Financial stress

Feelings and effects of financial stress

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What does financial stress feel like and how can it affect me?

If you are experiencing financial stress, you may notice yourself consumed by thoughts about your financial situation. You may find it harder than usual to be happy and optimistic, and you may even experience some physical symptoms.

It’s normal to be experiencing these kinds of feelings, and while they may feel distressing right now, it’s important to remember they won’t last forever.

Feelings and thoughts

Having money problems can make you feel:

  • Ashamed, like there’s something wrong with you for getting into financial trouble
  • Anxious and fearful about the future
  • Guilty about your spending habits and about not being able to support your dependents and pay your bills
  • Hopeless
  • Feeling helpless, like there’s nothing you can do to change your situation and that it’s beyond your control
  • Frustrated
  • Overwhelmed
  • Depressed.

You might think about your past financial decisions and mistakes you regret as we often tend to look back on decisions and beat ourselves up for not doing things differently. But, if we dwell on these, it can lead to negative beliefs about ourselves.

While reflection is important to make better decisions in the future, it can be unhealthy to criticise or judge yourself for past decisions. Even if you do regret some of the choices you’ve made in the past, they don’t define you as a person. Show the same compassion to yourself as you would to a loved one.

Try reframing your thinking, and instead of saying, ‘I messed up, I am a failure, say, ‘I now know what doesn’t work for me, and I can use this information when planning my future.’

Physical effects

You might experience physical responses to financial stress,such as:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension and pain
  • Digestive problems like stomach aches and irritable bowel syndrome
  • High blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems
  • Skin problems like acne and rashes
  • Weight fluctuations or changes in appetite.
When I lost my job and couldn't pay bills, I started having strong headaches due to the stress I was experiencing.

How else could financial stress affect me?

Financial stress can also lead to the following consequences:

  • Lowered self-esteem, especially if having money is something that you identified with very strongly
  • Relationship problems - for example, if you and your partner disagree about how to handle money and how to resolve your financial problems
  • Decreased productivity at work — if financial stress makes it hard for you to focus and perform well at your job
  • Decreased quality of life — if financial stress prevents you from engaging in activities you enjoy
  • Withdrawal from friends and family, especially if you feel embarrassed about your financial situation or like a burden
  • Increased risk of using unhealthy coping strategies, like using alcohol or drugs, overeating, and gambling
  • Debt and financial instability if you’re not able to get on top of your finances.
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