How Can Financial Stress Affect Your Mental Health?

How Can Financial Stress Affect Your Mental Health?

We know that anxiety and stress can affect our wellbeing and mood, but when prevalent and severe, it can also cause mental health issues in people of all ages. A recent study published in the Community Mental Health journal found that even university students who struggle to pay bills, show worsening symptoms of anxiety and alcohol dependence over time. Interestingly, both problems are interrelated. That is, mental health issues and alcohol dependence predict higher levels of financial stress.

Financial Stress Tops Worries for Australians

The Australian Psychological Society’s national Stress and Wellbeing in Australia survey has found that 35% of Australians report having a significant degree of stress in their lives. Financial worries are the top cause of stress on the list. Also problematic is the rise in the number of people who turn to gambling to deal with stress. Around 26% of Australians have higher than normal stress levels, and 26% have moderate to severe signs of depression. The findings show that it is vital to deal with economic worries as a means to ward off ill health.

What Mental Health Issues Can Financial Stress Cause?

We know that financial stress can exacerbate common mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, but it can also change the brain. Research carried out at the LWL University Clinic at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, found that when activated through permanent stress, immune cells change the brain in such a way that may result in mental disorders. Another recent study carried out at the University of Zurich showed that if mothers are stressed for long periods of time during pregnancy, the concentration of stress hormones in the amniotic fluid rises. This increases the risk of an unborn child developing a physical or mental illness later in life.

Why Getting Help Should Be A Priority

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Stress can block your ability to make important changes or formulate a financial strategy to help you end your money problems. Because we know it can have such harmful effects on our health, if we are showing signs of financial stress, it is important to seek professional help. Studies have shown that stress can make our financial troubles worse. One study found that stress exaggerates the reflection effect; it makes people more conservative when choosing between potentially positive outcomes, and riskier when choosing between risks that could result in further financial loss. Researchers note that when we are stressed, we “are less able to utilize more rational and deliberative thinking to assist in making decisions.”

What Help Is Available?

Battling stress can involve a number of different approaches. Holistic activities like yoga, mindful meditation, or Tai Chi, can significantly lower stress hormone (cortisol) levels. So can simply spending time in a green or natural area such as a forest or seaside. Cognitive behavioral therapy (under the guiding hand of a qualified therapist) is considered a gold standard treatment for financial stress. Its aim is to highlight the vital link between how we think, feel, and behave. When we do so, we can make small changes (for instance, to the way we behave in specific instances), which will in turn affect the way we think and feel about these situations.

If you are facing a tough financial time in life, make sure you take proactive steps to keep stress down. Mental clarity is vital if you are to have the right mood and motivation to create an efficient financial strategy. Our fears, including our financial woes, will not fix themselves. Therefore, we should give stress management the important it deserves.

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