Advice for when money stress is overwhelming you

Here are ways to help keep yourself calm in spite of it all.

Living paycheck to paycheck is stressful. You worry that even a routine financial hiccup—car breakdown, dentist’s bill—will be another five-alarm fire. And you’re not alone. Surveys consistently show that money is a leading source of stress for Americans. (Read more about money habits here.)

The problem is that stressing about money challenges just makes things worse. Stress can make problems seem bigger and more unsolvable, and it’s linked to sleep problems, overeating, and high blood pressure.

But there are inexpensive things that can help make you feel more positive. You don’t need to do a lifestyle 180. You may be able to ease at least some of your stress with a few lifestyle tweaks.

Don’t forget the physical

Changing your physical surroundings and habits can affect your stress level. Exercise can reduce stress§, so try to fit some movement into your day. It reduces stress hormones in your body like adrenaline and helps you sleep better, which also helps reduce stress**.

And no, we’re not talking about budget-busting gym memberships or pricey yoga classes. Any extra physical activity will help. Walking is free, whether it’s in laps around your office with a work buddy or across a nearby park on the weekend—it lowers stress, can fit into your busy day, and has a measurable positive impact on your health††.

While you’re at it, another stress fix is food-related. In fact, research shows that stress can drive us to overindulge in unhealthy “comfort” foods‡‡. That’s not a recipe for feeling better in the long run.

Fortunately, you can eat better while saving money. Keep lower-cost snacks like carrots around for those cravings, switch to sugar-free instant oats for a filling breakfast, and try sites like Budget Bytes for inexpensive, healthy recipes.

Aim to shift your mindset

Even though talking about financial stress can be difficult, keeping it to yourself makes financial stress even more isolating. Knowing that you’re not alone can help§§.

In fact, according to a Swedish study, “The buffering effect of tangible social support on financial stress: influence on psychological well-being and psychosomatic symptoms in a large sample of the adult general population,” showed that social support was an effective reducer of financial stress***. Share your challenges with someone you trust, whether a friend who’s been in a similar situation, a clergy member, or a debt counselor (you can find a list here). You may even pick up practical tips to help your budget like these. It’s all part of focusing on what you can control.

Financial stress grows when we imagine worst-case scenarios, but ask yourself how likely those scenarios actually are. Remember that you’ve successfully solved problems in the past.

Divert energy from worrying towards things that are within your control, such as building and sticking to a budget (see more about creating a workable budget here). Setting a modest financial goal and making small, steady progress can restore a sense of purpose and instill confidence.

You can find a host of smart money tools on The Hub. And consider stopping by and visiting with a Huntington banker, who can help you move towards better financial habits, today.

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§“Physical Activity Reduces Stress,”

**“Exercising to Relax,” Harvard Men’s Health Watch,

††“Walking: Your Steps to Health,” Harvard Men’s Health Watch,

‡‡“How Stress Can Make Us Overeat,” Healthbeat,

§§“Five Tips to Help Manage Stress,” American Pyschological Association,

***“The buffering effect of tangible social support on financial stress: influence on psychological well-being and psychosomatic symptoms in a large sample of the adult general population” in International J Health Equity,

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