Modern living poses a string of problems for our heart and mind. We all encounter pressing demands from work, school, family, friends and other people. Our risk of being exposed to traumatic events has gone up. In addition to these, we need to make sense of the extensive information coming from modern communications technology. In other words, we are experiencing stress at varying levels at all times in the present world.
At certain points in our lives, our mind and body already are fed up with these demands, pressures and events. These moments force our body to give in to unbearable stress, which if experienced for an extended period could tax our body’s capability to heal itself.
From stress to sickness
When the body is exposed to stressful “dangerous” situations, whether real or imagined, the body shifts from its normal state to its fight-or-flight state. Our muscles tense. Our heart races and our blood pressure and breathing also shoot up. Our body behaves just as though we are anticipating a predator attack in the wild. Once the stress is removed, our body relaxes and physiological functions return to normal.
Modern society has produced many stresses that most of us no longer can handle. Hence, our body is in a fight-or-flight state most of the time. Like an overworked machine, the body loses its capability to heal itself. This condition makes the body a target for a host of life-threatening diseases such as heart disease, hypertension and cancer.
Stress also causes psychological and behavioral changes that affect all aspects of life. It can slow down your mental functions, create confusion and breed negative attitudes or thoughts that make us worry. Emotionally, it can cause irritation, frustration, over-excitement, apathy and feelings of being overworked and overwhelmed. Shifts in your cognitive, emotional, and behavioral state can lead to relationship problems.
Money and stress
What are the major causes of stress in the United States? According to Stress in America, a survey done by the American Psychological Association, the top sources of stress are money, work (for employed respondents), family responsibilities and health concerns. Since 2007, money concerns have topped the list. This peaked when the global financial crisis gripped the United States in 2008. Even in 2014, when the U.S. economy had recovered, 72 percent of American adults still felt stressed about money and 22 percent said they experience extreme stress because of it.
The financial crisis that brought financial difficulties and debt problems to Americans has prevented 32 percent of them from living a healthy lifestyle. Worse, one in five Americans have skipped, or thought of skipping, necessary doctor visits because of money problems.
Financial stress covers all aspects of our lives, making managing daily activities difficult. Psychologists say it is the level of worry and negative thoughts we have about our money, and not the amount of money we owe, that predicts depression and health issues. Hence, to cope with financial stress, we have to challenge our doomsday thinking and carry out proactive action by doing the following:
- Practice positive talk. The words we use have the power not only to convince others but also ourselves. Replacing the negative scripts with positive, encouraging ones will make us move on to positive action rather than staying in the rut.
- Get quality sleep. Sleep and stress affect each other. The more quality sleep a person gets, the more he or she is relieved from different kinds of stress, including financial. A bedroom containing the most comfortable mattress, such as a gel memory foam one, as well as a lifestyle that contributes to sound sleep, are necessities to combat the pressures of modern living.
- Record your worries in a journal. Identifying the problems that worry you and pointing out their solutions will encourage you to think positively about your problems. This will train your mind to formulate solutions for every problem you encounter, whether financial or otherwise.
- Change the way you think about money. Money needs to be managed, not to be spent indiscriminately. About half of all Americans have allotted less than one month’s income to savings for an emergency. To weather any financial crisis, experts recommend saving at least six months income.
- Manage your finances. Start resisting your impulse to spend by creating a budget and sticking to it. Personal finance professionals also advise creating a financial plan. This way you can keep track of how much money you have at present and how to spend it carefully.
- Seek professional help. If you believe money is a valuable thing then treat it as such. While others get advice from experts in other fields to boost their income, it is equally or even more beneficial to ask help from financial experts who will teach you to make the most of your income.
Medical professionals and psychologists agree that financial stress can lead to a host of problems. The tips above will help you create a more positive approach to how you treat money and become more responsible in managing it.