THE DEBT EFFECT!
Have you noticed the effects that debt worries and money woes can have on your emotional life? We all know how stressful it feels to have too little income or too many expenses, but living with a high level of debt hanging over your head is its own unique feeling.
The stress and fatigue that comes with debt can start to feel crippling, but there are ways to manage the emotional side of money woes and pay off your debt without losing your mind!
Of all the stressors in our lives — work, relationships, lack of free time — angst over money and debt may be one of the most corrosive. McGonigal says it is “one of the most toxic kinds of stress” because it can’t be compartmentalized.
Most people who have stress at work or at home can find a healthy escape by channeling their energy into something they enjoy, she explains. If work is stressful, for instance, some people take refuge in their family life or enjoy a favorite pastime. “But when you have serious financial worries, it affects your family, your home, your job and your ability to serve your community,” she explains. “Eventually, debt stress taints whatever good you have going on in your life.”
That kind of invasive anxiety wreaks havoc on our health in two ways. The first is a direct cause-and-effect mechanism. When the body is stressed, the brain plunges into fight-or-flight mode. Thinking the body needs extra resources to meet a physical challenge, the brain signals the adrenal glands to release a hormonal brew consisting primarily of adrenaline and cortisol. The adrenaline causes the heart to race, which elevates blood pressure and boosts energy reserves. The cortisol preps muscles for bursts of speed by telling the body to dump glucose (sugars) into the bloodstream. It also diverts energy from the immune, digestive and reproductive systems — any bodily function not essential to a quick escape.
That’s fine, even useful, if the stressor lasts a few minutes and helps you to escape from physical harm. But when the body is trapped for days, weeks or even months in fight-or-flight mode, adrenaline and cortisol are chronically elevated, a condition that suppresses metabolism, promotes inflammation, and can cause or exacerbate a host of health issues, ranging from heart disease to diabetes to infertility.
“The physical stress response evolved to help us handle short-term, life-threatening challenges,” says McGonigal. “Depending on your mindset about debt, you can literally be in a stress response 24 hours a day, which is incredibly unhealthy.”
And the ways people routinely deal with that stress can cause more problems. “Stress triggers primitive coping strategies that offer an immediate sense of security and abundance, as well as the promise of reward,” McGonigal notes. Essentially, our brains go into emergency mode. That can undermine our ability to think clearly, and it can also trigger cravings for self-soothing comforts like chocolate chip cookies, alcohol or cigarettes — anything that triggers the brain to release feel-good chemicals, such as opioids, that temporarily interrupt the stress response.
Equally damaging, the scarcity mentality that often accompanies debt stress can cause people to cut back on self-sustaining behaviors that are essential for emotional and physical health, she says: “Things like spending time with friends, buying fresh produce instead of processed foods, exercising and getting enough sleep — these are true self-care actions, the things that sustain our well-being in the long term as opposed to giving us a short-term comfort fix.”
– via Experience Life
Handling Debt Stress
Ready for some strategies to help you manage your stress level and take back control of your life? It’s an easy first step toward freedom from debt worries, and one you can take right this very minute!
1. Be honest.
Heather Ropp Beal, an elementary school teacher in Mount Pleasant, Mich., who racked up nearly $155,000 in debt thanks to college loans and consumer debt, initially ignored the escalating problem. “I like to hide my head in the sand and pretend that it’s happy and sunny in the world, even when I know deep down it’s not,” she says. “But I also keep chipping away at the problem so I hope, one of these days, like in about five years, I will be debt free.”
It isn’t just lying to yourself about your financial situation that can whittle your sanity — you need to be honest with your partner, too. “Studies have shown that up to a third of us lie to our partners about our spending,” says Linda Abrams, senior staff therapist with the Council for Relationships and director of the organization’s Spring House, Pa., office.
The solution, Abrams says, is to recognize and explore each other’s “financial personalities” and come to agreements on how to deal with fiscal issues. “One person might really need security and that’s where they focus, while others are risk takers,” she says. “People need to look at their financial history and what they’re coming to the relationship with, not only their experiences socioeconomically, but the lessons they’ve been taught about spending and saving, secrecy and openness. It’s important to acknowledge and work with each other in terms of those financial personalities and decide what compromises each is willing to make.”
2. Don’t dwell on the predicament.
While you should honestly face the issue, obsessing over the circumstances of your situation can be damaging mentally and physically. Michael Thomas, owner of a window-washing business in Longmont, Colo., is currently digging out of $455,000 in consumer and mortgage loans. Last year, as a harsh winter put a sizeable dent in his income, he internalized the stress. “I gained about 20 pounds, had a lot of trouble sleeping and would feel like a loser for not being able to pay my obligations on time,” he says.
Thomas also shut out his wife from the pecuniary plight. “I thought I was shielding her from the stress of the situation,” he says. “Turns out, however, she was stressing right along with me. She was getting sick of my moody behavior, but now we communicate better about finances and take responsibility as a team.”
– via www.creditcards.com
Are you feeling overwhelmed by debts?