You probably already know that your financial difficulties are making you stressed, but have you really stopped to consider what that means for your health?
When something affects our health in a tangible way we are usually proactive about fixing it—when we have a cold we take vitamins and go to bed, when we start putting on a little weight we cut back on the chocolate and start exercising (hopefully you do).
However, when you are struggling with financial difficulties it becomes second nature to ignore the consequences and affect it’s having on your health because we think there is nothing that can be done, it’s just a part of life.
Instead, identify the ways in which your finances are affecting your health and you can then take steps to get healthier, financially and physically, and you don’t have to wait for a miracle cure for either.
We have all dealt with stress before, but when you are having financial difficulties stress can become a constant visitor and, eventually, way of life. Chronic stress can lead to cancer, heart disease, and stroke as stress increases your heart rate and your blood pressure putting more stress on your heart.
High levels of stress can also alter the hormone levels in your body which can lead to adrenal fatigue, weight gain, and the added physical stress on your heart can cause joint pains.
If you are having financial difficulties you have probably found yourself anxiously tossing and turning at night and this sleep deprivation can also lead to weight gain, trouble concentrating and can impede everyday tasks such as driving or working. Not getting enough sleep can also impair your immune system and cause moodiness.
You may also suffer other personality changes such as anxiety and depression, which can in turn make the stress of your financial situation even harder to deal with.
Looking after yourself
When you are having financial difficulties it is also harder to look after yourself because many people develop unhealthy ways to cope with the pressure. These coping mechanisms could be smoking, drinking or over eating which leads to more stress about having these bad habits in your life and adversely affects your health.
At the same time when you are having financial problems the last thing you tend to spend money on is self care. Whether you let your health insurance lapse, ignore health issues in the face of expensive doctor’s bills or start eating more take away food out of convenience and the belief it is cheaper then you are unable to look after yourself.
High stress levels and unhealthy lifestyle habits can lead to looking and feeling older than you really are. Stress and worry cause those worry lines in your face to deepen and they are not helped by cigarettes and poor diet choices. They can also affect your skin, your teeth, and your internal organs which, when combined, make you look and feel old. Yuck!
When you’re not sleeping properly, you will have permanent dark circles around your eyes. Not good. Plus, because you are worried about your finances you neglect to spend the money on facial creams and supplements which can help your internal health, your skin, and your joints.
Your relationships with your partner, your family, and your friends are the most important things to your wellbeing. And when you are too consumed by your financial difficulties to afford these relationships the time and effort they deserve, they will suffer.
Your hopelessness and frustration at your situation can lead to irritability so even when you do make time for your relationships, your attitude can damage those relationships and it can often seem easier to withdraw from your social circle. Unfortunately this isolation can then compound feelings of anxiety and depression.
How to Built Healthy Financial Habits
If you are suffering from one or all of these symptoms of financial strain then you probably don’t see how a few simple steps can put you on the road to better emotional and financial health.
However, it’s taking those first few steps and making a start on changes in your life that can bring hope to the situation. If you continue taking those small steps towards healthier goals, you’ll find yourself making major progress in no time.
To build financial and health benefits:
Reduce your debts. Debts are such a source of stress because once you are in debt and you start attracting interest it can be hard to conquer. You need to commit to reducing your debts by creating a budget and cutting out luxuries like a coffee on the way to work each morning, shopping sprees and dinners out and putting that money towards paying off your credit cards.
Even though a shopping spree may make you feel better in the moment, when you are debt free you can feel better for life.
Curb your spending. In order to truly gain control of your credit cards you’ll have to stop using them and this will help you to begin living within your means. Start learning to spend less than you earn by thinking about each purchase before you make it and deciding whether you really need that item.
Talk about it. If you tell your friends and family about your financial difficulties you can lower expectations for gifts and activities and less pressure can mean less stress.
Add lifestyle. Once you have your debts and other financial difficulties under control, reward yourself for this milestone and put more lifestyle back into your life. For example, hire someone to do the jobs that you don’t like doing and instead of spending Saturday cleaning the house you can spend the day with your family.
Or if you’re sick of working late every night and not having time to see your friends, hire an office assistance to ease your workload.
Declutter your life. When you are happier with your life you will be able to see all the things you had filled your life with to make yourself feel better for what they really are – just stuff. Therefore, make the time to clear out your room, your office, your house or your garage and sell everything you don’t want or need. You can then use those funds to add even more lifestyle.
Exercise. Not only is exercise an acknowledged treatment for depression, but when you exercise regularly you will feel healthier, have more energy and be more positive.
Eat well. It really doesn’t cost more to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, it is actually cheaper to buy fresh food and cook your own meals than to get take away. You’ll also feel better and have more energy from your healthier diet too.
Alban is a personal finance writer at Home Loan Finder, a home loan comparison website.