If you’re irritated by your boss or exhausted from watching whiny kids, you may be tempted to take yourself shopping. When you come home and realize you’ve maxed out your credit card buying treats and goodies you don’t need, you may feel frustrated with yourself for being so careless. In an effort to mitigate the stress, you might wander down to the local mall, searching for relief in all the wrong places.
Your money and your mind are intricately linked. According to a study from Thriving Wallet, a partnership between Thrive Global and Discover, 90% of Americans say money has an impact on their stress. Unfortunately, your stress also affects how you manage your money, which can lead to a twisted mess of anxiety, debt, and even long-term health problems.
In the midst of a raging pandemic, protecting your finances and your mind may feel like walking a tightrope with a fruit basket teetering on your head. To truly balance your mental and financial wellbeing, you’ll need to tackle both issues in unison. Discover how your money and your mind impact one another and what you can do to keep both your budget and your brain healthy, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.
How money and mental health interact
When your thoughts become consumed by worry, fear, and stress, they can manifest in a number of negative ways, including how you manage your finances — or don’t.
First of all, spending is not bad.
In fact, a brief shopping trip can do wonders for your mood (ever heard the term “retail therapy”?). When you purchase something, it triggers a release of dopamine in your brain, which makes you feel happy and satisfied. Unfortunately, the sensation is short-lived, sending some people back to the store for more.
Researchers refer to “excessive shopping cognitions and buying behavior that leads to distress or impairment” as compulsive buying disorder.
In other words, while spending here and there isn’t inherently harmful, overspending can become an addiction, tossing you into an unruly cycle of debt and depression.
Some people feel a little FOMO when they avoid spending; others see cutting back on saving as “missed opportunities.”
Just like spending isn’t bad on its own, saving can also be taken too far. When compiling cash gives you a sense of security and relieves illogical anxiety, your habit of over saving can quickly turn to financial hoarding. The trick is finding a balance between intentional saving and spending, so you can protect your future while enjoying today.
Prone to scams
Results from a recent PubMed Central study assert that victims of financial fraud often have greater mental health needs.
Poor mental health can blur your judgment and prevent you from catching red flags you would otherwise notice in a healthy state of mind. Payday lenders, in particular, prey on those desperate for quick cash, but their astronomical interest rates can often lead to deep debt.
While there are a variety of alternatives to payday loans, you’re less likely to seek them out if your mental health is suffering.
Failure to plan for the future
When your mind is consumed by anxiety and depression, it can be difficult to think beyond the here and now. You might consider saving money pointless or struggle to think positively about your future prospects. You might even ignore thoughts about your future altogether.
No matter how little or how much time you spend thinking about tomorrow, anxious and depressed thoughts can keep you from taking necessary steps today to ensure a financially secure future.
How financial stress can impact your overall health
Financial stressors can weigh on your mind, but they can also trigger a ripple effect in your body, impacting your current and future health.
Unhealthy eating habits
I had a stressful morning yesterday. Lunchtime rolled around, and I hadn’t accomplished near what I’d hoped to by noon. So, I went to Starbucks and got an Americano… and a cheese danish.
If you can relate to my impulsive purchase, you/we are not alone. In fact, according to a survey from the American Psychological Association (APA), 33% of Americans say they eat too much or eat unhealthy foods as a direct response to stress, and the same survey revealed 72% of adults feel stressed about money at least some of the time.
Lack of sleep
If you’ve ever experienced a restless night before a big exam or a presentation at work, you understand well how anxious thoughts can keep you from sleep. Serious money issues can have the same impact on our bodies, keeping you wide-eyed and alert when what you need is rest.
Unfortunately, lack of sleep is not a minor side effect. When your body isn’t able to sleep, the consequences are widespread, impacting everything from memory retention to weight gain and even balance.
Another major consequence of money problems is the impact it has on our long-term heart health.
When your body experiences chronic stress from finances, it inhibits your ability to perform everyday functions, like sleeping. The wear and tear that happens when your body can’t care for itself properly, or when you stop caring for your body properly, translates to more serious issues like high blood pressure and even heart disease.
Tips to cultivate healthy money habits and a healthy mindset
Addressing stress and correcting poor financial habits will take patience and persistence, but your long-term mental, financial, and even physical health will thank you for it.
Here are some simple tips to practice as you begin working towards a better relationship with money.
Stick to a budget
Whether you’re a classic shopaholic or an obsessive saver, building and maintaining a budget can help you achieve a healthy balance between spending and saving.
Savers, make space in your budget for some fun! For example, my husband and I have a “date night” budget to prioritize a couple of nights out together every month.
Address your stress
Once you’ve begun to implement helpful budget practices, it’s time to tackle your lingering stress and its impact on your body.
There are a variety of ways to diminish stress and its side effects. You could practice meditation, adopt an exercise routine, take a bubble bath now and then, read a book, spend time with good friends, or combine them all! Find some activities and techniques that will help your mind unwind and your body relax.
Seek some advice
Finances are complicated no matter your income, expenses, or goals, and sometimes consulting an expert is the perfect means to sort through it all and get organized. Search for a financial coach for beginner budgeting advice, a financial advisor for asset and wealth management, or even a financial therapist for issues affecting your personal relationships or professional endeavors.
Give yourself grace
A recent survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) revealed 74% of adults have adapted their finances to survive the pandemic.
The coronavirus has been devastating in so many ways, and it’s difficult to feel at peace about money when you’re desperately hoping for another stimulus check, scrambling to pay your rent, and struggling to put food on the table. As you strive to stay afloat in this season, take time to breathe and remember you’re not alone. Be kind to yourself and be careful to protect your mental, emotional, and even physical wellbeing.
You deserve a dose of grace every so often, so give yourself permission to relax once in a while.
Money and stress have a tense relationship. One pokes the other, and the next thing you know they’re throwing punches.
The problem is that financial stress can lead to serious problems in your body, including lack of sleep and even heart conditions later in life. Furthermore, the harmful spending or saving habits you perpetuate as a result of stress and anxiety can prevent you from taking steps towards a secure financial future.
Fortunately, understanding the impact your money has on your mind and your mind has on your money can help you keep issues at bay. Create a budget to address any negative financial practices. Make time for self-care to stave off stress. And don’t forget to give yourself grace when you need it.