Coping with financial stress

Coping with financial stress
12 September 2013

THE recent global economic crisis has shattered many people’s sense of safety and identity. Thousands of people have become unemployed; others have lost assets accumulated over decades of hard work. Some have lost their family homes and, for most, this has happened almost overnight.

In times like these, it is almost inevitable that even the soundest or calmest mind will experience stress and feel unsettled.

For many, the stress will become overwhelming. This can manifest in many ways, including sleeplessness, constant worry, anger, resentment, tearfulness and agitation. Sometimes, it leads to severe anxiety or clinical depression.

If you are suffering some of these symptoms, especially if they continue without improvement for more than a week or two, professional help from a trained counsellor or psychologist will likely be the wisest investment to restore your emotional and physical health.

Financial woes

When speaking with people who have symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression, psychologists often uncover financial issues as a concern. Men, in particular, often report feelings of high levels of stress and anxiety associated with their financial commitments and monetary pressures.

Traditionally, men have borne the brunt of financial responsibility for their family. Whether this is the case or not, many men identify at least a part of their success and confidence with their ability to provide for themselves and their loved ones.

High credit card debts, difficulty repaying your mortgage, job loss, loss of business income, a reduction in retirement funds and a decreased value of investments can all have a big impact on your lifestyle and financial security.

Financial pressure can also be felt when there is a fear or threat (real or imagined) of financial instability.

Common symptoms

Common emotional responses to these types of financial pressures include stress, anxiety, muscular tension, insomnia, feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness, embarrassment, anger and angry responses, withdrawing from friends and partners, distress, grief over a sense of loss, feelings of sadness or despair, depression and, in severe cases, suicidal thoughts or actions.

Help at hand

Support from a professional counsellor or psychologist can help to ease the stress, anxiety and other symptoms associated with financial pressure or financial crisis. Counselling helps to lessen the emotional and psychological impact of financial crisis by discussing the underlying cause of your symptoms and providing techniques that will help to reduce or minimise the impact of your stress and anxiety.

Counselling with a qualified counsellor or psychologist is particularly important if you have been experiencing any of the above symptoms for an extended period of time, or if you are finding that they are significantly impacting on your relationships or way of life.

Top tips

The American Psychological Society endorses the following tips to manage stress:

Pause but don’t panic

There are many negative stories in newspapers and on television about rising interest rates. Pay attention to what’s happening around you, but refrain from getting caught up in doom-and-gloom hype, which can lead to high levels of anxiety and bad decision making. Avoid the tendency to overreact or to become passive. Remain calm and stay focused.

Identify stressors and make a plan

Take stock of your particular financial situation and what causes you stress. Write down specific ways you and your family can reduce expenses or manage your finances more efficiently. Then commit to a specific plan and review it regularly. If you are having trouble paying bills or staying on top of debt, reach out for help by calling your bank, utilities or credit card company.

Recognise your reactions

In tough economic times, some people are more likely to relieve stress by turning to unhealthy activities like smoking, drinking or emotional eating. The strain can also lead to more conflict and arguments between partners. Be alert to these behaviours. If they are causing you trouble, consider seeking help from a psychologist or other professional before the problem gets worse.

Turn challenges into opportunities

While difficult, tough times can offer opportunities to take stock of your current situation and make necessary changes. Try taking a walk: it’s an inexpensive way to get good exercise. Having dinner at home with your family may not only save you money, but could help to bring you closer together. Consider learning a new skill. Take a course through your employer or look into low-cost resources in your community that can lead to a better job. The key is to use this time to think outside the box and try new ways of managing your life.

Get help

Facing money troubles can be difficult, even embarrassing, but ignoring them and hoping they’ll go away usually means they get worse. Financial planners are available to help you take control of your money situation. If you continue to be overwhelmed by the stress, talk with a psychologist who can help you address the emotions behind your financial worries, manage stress, and change unhelpful behaviours.

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