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Do you suffer from financial anxiety? Here’s what it’s about and how to overcome it

Financial anxiety affects our health but there are ways to get to grips with it and beat it.

If the thought of looking at your bank account send you into a stress spiral, you are not alone.

Most people worry about money from time to time, but what if you’re so worried that you’re losing sleep, lacking focus or unable to carry out everyday tasks?

Financial stress or anxiety differs from everyday money worries. This is because it’s constant and, in some cases, debilitating. In worst cases, it can become all-consuming, affecting many aspects of your life.

If left untreated, it can severely impact your mental and physical health, say clinical psychologists Kryska Marquard (KM Therapy) and Curwyn Mapaling (North- West University). They give us more info into financial anxiety and its affects.

Can you talk money and mental health?

‘We know from research that there’s a significant relationship between financial stress, interpersonal stress, and psychological distress and wellbeing.

More specifically, research has shown that individuals living with significant debt are more likely to experience health problems and mental distress.

Financial stress can affect people’s mental health to varying degrees depending on numerous factors, such as the psychosocial support and socio-economic resources available to them.

‘If you’re feeling low or depressed, you may lack the motivation to manage your finances, finding it harder to make budgeting and spending decisions. It might not feel worth trying.

Spending may give you a brief high, so you might overspend to feel better or make impulsive financial decisions. If your mental health affects your ability to work or study, this might reduce your income.

You might avoid doing things to stay on top of your money, such as opening bills or checking your bank account. You might try to avoid thinking about money entirely.’

How can financial stress manifest itself physically or emotionally?

‘People often suffer financial stress in silence, feeling embarrassed by its presence in their life. By keeping silent, the emotional weight of their difficulties could create anxiety, depression, panic attacks or even exacerbate substance use as a means to self-medicate the constant pressure they feel to keep up with their financial demands.

‘The human stress response presents differently in each of us, even if circumstances are similar or in cases when individuals living in the same household are experiencing the type of financial stress.

Emotional symptoms may include, for instance, avoidance, isolation or social withdrawal and feelings of helplessness and worthlessness.

On the other hand, physical symptoms could include, but are by no means limited to tension headaches, panic attacks, sweating, and inflammation.’

Some say a little financial anxiety is normal, but how do you know if it’s progressed to a degree damaging to your health?

‘Financial and other forms of anxiety can be normal. Once feeling anxious starts to impact your social and occupational functioning, it’ll probably start harming your health.

You might notice your appetite increase or decrease, substance use increases, hair loss and digestive issues, to name but a few.

Our bodies tend to map what our inner emotional worlds struggle to cope with. It is important to listen to what your body needs and take note of where you need to lean into more.’

How can we get to grips with our financial anxiety?

‘It’s important to take small steps first. Once we’re able to speak about what feels heavy and shameful, it’s easier to find ways to problem- solve and take tangible steps are that could help us improve our financial health.

If you’re suffering from severe anxiety, you might want to consider seeking more information or professional help, but by focusing on the things you can control, you might be able to take small steps toward reducing the stress you feel.

If you don’t know where to start, here are some of our recommended steps to beat financial anxiety today

Transform your mindset - positive thinking won’t magically pay your bills or stretch your budget, but it can help calm your fears. It can also help you recognise and appreciate your financial strengths, which could lead you to solve problems.

Identify the top sources of financial anxiety - write down your biggest money challenges, keep the list short to help you feel less overwhelmed and revisit it every three to six months or as your circumstances allow.

Evaluate your relationship with money - Discussing it with someone you trust may give you clarity on unhealthy spending habits

Set goals and plan ahead - When you plan in advance, be it for retirement in a few decades, a vacation in a few months or a large purchase, setting goals can help reduce anxiety.

Keep track of bills and earnings - Track your spending for a month to see how small expenses add up, where you are wasting money and to help create a future budget.

Be strategic about reducing debt - Credit card debt is a common source of financial stress. Not only is it expensive, it can also get in the way of your savings goals.

If you have balances on multiple cards, consider using the snowball method (paying off your debts one-by-one, focusing on the smallest first) or the high-rate method (concentrating on the cards with the highest interest rates first).

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