Americans are stressed out, maybe more than ever before. After two years of a pandemic that has affected almost every area of our lives, we’re now experiencing record-breaking inflation, a war in Ukraine, and a potential economic recession.
Eighty-seven percent of Americans say their mental health has been greatly affected by what feels like a “constant stream of crises without a break over the last two years,” according to the annual Stress in America survey, conducted by the American Psychological Association.
Almost 90 percent also say that rising costs of items like gas and groceries is a significant source of stress, and 65 percent say they are stressed about money and the economy.
Feeling the Consequences of Stress
High levels of stress can have long-term negative consequences. Medical research shows that chronic stress can lead to anxiety, depression and other mental health struggles.
For many Americans, extra stress during the pandemic has led to unhealthy behaviors. Almost half say they have been less active since the pandemic started, and 58 percent have experienced undesired weight changes. Also, 23 percent say they’ve been drinking more alcohol to cope with stress, averaging 10 drinks per week.
If you’re worried about money and finances, you’re more likely to experience sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, inability to focus at work, and poor performance at work. But on the other hand, working to get your finances in order can help you reduce stress and boost your mental health.
5 Stress-Relieving Financial Fixes
You probably can’t control everything that’s giving you stress. There’s not much we can do about rising gas prices or the possibility of a world war. Instead of worrying about things you can’t control, prioritize the things you can control, such as your own financial decisions. Consider these five steps you can take to improve your financial situation and relieve some stress at the same time.
Set priorities. It’s easy to spend money on things we want without considering the long-term cost. For example, if you max out a credit card to buy items for your kids, you may end up having to work extra hours to keep up with the payments rather than having time to spend with the kids.
Take time to think about your priorities—whether it’s purchasing certain items, having time to spend with family or friends, traveling or having money to give to causes you care about—and then work to make your financial choices match those priorities.
Create a budget. A budget is simply a plan for spending your money, and if you don’t have one, you may have no idea where your money’s going. Take time to build a basic budget and stick to it.
An easy method is to follow the 50/30/20 rule, which means spending 50% of your income on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% on savings or paying down debt.
Make a plan to pay down debt. Carrying extra, high-interest debt from month to month is a source of financial stress for a lot of people. If you’re feeling that stress, create a plan to get out of debt. You can do that by setting aside a portion of your income each month for debt payments or consolidating debts into one payment. Look for ways to cut unnecessary spending so you can free up more money to pay off your debts.
If you’re having trouble making the payments, consider calling your creditors. They may be willing to help you with a payment plan.
Build an emergency account. People often end up with financial stress because they had to take on debt for unexpected expenses such as car repairs or medical costs. Work to build an emergency fund so you’ll be prepared for the unexpected without causing more stress.
If you don’t have one, open a new savings account specifically for emergencies. Work to contribute something to the account every month or week, even if it’s $10. Over time, your emergency fund will grow and you can use it to stop the cycle of financial stress.
Keep an eye on your credit. Staying informed about your current financial and credit situation can help you reduce stress. By monitoring your credit reports from month to month, you can watch how your scores change based on your financial behaviors.
Also, keep track of potential errors or fraud that could damage your scores, and take steps to dispute them. You can get your updated credit scores and reports from ScoreSense with a free 7-day trial.
Begin taking steps to get your financial life in order and start reducing your stress level.