As if record credit card debt, ballooning inflation, and rising interest rates aren’t stressful enough, the cost of coffee increased by nearly 12 percent in 2022. Now that’s just cruel!
Expensive lettuce is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to financial stress. According to the 2022 Financial Stress Index, 38 percent of Canadians say money is their biggest concern, outranking personal health, work and relationships.
The survey also reveals that two in five Canadians report feeling less hopeful about their financial futures now than a year ago and that one in three say financial stress is leading to anxiety, depression, or mental health issues. In short, if you’re feeling financial stress, you are FAR from alone!
As one of the registered counsellors providing private video appointments at TELUS Health MyCare™, I’ve noticed a jump in the number of guys who are dealing with stress and anxiety caused by financial issues.
Financial wellness is one of the pillars of your well-being. Some of the others include physical, social, nutritional, and mental. When it gets knocked out of whack, some of the other pillars can start to crumble. That’s why it’s so important to have tools, to help keep financial stress at bay.
Signs and symptoms of financial stress
Financial stress can cause significant health and relationship problems, such as:
- Arguing about money with loved ones and friends
- Withdrawing socially from friends and family
- Problems at work. Almost half of working Canadians say that stress related to personal finances has had an impact on their performance at work.
- Feelings of guilt or shame about spending money on non-essential items
- Feelings of hopelessness around never having enough money and of being on a financial “hamster wheel” forever
- Worrying or feeling anxious
- Trouble sleeping and/or lying awake at night worrying. Nearly half of Canadians say they’ve lost sleep because of financial worries.
- Fatigue and low energy
- High blood pressure, which can increase the risk of heart disease
- Thoughts of suicide. This doesn’t have to mean actively planning your death. It can be more of a “what if?” thought.
If you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms, the first thing you should do is talk to a healthcare specialist. They can refer you to the right person or service that can help.
Causes of financial stress
Worrying about money can rear its ugly head no matter how wealthy you are or how much money you make. After all, people who have oodles of moolah also tend to spend more of it. Not-so-fun fact: Lottery winners are more likely to declare bankruptcy within three to five years than the average person.
Understanding some of the causes of financial stress can help you figure out ways to tackle it. Here are some common causes of financial stress:
- Household stressors like groceries and paying bills
- Unexpected expenses, like needing a new roof or a sick pet
- Credit cards, loans and lines of credit
- Getting evicted or being behind on rent
- Social pressure to give the appearance of being successful
- Compulsive spending
Next, I highly recommend considering using some of the tips below to help improve your financial wellness.
Tips for coping with financial stress
Consider these tips for a better sense of control over your finances and mental well-being.
Take it one decision at a time
Avoid making too many financial decisions at once and becoming overwhelmed. When people are faced with many decisions that test their willpower, research suggests their willpower wilts more easily.
Track your spending
Keeping a daily list of how you spend your money can help put you back in control of your finances. More control = less stress. On that note…
There’s a (free) app for that
There are dozens of free apps that help you track your day-to-day spending and help you set up a budget that’s in line with your income and debt situation. This is a good one to try.
Know your stressors and make a plan
Figure out when and where money causes you stress. At the supermarket cash register? When bills arrive? At the end of the month when rent is due? Then write down ways you can reduce expenses or manage your money more efficiently at those times and in those situations. Then turn what you uncover into a plan you review regularly. Although this process can be stressful in the short term, sticking to it can reduce stress.
Ask for help
Call your bank, utility company, or credit card company to set up a payment plan if you are having trouble paying bills.
Ask for help—the sequel
Google “free financial counselling Canada,” and you will find a wealth of quality non-profit options. All-purpose health counselling services, like TELUS Health MyCare™, can take other aspects of your life into account as well while getting to the root of why finances cause you stress.
Ask for help—part 3
Research shows that having a social support system can help you reach your goals. Surround yourself with people you trust who support your financial goals and want to see you succeed.
Recognize how you deal with financial stress
In tough times, it can be easy to relieve stress by turning to unhealthy activities such as smoking, drinking, gambling, or binge eating. These activities can lead to more financial and relationship problems, and the negative cycle just keeps feeding itself. If this sounds like what you’re going through, again, go see a healthcare professional.
Reduce social media use and cut down on TV
Advertisements are designed to make us want to buy things, while online ads make it easy with all those “buy now” buttons.
Choose social activities that don’t involve spending much money. Get outside, exercise, walk with friends, play with your kids, read, go for the occasional 12 percent-more-expensive cup of coffee…to name just a few.
If you’re feeling stuck and not sure what to do next, simply start with one thing on this list. Remember to be easy on yourself. Financial wellness starts with a single step in the right direction.
Do you have any tips on how to get yourself out of a stressful financial situation? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
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