Anything money-related can be a major stressor — whether it’s budgeting or managing debt. Unfortunately, this can impact your life negatively in a number of ways, be it in your personal relationships or your work-life. In fact, you might actually be one of the millions of people here in the U.S. who suffer from financial stress. Even with a strong economy, Forbes reports that around 71% of Americans are struggling with their finances (roughly 178 million) to varying degrees. This is indicative of a major problem, and one that is affecting the day-to-day life and personal relationships of so many.

Worse, the global pandemic that is the coronavirus, or COVID-19, is causing widespread financial strain, with social distancing protocols keeping people at home and businesses shut indefinitely. This arrangement is causing a resource drain among millions of Americans, many of whom aren’t even sure as to whether they’ll have a job to return to or not. There is, unsurprisingly, widespread uncertainty, and even panic, which is, in turn, causing financial stress to most everyone. This makes addressing financial stress even more crucial.

The Bane That is Financial Stress

Financial stress is linked to a variety of health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, migraines, and even sleeping problems. These physical conditions make it difficult to live productively and without worry.

Exacerbating matters is this tendency to cut corners in areas like healthcare. People under financial duress often hold off on getting medical care, mainly because of its high costs. This results in worse health outcomes (e.g., complications in heart disease, harder to manage diabetes), and therefore higher healthcare costs in the long run. This creates a cycle that many find impossible to get out of.

Even worse, clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly told the Huffington Post that financial stress can cause serious psychological symptoms. She explains how people stressed about money “can become highly anxious and even depressed,” especially those burdened by massive debt. This psychological stress, in turn, increases your adrenaline and cortisol levels, causing harmful physiological changes. Some of these physical changes that accompany depression, include joint and muscle pain, fatigue, headaches, and digestive problems.

These physical and mental conditions invariably affect your dealings with people. This is most evident in the context of a marriage. Why? Because money issues tend to cause disagreements and, worse, fuel hostility and feelings of dissatisfaction. What’s more, the constant emotional strain of being under financial duress can put anyone in a depressive mood. In this case, you will be prone to either irritability or withdrawal (or both). As a result, you will be difficult to deal with, and this may compromise your relationships. In other words, chances are high that you’ll be pushing people away, or treating them differently (often for the worse).

Financial Stress: A Problem That Needs to Be Addressed

Financial stress needs to be addressed immediately, and it can be easily done by taking a few steps. Here are some of them:

1. Consult a financial planner. While many would see this as an additional financial burden, certified New York financial planner Douglas Boneparth notes that the common mistake that people make is, “They think it’s specifically about managing money and not about receiving financial advice and financial planning.” A financial planner will be able to take a detailed look at your accounts and provide valuable advice on what action to take. The good news is that the number of specialists in this field is growing across the country with Maryville University detailing how the number of financial planners is expected to increase by 30% by 2024. This ongoing development means greater access to the kind of expert help many Americans need to keep their finances in check.

2. Look at your financial habits. We also suggest taking a long, hard look at your financial habits — particularly your spending. If you look at the list of expenditures you have at the end of the month, you can find out where your money is going exactly. In conjunction with this, start budgeting. This way, you will be able to identify necessities and eliminate unnecessary purchases. Doing so will also help you start better allocating money towards savings, investments, and paying off debt. Do it long enough and your financial situation will improve.

3. Adapt where possible. In this time of COVID-19, in particular, you’ll have to accept the current state of affairs. Accept that life will be different, and a lot harder now — and maybe for a while. Only through this acceptance will you be able to start focusing on the things you can control: the way you approach this challenge. Here are some things you can do:

  • Take stock of whatever resources you have now, and plan how to maximize them for as long a period as possible.
  • Think of ways to cope and adapt to these trying times. Specifically, make sure you do everything you can to keep yourself and your family safe from the virus.
  • Find out how you can get help. Financial assistance is available in these uncertain times, with states, for instance, offering unemployment benefits to laid off employees. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, meanwhile, has announced a moratorium on foreclosure and eviction, and this can buy you time to reverse your lagging financial fortunes.

4. Finally, crisis time or not, get mental health help, if necessary. You can even do it amidst this pandemic through teletherapy options (which you can learn more of online). Getting professional help from mental health experts will help ease your worries and anxieties, and clear your mind. This, in turn, will allow you to focus on finding solutions to your financial hardships.

Act Now!

So, if your finances are stressing you out, it’s time to act now. Get some assistance, preferably from a financial planner, or even someone you trust dearly. Together, you can craft a financial plan that will ease, if not eliminate, those financial worries.

*Leslie Farrow financial blogger. Leslie knows first-hand about dealing with financial stress, and hopes his articles will help those who have money difficulties. Now, he is financially independent, and is looking to guide as many people as possible to reach that stage, too.