Published: Feb. 7, 2014

Is your debt stress causing illness?

According to the Federal Reserve (2004), 3 out of 4 American families are struggling with debt. The associated stress of debt can cause “ulcers or digestive-tract problems” and “severe anxiety” (Choi, ). In addition, researchers (Sweet et al, 2013) have found that a high level of debt is associated with “higher perceived stress and depression, worse general health, and higher diastolic blood pressure.”

So, what can be done? Mental health providers and financial experts alike recommend coping actively with debt and its related stress. The following steps (WebMd, 2014; APA 2010, 2014; SAMHSA, 2009) can be helpful in getting on track to tackle debt, manage stress, and reduce health risks associated with financial distress …

  • Put things into perspective. Are your money woes life-threatening? Financial stress is difficult but, at the end of the day, is it life threatening? Try reminding yourself that you are safe in the moment.
  • Schedule your worries. Take a few minutes each week to allow yourself to worry. Save your worries for that specific time-frame. Use a journal, piece of paper, or note/ listing app to list each worry. After the worries have been listed, go back and list solutions for each worry – even if the solution is to ‘worry about this next time’. Writing can have a cleansing effect for worry and anxiousness.
  • Partner with … well, your partner. If you’re in relationship and sharing finances, it might be time to have some serious but respectful discussions about money. Identify problematic spending behaviors (on both sides) and begin to set up some parameters to protect your financial future.
  • Utilize the services of an advisor. Financial advisors are trained to help create practical financial plans for retirement, life stages/ changes, care costs associated with children and/or aging parents, college, and, yes, debt management.
  • Do little things each day to care for yourself. Active self-care can include going for a walk, hiking with friends, reading a book, or using meditation or yoga-practice. Find inexpensive and active ways to manage the physical and emotional toll that financial stress can take on each of us.
  • Find a therapist. Behavioral health providers can help you identify symptoms of stress before they lead to more complicated conditions. Counselors can also help you devise new behavioral strategies for managing stress and spending. FSAP services, including brief counseling and/or referrals to other providers, are free of charge to faculty and staff.

For more information on managing your debt, join the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program as we host Stephen Maloney, Workplace Planning and Guidance Consultant, for “Debt Management and Budgeting” on Monday, Feb. 24 at UMC 425. Please contact Yee Chan at 303-492-3020 to reserve a seat for this 1 hour Work-Life presentation.