Dealing with the Stress of Debt

Are your debt stresses piling up, weighing you down with a seemingly insurmountable burden that feels like it will never go away? If so, you’re not alone — close to half of Americans suffer from debt stress. With the holidays rolling around, and New Year’s resolutions in sight, this is the perfect time to get a handle on getting out of debt.

Is Debt Stress Dangerous?

Yes, but don’t let that add to your stress; let it motivate you to tackle your stress!

Debt stress has been linked to numerous health problems, including ulcers, panic attacks, heart attacks and severe depression. Poll results suggest that those with debt stress are significantly more likely to complain of migraine headaches, digestive problems, muscle tension and anxiety as well.

One theory suggests that debt stress activates the body’s natural “fight or flight” response, releasing a combination of adrenaline and stress hormones into the body. This response can be great at dealing with temporary crises, but when the body reacts this way over a long period of time (such as from ongoing debt problems), serious medical conditions can develop.

This problem is not limited to America. As Europe deals with its own startling debt crisis, hospitals in the United Kingdom have seen a 7 percent increase in the number of stress-related admissions, with admission rates highest among working-aged people.

How Can I Cope with Debt Stress?

  • Accept Your Situation and Make a Plan

The first step is accepting that your debt is a problem. Many people live in denial or look for shortcuts. Acceptance is the first step to overcoming debt. As you begin talking openly about debt and taking steps to overcome it, the stress begins to lessen as you restore your confidence and realize you’re capable of handling this seemingly massive problem. The most effective coping strategies include tackling issues head on by forming a budget and a plan to get out of debt.

  • Live Healthy

The worst thing you can do is sacrifice your rest, nutrition and physical well-being while getting out of debt. Exercise is a great way for handling any cause of stress, and debt stress is no exception. Eating healthy is important, and a good way to keep from spending money at restaurants. Finally, make sure you get plenty of sleep. Keeping a clear, well-rested head is necessary for getting out of debt and maintaining budget discipline.

  • Acknowledge Your Emotions

Psychological issues associated with debt can develop. If your problem is consumer debt, you may be spending as a way of boosting your emotions. Shopping can be an addiction, as powerful as drugs or alcohol. Seek treatment if necessary.

Debt stress is very commonly connected with depression. Some people simply do not have the tools to cope with depression on their own. Talk to friends and families about your emotions. Do not try to keep your feelings bottled up inside. Seek counseling if necessary. If you enroll in a financial planning program through your church or community center, make sure that it has a psychological component as well – most do!

Debt stress can be as big an obstacle as the debt itself. Keeping yourself healthy and stress-free is the best way to overcome this major obstacle. What stress-relief strategies do you use to help deal with debt stress?

Jeffrey Sterner blogs about personal finance and debt issues related to saving money, consolidating and settling debt for, America’s Debt Help Organization.


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