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Obesity. Smoking. Diabetes. These are the risk factors we typically think of when we consider threats to our overall health. We’ve all read about the dangers of maintaining a poor diet, putting carcinogenic substances into our bodies, and spending too much time on the couch binging on Netflix instead of sweating it out at the gym.
But financial stress is a hidden danger that poses an even greater risk to our health and well-being.
The toll that financial stress takes on our lives and overall health is often overlooked. After all, everyone has money problems, right? And because most people have complicated feelings about money, like guilt, shame, anxiety, and overwhelm, they often avoid tending to their finances because it’s just too much to deal with.
A 2017 report in MarketWatch found that 50 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and almost 20 percent of people have no savings to speak of.
On surveys, people report feeling anxious and fearful about their financial well-being, and “struggling to make ends meet” even if they’re making six figure incomes.
Then a pandemic swept across the globe and caused an even bigger financial crisis. No wonder we lay awake at night worrying about how to pay the bills and find ourselves crying over our empty bank accounts.
Our long-standing culture of consumerism and neuromarketing doesn’t bode well for our financial or mental health either.
Companies invest billions of dollars every year to create advertisements that appeal to our brains and manipulate our buying habits, resulting in a maxed out Visa and underlying feelings of buyer’s remorse after one too many retail therapy sessions at Macy’s.
Targeted marketing on our Facebook feeds and one-click buying options on Amazon tempt us every five seconds to buy now, get more, and have better, which is consumerism at it’s finest. It’s easier than ever to fill our online shopping carts and rack up more and more debt.
The consequences of overspending and under earning don’t just impact our wallets. Our mental, emotional, and physical health suffer too.
Several years ago, I found myself in the same position as many of my clients – in the midst of a financial crisis, constantly on edge, and unable to get the fear of bankruptcy, divorce, and losing my business out of my head.
I was drowning in $87,000 of debt, working my butt off to grow my mental health private practice, losing money in my business everyday, and wondering if I’d make more money flipping burgers at McDonald’s.
Completely overwhelmed by my finances, I avoided them like the plague by stuffing bills in the back of my desk drawer (out of sight, out of mind) and refusing to look at my bank account for months at a time.
When my husband would casually inquire about when I would ever bring home a paycheck from my business, I’d bite his head off in defensiveness, which would turn into hour-long fights about money.
My feelings of desperation and financial chaos lead to angry outbursts, feelings of guilt and shame, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and hopelessness. And the financial stress I experienced impacted every area of my life, including how I performed at work, to how I interacted with the people I love, and how my body functioned. (I’ll spare you the gross details of the intestinal issues, chronic acne, and “unexplained” weight loss I went through.)
After a while, I got sick of feeling sick over my finances and started applying the techniques and strategies I use with therapy clients to my financial life. I created a toolbox full of tools to alleviate financial stress and help myself regain a sense of financial control, and now I’m sharing those tools with you.
While it seems counterintuitive, facing our financial fears head-on is what will make us feel better.
By simply devoting some time and attention to our finances and shifting our perception of money, we can cure financial stress, improve our overall health, and lead happier financial lives.
Now, comment below and share one of your financial wins so I can celebrate with you!
There’s no win too small to celebrate!