Money is the most common stress factor for Americans, finds the newest annual survey from the American Psychological Association (APA). You probably don’t need a survey to tell you that money can be a major source of stress, but at least you’re not alone in worrying about finances.
The majority of Americans (64 percent) named money as a source of stress, making it the most common source of stress among the survey respondents. Parents, those living in lower-income households with income below $50,000 a year, and younger adults (ages 18 to 39) were most likely to report that money is a significant source of stress. Nearly three in four (72 percent) of survey respondents reported being stressed about money at least some of the time during the previous month, while almost a quarter (22 percent) of respondents reported extreme stress about money.
“Regardless of the economic climate, money and finances have remained the top stressor since our survey began in 2007,” said Norman B. Anderson, PhD, APA CEO and executive vice president. “Furthermore, this year’s survey shows that stress related to financial issues could have a significant impact on Americans’ health and well-being.”
7 Ways to Manage Financial Stress
Money stress is a common problem, and as Anderson pointed out, it can have negative effects on Americans who worry about money. Financial stress can greatly decrease quality of life and even lead to physical or mental health issues.
Responsibly managing money is not just about counting dollars — it’s also about maintaining a healthy relationship with money and keeping financial stress from impacting your everyday life. Here are seven ways you can manage financial stress in your life and protect your well-being and health, no matter the state of your finances.
1. Shine a Light on Your Finances
A common response to stressors is to fear them, even ignoring them and hoping they go away. Well, that strategy has never worked with money. A big part of money stress can come from fear of the known, or being afraid to find out exactly how deep in the hole you are. But shining some light on your finances, and laying out your exact debts, income, and expenses, can help you wrap your head around your finances and remove some of the fear of the unknown and feelings of being out of control.
2. Make a Financial Plan of Action
A reason that money can be a huge stressor is that it affects every aspect of people’s lives, and yet a lot of the time they feel they have little control over their money, their income or their spending. To gain control, look at your financial situation and make a plan to get it in better shape. Get your spending under control so that it’s less than what you’re making each month. Make a plan to pay down debt and eventually save up an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses and keep you afloat during hard times.
3. Get a Money Mentor
“Americans who say they have someone they can ask for emotional support, such as family and friends, report lower stress levels and better related outcomes than those without emotional support,” reports the APA.
Find someone in your life whom you trust and who is financially responsible. Discussing your situation and getting advice can provide stress relief. This money mentor can encourage you when you’re feeling overwhelmed, help you tackle financial problems that arise and keep you accountable as you work toward your goals.
4. Be Proactive in Managing Your Money
This follows from making a plan of action — you want to follow through with the plan you made, as well as stay ahead of issues that affect your finances. If you know you’re going to be short on bills this month, for instance, take some time to decide which expenses take priority. Once you’ve identified which bill will probably have to go unpaid, call the service provider to explain your circumstances.
5. Focus on the Positive
It might be too easy to stress about bills, but the truth is they will be there no matter what. Stressing over debts or expenses doesn’t help solve the problem, it only undermines your health. So stay positive — instead of letting that one bill you can’t afford loom large in your mind, remember all the other bills you can afford to pay and try to feel grateful.
6. Don’t Let Financial Worries Take Over Your Life
Set aside a regular time, maybe half an hour a couple times a week or an hour on the weekends, to review your finances and problem solve. The rest of the time, live your life; if your thoughts drift to money, simply tell yourself you’ll think about it later, then put your focus on other things. Distract yourself with family time, fun or cheap hobbies, getting outdoors, or other activities that make you happy and relieve stress.
7. Don’t Let Money Define You
At the end of the day, the state of your bank account is only a small part of your life — and it absolutely is not part of who you are or a reflection of your value. Recognize money problems for the temporary issues they are, and don’t let a bad financial situation convince you that you are lazy, irresponsible, stupid or a failure. Remind yourself as often as needed that your financial situation does not define who you are, and that no matter what your finances look like you always have a lot to offer your family, friends, employer and yourself.
Photo credit: Bhernandez