to a specific plan and review it regularly. If you are having trouble paying bills or staying on top of debt, reach out for help by calling your bank, utilities or credit card company.
3. Recognise your reactions
In tough economic times, some people are more likely to relieve stress by turning to unhealthy activities like smoking, drinking or emotional eating. The strain can also lead to more conflict and arguments between partners. Be alert to these behaviours. If they are causing you trouble, consider seeking help from a psychologist or other professional before the problem gets worse.
4. Turn challenges into opportunities
While difficult, tough times can offer opportunities to take stock of your current situation and make necessary changes. Try taking a walk: it’s an inexpensive way to get good exercise. Having dinner at home with your family may not only save you money, but could help to bring you closer together. Consider learning a new skill. Take a course through your employer or look into low-cost resources in your community that can lead to a better job. The key is to use this time to think outside the box and try new ways of managing your life.
5. Get help
Facing money troubles can be difficult, even embarrassing, but ignoring them and hoping they’ll go away usually means they get worse. Financial planners are available to help you take control of your money situation. If you continue to be overwhelmed by the stress, talk with a psychologist who can help you address the emotions behind your financial worries, manage stress, and change unhelpful behaviours.
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