For the last few weeks, I’ve been focused on the fact that April is Financial Literacy month. Today I’d like to talk about a different subject the April is the “month” of, and that is Stress Awareness Month. And appropriately enough, those two things go together pretty well.
Struggling with financial literacy can be a major cause of stress. Certainly finances can be a major source of stressors and cause our mental and physical health to suffer. Even before the pandemic, a survey by the American Psychological Association found that 72% of people feel stressed about money at least some of the time. Couple that with lost income, lost jobs, increased expenses since the pandemic began, and it’s probably safe to say that number has gone up this year.
Unfortunately, living under the pressure of financial difficulties can trigger anxiety and depression, which makes it harder to think clearly and come up with a plan for what to do. Worry about unpaid bills, pending disconnections and such can overwhelm us and make it hard to manage our money, which in turn causes more financial issues, which causes more stress which makes it even harder to think clearly. Loss of sleep due to stress only adds fuel to the fire. It’s a vicious cycle that can be hard to break.
We are often left feeling overwhelmed and ashamed, and it can seem like we have no one with whom to share our concerns because of those feelings. Lack of money (and now the pandemic) can mean we withdraw socially, which gives us even less support. This can lead to relationship difficulties like fights about money and spending, and also can contribute to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drinking, gambling, overeating, and impulsive shopping. If the situation is bad enough, some people might consider self-harm or suicide.
As we talked about last week, when people get in trouble financially, they can feel a lot of shame. This makes it hard for us to ask for help or even to admit that things aren’t going well. It can be very difficult to face up to the fact that we’re in trouble with our money, even if it is a situation that was out of our control.
So how do we deal with all this stress? First, don’t go it alone. Talk to someone; even if they can’t fix the situation, just sharing with someone who cares can help.
Open up to your family. Kids too, if they are old enough. You can bet they know you’re stressed. Sometimes as parents, we feel like we have to be perfect for our children. Perhaps a better lesson is how to function as a person in the real world, flaws and all. This lets them express their own concerns. It’s okay to admit you don’t know all the answers, and to work as a team to sort it out. If kids know money is tight, you might be surprised and how they will not only stop asking for things, but might contribute to coming up with a solution.
Consider professional help. Working with a credit counselor can not only give you an outlet for telling someone your situation, they will help you to identify your options and work with you to find a solution. Like I’ve said before, we aren’t here to judge, we’re here to help. Having a new point of view from someone else can help us to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’ll look at all the income, expenses and debt, and help identify where the problem lies. Then we make the plan together. Building a crisis budget, prioritizing and identifying places to change can really make a difference in the short term. Once the plan is made, we’ll work with you as you work the plan and be a place to be accountable.
Practice good self care. Get your sleep, take a walk, or practice other relaxation techniques. Not sleeping isn’t going to bring any more money in, but lack of sleep can certainly add to the problems. In addition, if stress is causing significant mental health problems, seeking a professional for that can also give some relief. Most communities have services available for those who are financially strapped. Your employer may have an Employee Assistance Program that would cover some counseling sessions.
I’ve seen first hand the effect that financial stress can have on people, from a client who was so stressed he could barely speak to those who break down and cry when they can finally see a way out. It’s a great feeling when those same people unclench their shoulders and can take a deep breath and maybe even smile a bit.
The path out of financial difficulty isn’t easy, and sometimes the solution is not exactly what we expected. Even small steps can bring relief. It might seem like progress is slow, but pretty soon you look back and realize just how far you’ve come.
If the pressure is getting to you and you want some help, the counselors at the Center for Financial Resources are here for you. Contact us at 1-888-258-2227 or www.lsssd.org to make an appointment.
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Written by Sylvia Selgestad, Financial Counselor and Educator
LSS Center for Financial Resources
Consumer Credit Counseling Service | Housing Resources | Sharpen Your Financial Focus | Financial Fitness Education
705 East 41st Street, Suite 100 | Sioux Falls SD 57105-6047
605-330-2700 or 888-258-2227
Strengthening Individuals, Families & Communities