Take the Right Steps to Cope with Financial Stress

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How to identify – and then reduce – high stress levels caused by money challenges.

We have all been there. Money gets tight, debt problems loom, and despite your best efforts your stress levels go up and up until you are snapping at family members and spacing out at work wondering how you are going to keep all the balls you are juggling in the air. The financial challenges you’re facing can be better handled with a clear focus and a calm mind. Stress is not helping, and in many cases, it may be holding you back from moving forward.

Signs of financial stress

Understanding that your life, outlook and loved ones are negatively impacted by financial stress is not as easy as you think. The following signs can help you identity if you are dealing with excessively high financial stress levels:

  • Are you arguing with your spouse and family members more often, money-related fights or not?
  • Are you hiding bills and receipts from your spouse so you do not “get caught” spending money?
  • Are you having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at night?
  • Are you stress eating – i.e. have your eating habits changed and you are eating out more, turning to comfort and junk foods?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, financial stress may be impacting your life more than you think.

5 steps to reduce financial stress

You need to deal with the cause of the stress AND deal with the resulting symptoms that the stress is manifesting. Addressing the symptoms first is often the right option. The physical and emotional strain you feel can make it difficult to reach clear headed key decisions.

Step 1: Deal with physical symptoms of stress first

  • Eat right – If your diet has been taken over by junk and comfort foods, make a commitment to reestablish a healthy diet.
  • Start exercising – Exercise is a great way to burn stress, as well as calories.
  • Speak with your doctor – Let him/her know about any physical issues you are having and help them understand the stress levels you are facing. Many providers offer virtual appointments.

Step 2: Address the emotional burden

  • Talk to someone – Getting things off your chest is often the easiest way to reduce stress and start feeling better.
  • Treat signs of addiction – People often fall into or fall back into bad habits when they are extremely stressed.
  • Take time outs to recharge – Do something that will take your mind off of your finances for a few minutes. Letting yourself relax will make you more focused when you need to really get to work. Do this at least once each day.

Step 3: Get real with your finances

Now that you are more centered, start working to fix what is causing the stress. Organize challenges into groups. Chances are that a high level of financial stress has more than one source. With that in mind, you need to organize financial stressors into categories:

  • Important, Changeable: These are the big things in your financial life that are contributing to your stress which can be solved by taking action.
  • Important, Unchangeable: These are contributing factors that have led to your situation that you can not change
  • Not Important, Changeable. These are things that may be irritating you and adding to your stress level, but are not truly contributing factors.
  • Not Important, Unchangeable: Again, these are often things that start to seem significant when we get stressed, but which really do not have any effect on your current situation.

Step 4: Get professional help

Once you have cut everything that either is not important or cannot be changed, you are left with the big things, which are true sources of your financial stress. Now find the right person to help you deal with each one of those factors.

  • Credit card debt and general budget problems: Call a certified credit counseling agency to get a free consultation to review your options for debt relief, as well as to get a free budget evaluation to help you balance your expenses with your income.
  • Mortgage challenges: Talk to a HUD-certified housing counselor in a one-on-one counseling session.
  • Student loans: Visit StudentAid.gov to review your options for relief or talk to your loan servicer directly.
  • Tax debt: Talk to a certified public accountant or tax professional to review your options. They can help arrange settlement plans with the IRS and even help with relief options.
  • Medical debt: First, call the original healthcare provider directly – not the collector – to see if you can work out a payment plan.

Step 5: Recover with resilience

  • Stick to your plans. Once you talk to the professionals and plans begin to get plans in place, you should feel the weight of that stress start to lift. It is important to keep up with the solutions you have identified, even if they are tough.
  • Realize nothing in credit last forever. You CAN recover and you WILL be able to get back where you want to be, it just takes patience and a clear path forward – both of which you have now!
  • Accept that change is a part of life. Even significant changes that seem like the end of your world are just the start of something different. Let go and find fulfillment in exploring new opportunities.
  • Be thankful. Find good in each day and focus on that as you continue to take one step at a time towards financial stability.

Need help?

If you are uncertain about which options might work best for you, or how to put a plan into action, give AFFCU or the free financial coaches at KOFE a call. The call is free and confidential. The coach will review your situation and provide recommendations to improve your financial state of affairs.
Call our dedicated toll free number 1-844-325-8012 or book an appointment online through our KOFE portal.