The American Psychological Association has been running a survey since 2007 to find out what stresses out Americans and for many years running, money and finances has come out on top. In our own recent study, finances are also a top concern for moms: 22% of moms said finances affect their ability to parent the best they can, and 1 in 5 mothers say that healthcare costs cause them anxiety. The main reason for this emotional relationship is because money is often tied to our perceptions of happiness.
Many people often think that if they could get a job with a higher salary or if they had more money they will be free of stress, anxiety, or depression. However, in working with a lot of different people, I’ve seen that having more money doesn’t necessarily mean having less stress. Whether you’re worried about paying rent or paying a mortgage, finances can weigh on your mind and affect your mental (and sometimes physical) health.
How does money affect our overall well-being?
According to the same survey by the APA, as many as 1 in 5 Americans have considered skipping or skipped going to the doctor when they needed health care because of financial concerns and about a third of adults say that money is a major source of conflict in their relationships. The average household with any kind of debt owes more than $135,000, including mortgages. Having debt can cause frustration and self-doubt, especially if you are working hard to pay it off but have to balance other obligations as well. Many things related to money are also out of our control, like the rising cost of housing and healthcare. When you feel out of control, it can make you feel insecure which can lead to anxiety and depression.
What can I do to alleviate the stress from money?
Understand your own relationship with money. Are you a spender, or are you a saver? For many people, they learn this through their parents. Studies have found that the habits parents have with money often influence their kids, and another recent study also found that your romantic partner might also influence your financial habits as well. If you have children, teaching them good habits early on like budgeting, saving, and learning money management can help them in their future.
If you have a partner, come to an understanding and compromise together on what works for you. It’s important to be on the same page and have an open dialogue with one another, and understand your differences. For example, if one of you is used to spending and one of you is used to saving, you can make a plan to where some of the money in your budget is designated for them to spend, and together you can agree upon how much you want to save as a family. It also helps to revisit the budget and plan as priorities change over time, and both people feel they are working toward the same goal together.
Make a plan. A lot of times we make purchases in the moment, which is often an emotionally charged decision. However, many of these purchases can lead to buyer’s remorse, which is the feeling of regret that occurs later. This feeling may be due to the fear of having made the wrong choice, guilt over extravagance, or suspicion that you overpaid. When you make a plan on the large purchases that you want to make whether it be a new car, house, purse or computer, it will help you avoid making emotionally charged decisions.
Be prepared for different things that can happen in the future. One way to alleviate potential stress is to have money set aside in the case of an emergency. If you have a partner, it may be helpful to sit down and discuss potential situations you may encounter together. Some questions to consider could be: “What if I lose my job? What if you lose your job?” If you are young, it is also never too early to put money aside for retirement. It’s important to have a plan in place that when situations do arise so you don’t find yourself in a situation where you feel your head is just barely above water.
If you’re dealing with financial troubles, speak to a financial planner or a trusted friend or psychologist. Many people tend to be embarrassed and want to manage their financial troubles on their own, but relying upon others can help ease the burden you may be feeling. A financial planner or trusted can help you figure out some solutions. If money matters are a major source of recurring stress and anxiety affecting your emotional well-being, getting professional help from a psychologist can help you examine reasons behind your money worries and develop better coping strategies.
About the author
Dr. Christopher Awosika is a licensed clinical psychologist from Atlanta, GA with over 13 years of experience working with families, couples, and individuals of all ages. He graduated from Wright State University and has trained in various hospital settings as well as community mental health centers throughout the country. He has worked with patients suffering from depression, anxiety, psychosis, PTSD, OCD, abuse, chemical dependencies, relationship issues, learning disabilities, anger management, and many other conditions. Dr. Awosika is passionate about mental wellness and provides a warm, therapeutic environment in which his patients can flourish.