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When the financial stress is too much

It’s not just you. We’ve all been there. Your pay from your job was just enough to get by and the credit card bills continued to grow. Paying the minimums each month kept the creditors at bay, but the principal kept increasing. And then the unexpected medical bills hit hard.

Lying in bed, you’re dwelling on how your life has changed into something much different than how you had imagined. Most days you have trouble finding the drive to climb out of bed. And then there’s your phone. Now when it rings, you’re afraid to answer it. For sure, you’ll never pick up if it’s a number you don’t recognize. The bill collectors are calling.

The physical effects of financial stress

In the Stress in America survey published by the American Psychological Association, 62 percent report being stressed about money—and that stress could leave them at a higher risk for lower-quality health. The effects can include migraines, backaches, increased blood pressure, ulcers and immune function issues. Sadly, your financial stress can lead to even more medical bills.

The mental effects of financial stress

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the stress can lead to anxiety, depression and lack of sleep, as well as feelings of loss of control, memory and mood issues. There's also increased workplace absenteeism and decreased work performance that can result.

What can you do about it?

Experts agree that you have to do something. You can’t ignore the situation. You can improve your situation and lower your financial stress by taking a few steps:

  • Take stock of your situation: As hard as it may be to confront your situation, you need to write a budget so your finances are on paper. Ask yourself, how much money is coming in? What are my monthly bills? What are my debts?
  • Start paying them down: Try using the debt snowball method where you pay off debts in order of smallest to largest, gaining momentum as each balance is paid off. When the smallest debt is paid in full, you roll the money you were paying on that debt into the next smallest balance.
  • Seek professional help: For some, filing chapter 7 bankruptcy is the right option. When you’ve tried everything possible to catch up and it just isn’t working, a fresh start may be the answer. 
  • Follow your budget: Remember that budget you created? Make it a zero-based budget where you account for every dollar. If you have money left over, you need to tell it where to go. If all your expenses are covered in a month, assign the extra to further paying down your debt, or use it for an emergency fund, car repair fund or saving up for a purchase.

The poet E. E. Cummings once said, “I’m living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart.” If this is you and you’re feeling the stress of money worries, take the first step today.

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