Overcoming and Preventing Financial Stress

by Gary Foreman

Money is central to every area of life and can affect not only financial well-being, but emotional, mental, and physical health as well. Find out how to reduce financial stress and prevent money worries from having a negative impact on your health.

Are your finances stressing you out? Do you wish you knew how to overcome financial stress?

To help us understand what financial stress is and how to combat it, we visited with Reeta Wolfsohn. Ms. Wolfsohn is the founder of the Center for Financial Social Work and works to help people create long-lasting changes to money habits.

Q: We know that money can cause stress in our lives, but is it really the lack of money that’s causing the stress? Or is the stress more related to the potential situations we face?

Ms. Wolfsohn: According to the American Psychological Association’s most recent Stress in America survey, “Paying with Our Health” report, overall stress has gone down but money stress has increased.

Every year, regardless of how the economy is faring, money tops the list of stressors for men and women in this country. Major additional stressors include work, the economy, family responsibilities, and personal health.

Financial stress is not a one-size-fits-all issue. Money is central to every area of life, which makes it central not only to financial well-being but to emotional, mental, and physical health. Americans are very disconnected from their money. Not seeing it, touching it, or interacting with it makes it easy to avoid, ignore, or deny how it impacts every area of life. Avoidance and denial feed financial fears and stress.

Financial stress isn’t about dollars and cents. Instead, it’s about thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and relationship with money.

Q: Are there ways to reduce the fear of those possible future situations?

Ms. Wolfsohn: Making friends with your money is the best way to reduce the fears and stress associated with most things financial, which begins by acknowledging that money is NOT your enemy. It is easy to blame money for all of your problems (personal and professional) even though it is not.

When money is considered a negative, the mental energy focused on it causes financial stress to grow out of proportion.

Begin reducing financial stress by identifying which of your financial problems are real and which are fictitious. The best way to do that is to make a list of every one of your financial stressors. Don’t skip any and remember everyone has them. Putting your financial stressor in writing, on paper, takes them out of your head and allows you to determine which are real, which are not, and which are most pressing. These steps are automatic stress reducers.

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Q: How can you tell if you’re becoming a victim of financial stress?

Ms. Wolfsohn: Stress is a very real part of everyone’s life. It is natural to want to reduce it and important to do so. However, it is unrealistic to think there is life without stress or without financial challenges. There is not.

The best way to cope with the reality of stress is to have a plan and strategy for success. Having a plan helps to reconnect you to your money and demonstrate your right, responsibility, and ability to take charge of your financial life. With a plan in place, you are ready to begin your journey to financial well-being.

Q: Often solving financial problems takes time. How can you relieve financial stress when the solution could take months or even years?

Ms. Wolfsohn: Financial stress reduction is not accomplished overnight, but it is accomplished over time. The best way to address the long-term process of taking control of your money and life is through the power of a Financial Action Plan (FAP). An FAP is a written plan that lays out specific financial steps to take on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. It provides a clear roadmap to a better financial future. Action is empowering, positive, and motivational. Inaction is where and how stress thrives.

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Q: Stress causes physical changes in the body. Are there steps we should take to counteract these physical changes?

Ms. Wolfsohn: The physical impact of stress is far reaching. It contributes to headaches, stomach problems, ulcers, heart problems, high blood pressure, and other ailments. Earlier in this article the importance of action versus inaction when working to improve your financial circumstances was emphasized. This approach is equally important when coping with the physical and emotional problems caused by stress.

Being active is the best way to address the impact of stress. Walking, biking, hiking, swimming, skating, etc. are all low- to no-cost forms of exercise capable of reducing physical stress. In addition, laughing, meditation, eating healthy, and deep breathing are all stress busters.

Q: Are there things that we can do to help relieve financial stress in our partners?

Ms. Wolfsohn: Money is supercharged with emotion. It is difficult to deal with on an individual basis, and more than twice as difficult to deal with when sharing your financial life with another person.

Everyone brings his or her financial history to a relationship; that history has shaped that individual’s thoughts, feelings and attitudes about money.

No two people are likely to have even remotely similar financial backgrounds. This means no couple is likely to agree on how their money should be spent, saved, invested, or shared. As a result, money management often becomes a major point of contention for couples.

Two healthy individuals make one healthy couple. A healthy couple is comprised of two healthy partners who practice self-acceptance and self-respect (the foundational components of all successful relationships). Developing acceptance and respect for your partner is the next vital step.

Acceptance and respect of self and of a partner are at the core of financial compromise. No one can change another person but everyone can find a way to collaborate with a partner. Doing your best to see the other person’s perspective, to understand why and how he or she feels that way, and to work to create solutions that meet the needs of both partners is how to build financial well-being with another person.

Reviewed June 2019

About the Author

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, Credit.com and CreditCards.com. Gary shares his philosophy of money here. Gary is available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

About the Expert

Over the past 18 years, Reeta Wolfsohn, CMSW, founder of the Center for Financial Social Work has helped countless men and women to successfully create long-lasting changes to money habits. Her unique approach to financial wellness and money management is focused on nurturing others to free their inner financial self” in order to prosper. Host of monthly online group “therapy” sessions, Reeta strives to make FTN an interactive space for growth.

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