The Relationship between Mental Health and Financial Stress

08 June, 2020
What exactly is financial stress and how does it relate to mental health? Keep reading to learn more!

It’s normal to fall apart sometimes. In fact, there are so many situations in the daily life of an individual that could lead them to feel this way. However, one of the most common is financial stress. In times of crisis, concerns multiply by a thousand. But how does this relate to a person’s mental health? What strategies can help better handle this problem? What do they consist of?

In days of extreme concern about what’s happening and what’s to come, it’s important to understand everything that goes on in the body, the mind, and the emotions. Remember that these three matters are closely related.

Financial stress: what is it exactly?

Let’s start off by giving a definition of the word stress. Well, in 1936, endocrinologist Hans Selye defined it as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”.

Now, when referring to financial stress, we refer to that related to the goods and activities that make up the wealth of a community or an individual.

Financial stress can occur for several reasons. Here are some of them:

  • Facing new situations. For example, new investments and crises, among others.
  • Issues with money. In other words, when the subject fails to meet their financial commitments.
  • Couple discussions. Without a doubt, interpersonal relationships can affect a person’s finances, especially when there are legalities involved.
  • Pressure. One of the most common scenarios, in this case, is owing people money; perhaps the person doesn’t know when they’ll be able to pay their debts.

Let’s not forget that stress is also a psychophysiological response to a demand from the environment. It isn’t just related to what the person thinks but also what they feel and the way they behave.

Therefore, when someone’s stressed, there are physical, mental, and emotional consequences. Even different patterns are seen in the interaction.

A woman suffering from financial stress.

The impact of stress on mental health

Believe it or not, stress has a great impact on mental health. This happens because a person’s patterns of thought may feed tension, worsening it and leading to overall negative emotions. Of course, as a result, the individual’s organism stops behaving normally.

There’s another very common scenario, which consists of the subject placing themselves too far into the future and, therefore, promoting anxiety. Now, when it comes to financial stress specifically, some consequences may come our way, for example:

  • Difficulty relaxing.
  • A permanent feeling of being overwhelmed.
  • Irritability.
  • Sadness.
  • Guilt.
  • Ruminant thoughts.
  • Concern.
  • Disorganization.
  • Pessimism.

It’s also possible to experience depression, mental exhaustion, shame, fear, confusion, excessive self-criticism, difficulty concentrating, and bad decision-making. However, we must note that, as usual, this is different for everyone. Genes, learning, social factors, life cycle, and consciousness, among other factors, exert great influence on this.

Furthermore, although financial stress has a strong impact on mental health, it isn’t the only area it affects. In fact,  it works in conjunction with other important areas of health, such as physical and social.

For example, an individual’s change of emotions may cause discomfort in those around them. This, as a consequence, could jeopardize their social relationships. Irritability may get to such a high peak that these subjects may even choose to isolate themselves in order not to bother anyone.

Moreover, several studies regarding the effect of coping strategies and social support in people with financial stress are being conducted. According to A Riquelme, J Buendía, and M.C Rodríguez, in their article published in Psicothema, social support is positively related to mental health and gives way to learning the right coping strategies for each individual.

  • It’s possible to measure stress on a physical level. For instance, instability in blood pressure, muscle tension, increased cholesterol, sleep disturbances, contractures, palpitations, fatigue, and headache, among others.
  • At the behavioral level, individuals may start eating more and exercising less, avoiding or postponing responsibilities, and other actions such as nail-biting and restlessness.

As you can clearly see, many factors link financial stress with mental health.

A man feeling stressed out.

How to cope with financial stress?

To cope with financial stress, it’s vital to get to know yourself. If you know what you want, where you want to go, and the obstacles that you may encounter, you’ll get closer to choosing what truly benefits you. Many times, stress arises because you don’t feel like you’re able to meet the demands you’ve set for yourself.

That being said, in order not to feel overwhelmed, it’s necessary to establish priorities. In this sense, desire isn’t synonymous with need. First of all, you must spend your money on what’s actually necessary.

It’s of great importance that you take into account your toxic thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Once you identify them, you can start working on managing them in the best way. This doesn’t mean that you have to eradicate all for them; you just have to know when to stop.

Also, you must pay attention to what you’re exposing yourself to. On many occasions, financial stress is associated with crises that others are also going through or derived from a great change in the system. It’s okay to share experiences, but if it’s harmful to you, it’s important to stay away.

Taking a break can help. In addition to this, it’s beneficial for you to think about those circumstances that are causing you financial stress and organize them according to the degree of control you have over them. In this sense, coming up with an intelligent plan and following through with it can help you overcome that overwhelming anxiety.

As we mentioned above, don’t forget how essential social support is during rough times. Don’t be afraid to turn to those that you trust and ask for help.

Lastly, don’t neglect your physical health. One way to de-stress is by doing physical exercise, which allows you to release endorphins.

Lazarus, R.S. (2000). Estrés y emoción. Manejo e implicaciones ne nuestra salud. Bilbao: Desclée de Brouwer.

Riquelme, A. Buendía, J., & Rodríguez, M.C. (1993). Estrategias de afrontamiento y apoyo social en personas con estrés económico. Psicothema, 5 (1). 83-89.

Valdés, M. & De Flores, T. (1985). Psicobiología del estrés. Barcelona: Martínez Roca, 2.