Quiz time. Are you:
- Arguing with your spouse and family members more often?
- Hiding bills and receipts from your spouse?
- Having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at night?
- Eating more than normal, especially comfort and junk foods?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be suffering from financial stress — and it may be impacting your life more than you think.
To get back on an even keel, you need to deal with both the cause of the stress and the symptoms it’s creating. Try these 5 steps recommended by Knowledge of Financial Health, or KOFE, a leading financial education provider and Colonial Life partner.
Step 1: Deal with physical symptoms first.
If your diet has been taken over by junk and comfort foods, commit to reestablishing healthy eating. Exercise will also help burn both calories and stress. Consider talking to your doctor about your symptoms — many offer virtual appointments now.
Step 2: Address the emotional burden.
Simply talking to someone can help you reduce stress and start to feel better. Take time outs at least once a day to recharge and take your mind off your finances for a few minutes. Letting yourself relax will make you more focused when you need to really get to work.
Step 3: Get real with your finances.
Speaking of getting to work, now’s the time. First, organize your financial challenges into groups so you’ll know what to focus on first:
- Important, changeable — big things in your financial life contributing to your stress that you can solve by taking action.
- Important, unchangeable — contributing factors that have led to your situation that you can’t change.
- Not important, changeable — things that may be irritating you and adding to your stress level, but aren’t really contributing to your financial problems.
- Not important, unchangeable — things that may start to seem significant when you’re stressed, but really don’t affect your current situation.
Step 4: Get professional help.
Once you rule out what’s not important or can’t be changed, you’re left with the big things you can do something about. Now find the right person to help you deal with them. If your problem is:
- credit card debt or general budget, a certified credit counseling agency can give you a free consultation to review your options for debt relief and evaluate your budget.
- your mortgage, seek out a HUD-certified housing counselor for a one-to-one counseling session.
- student loans, visit StudentAid.gov to review your options for relief or talk to your loan servicer directly.
- tax debt, a certified public accountant or tax professional can explain your options and help arrange settlement plans with the IRS.
- medical debt, call your health care provider directly to work out a payment plan.
Step 5: Recover with resilience.
Once you talk to the professionals and get plans in place, you should feel the weight of your stress start to lift. It’s important to keep up with the solutions you’ve identified. It may be tough, but try to think of this change as the start of a new opportunity. Find good in each day as you continue to take one step at a time toward financial stability.