Stress Awareness Month 2020
April is Stress Awareness Month, and it could not have come at a better time.
With the year starting rough with the Australia fires and COVID-19 running rampant, there is a lot to stress over. A Statistics Canada study claims that 30% of Canadians between 35 and 49 years of age feel extreme levels of stress daily.
If you or your friends and family are experiencing higher blood pressure from current events and financial trouble, now’s the time to consider stress management. So let’s all take a deep breath and avoid future health problems by talking about how to deal with stress.
The information below can help you recognize the symptoms of financial stress so you can identify it in your life and take action to fix it.
Signs of financial stress
Seeing that financial stress is negatively impacting your life and relationships isn’t always clear. We often try to put a brave face on when facing challenges. As a result, we don’t notice changes in our behavior that are manifesting high levels of stress. Stress awareness month is your chance to reconnect with yourself.
Answer the following questions to help identify when you’re dealing with excessively high financial stress levels.
- arguing with your spouse and family members more often, money-related fights or not?
- having headaches or panic attacks?
- hiding bills and receipts from your spouse so you don’t “get caught” spending money?
- having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at night?
- stress eating – i.e., have your eating habits changed, and you’re eating out more, turning to comfort and junk foods?
- having trouble focusing at work?
We all experience stress from time to time. It’s a natural and critical part of life and human chemistry. But if you answered yes to any of the above questions, then financial stress may be impacting your life more than you think. You can take the four steps below to starting reducing your stress levels now.
Four steps to reduce financial stress
Once you feel too much pressure in your life, you must deal with the cause of the stress and the resulting symptoms. Addressing the symptoms first is often the right option. Take the following four steps this Stress Awareness Month to help yourself mentally and financially.
1. Deal with any physical signs of your stress first.
- Eat nutrient-dense meals every day and minimize junk food. If you’ve let your diet get taken over by junk foods, commit to get back to grocery shopping for healthy meals, and reestablish a healthy diet. It’s not only going to give you more energy, but it is also usually cheaper. Taking time to relax and cook a meal with your spouse or kids can be a great stress reliever.
- Start exercising regularly. Exercise is a great way to burn stress right along with calories. Choose active things that you like to do to relieve some stress. Exercise can increase endorphins while helping to improve your metabolism and energy overall.
- Set an appointment with your medical physician. Let them know about any physical issues you’re having and help them understand the stress levels you’re facing. They can help you address issues such as trouble sleeping, stomach and GI problems, and skin conditions like hives that are all commonly caused by stress.
- Schedule a visit with a dentist to ensure your oral health is up to par. The Journal of Periodontology found high-stress levels double your chances for gum disease. Get your teeth cleaned and make sure you’re not doing things like grinding your teeth, which can be another physical manifestation of stress.
2. ADDRESS THE EMOTIONAL BURDEN
- Talk to someone with whom you can be vulnerable. Getting things off our chests is often the easiest way to reduce stress and start feeling better. Keeping your stresses over money and debt secret or internalizing it is an excellent way to wind up with an ulcer or heart disease. Talk to a family member, friend, or mental health professional to start venting that pressure, so it doesn’t build up and paralyze you.
- Treat signs of addiction. People often fall into or fall back into bad habits when we get extremely stressed. If you’ve started drinking, smoking, or self-medicating because of your financial stress, seek out help. Look for local support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
- Take time to recharge and refocus. Pick an activity that will take your mind off of your finances for a few minutes. Take your kids to the park to play or take a walk with a friend. Just getting away and letting yourself relax a little can help you better handle tasks.
3. GET REAL WITH YOUR FINANCES
Now that you’re healthy and more centered, you can start working to fix what’s causing the stress.
- Organize challenges into groups. Chances are that a high level of financial stress has more than one source. With that in mind, you need to organize financial stressors into 4 categories:
- Important, Changeable: These are the big things in your financial life that are contributing to your stress that can be solved by taking action. If your mortgage is underwater, this may be refinancing through HARP. Even if you don’t know the solution yet, just knowing there’s a solution out there and that it’s something you should pursue is the first step.
- Important, Unchangeable: These are contributing factors that have led to your situation that you can’t change – divorce, a bad economy, ongoing medical and mental health challenges, changes in your career industry that have made your job obsolete.
- Not Important, Changeable. These are things that may be irritating you and adding to your stress level, but they’re not contributing factors. These are often small things. Focus on the most important matters and avoid using energy on anything else.
- Not Important, Unchangeable: Again, these are often things that start to seem significant when we get stressed, but which don’t have any effect on your current situation. Maybe your parents never taught you how to budget appropriately, or they didn’t teach you how to use credit properly. You can do better for your kids, but you can’t change what happened in the past to you, so you have to let it go.
4. Find the appropriate help from professionals.
Once you’ve cut out everything that either isn’t necessary or it can’t be changed, you have the big things that are real sources of your financial stress. Now you find the right person to help you deal with each one of those factors.
- Credit card debt and general budget problems: Call a credit counselling agency to get a free consultation. Review your options for consolidation and other types of debt relief and get a free budget evaluation to help you balance your expenses with your income.
- For mortgage challenges: Talk to a HUD-certified housing counsellor in a one-on-one counselling session or find a Save My Home event in your local area.
- For student loans: Visit StudentAid.gov to review your options for relief or talk to your loan servicer directly. You can also use a third-party student loan consolidation service to help you understand your options if you don’t know where to start.
- For tax debt: Talk to a certified public accountant or tax professional to review your options. They can help you arrange settlement plans with the CRA and even help you qualify for relief options like Currently Not Collectible status.
- For medical debt: First, call the original healthcare provider directly – not the collector – to see if you can work out a payment plan. You may also be able to use credit counselling to find solutions to challenges with medical debt. For instance, sometimes, you can include these debts in a debt management program if you’re also struggling with credit cards and other types of unsecured debt.
Recover with Resilience
You may not manage to hit all of the marks during Stress Awareness Month, but you can at least start.
Stick to your plans. Once you talk to the right professionals and start to get plans in place, you should feel the weight of that stress start to lift. Cutting back may be difficult, but it will be worth it long-term.
Realize that a credit score can change over time. Many times stress comes from the fear that we’ve utterly ruined our financial lives, but that’s usually just not the case. Even if you foreclose on a home and have to declare Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the damage to your credit will only last for ten years, and the impact starts to reduce long before that. It just takes patience and a clear path forward – both of which you have now!
Accept that change and hardship is an essential part of life. Even significant changes that seem like the end of your world are just the start of something different. Losing your high-paying power job and moving back in with your parents may feel like failure, but going back to where you came from could reignite a passion you’ve lost and give you a new career path. Let go and find fulfillment in exploring new opportunities.
Practice gratitude every day. We often spend too much time focused on what we’re lacking or missing from our lives instead of counting our blessings. Find good in each day and focus on that as you continue to take one step at a time towards financial stability.
You don’t have to wait for Stress Awareness Month to see how you can be doing better. If debt is your source of stress, the best way to relieve that pressure is to find a path back to stability. Call Consolidated Credit today at 1-844-402-3073 to speak with a trained credit counsellor.