Americans today are shouldering an enormous economic burden, and it might not just be having effects on our pocketbooks. Research shows it could be effecting our health as well.
A slowing economy, rising energy and food prices, and a slump in the housing market combined with a flurry of home foreclosures and the ever-present pressure to “keep up with the Jones” are all contributing to the increase in the number of Americans falling further and further into debt. To make matters worse, according to a recent Associated Press-AOL Health poll, those who are struggling with debt are likely to report a wide range of health problems from migraine headaches to severe depression.
Of the survey respondents who experienced high levels of debt stress:
- 27 percent had ulcers or digestive tract problems
- 44 percent had migraines or other headaches
- 29 percent suffered severe anxiety
- 23 percent had severe depression
- 6 percent reported heart attacks, double the rate for those with low debt stress.
- 51 percent, had muscle tension, including pain in the lower back.
Knowing how to effectively cope with debt stress will not only help you to regain a sense of balance and well being, but can give you the emotional boost you need to get back on your feet again.
Here are four key parts to managing your debt stress:
1. Watch Your Attitude.
In every place where stress management is discussed you will hear about the benefits of having a positive attitude. After all, a person who lacks self-acceptance and positivity will not be so motivated to seek help. But for some people, or for those in particularly difficult life situations, it may be very hard to “just be positive.” If you are having difficulty maintaining a healthy attitude about yourself or your situation, look for outside sources of inspiration. It can help a lot to surround yourself with positive people; reading inspirational stories can also be helpful.
2. Seek Out a Support System.
Even with the best attitude, it is important to have people around you such as friends, family, church members, and/or support groups. A support system offers encouragement and assistance. Depending on how badly you are struggling, counseling may also be appropriate. Unfortunately, it is also expensive – making it a potentially stressful option for someone who is in a financial struggle. On the other hand, nothing is more valuable than your health.
3. Live Healthy.
It goes without saying that your psychological/emotional health is directly connected to your physical health (that’s the point of the survey). Remember, though, that the connection works both ways: by taking care of your body you can affect how you feel.
- Exercise. Focus on activities that will get you out of the house, such as walking or riding a bike. The fresh air and sun can do wonders.
- Eat well. Even if you are not in the habit of eating healthy or don’t have much of an appetite (which is normal if you are stressed), at least make sure to eat two to three times a day (especially in the morning).
- Go to all your check-ups. A basic part of living healthy is going to “health visits” to the doctor. These are the checkups you go to when you are perfectly healthy. When you see your doctor on a “health visit” they can check your general health much more effectively than if you see them only when you have the flu. They can order any appropriate tests and give you preventative care to prevent you from developing serious disease.
- Look into alternatives. Finally, you can research natural or holistic remedies that help with relaxation and help with creating calm and balance.
4. Make a Plan of Action.
The above tips are all important, but they are mostly symptom-focused. The “cut it at the root” essential aspect to managing your debt stress is to improve your financial situation. Meeting with an experienced debt counselor, consolidating your debts, and creating a budget will give you peace of mind and help to restore a sense of control. Eventually, these steps can lead to a life absent of debt stress, due to a lack of debt.
By actively dealing with any stress that your debts are causing, you can keep your health and increase your chances of being on top of your finances once again.