It’s the day before payday or the week before that freelance check you’ve been waiting for finally hits your mailbox. You take a look at the balance of your bank account and start to feel a thousand knots form in your stomach. In your mind, you calculate all of the bills you have yet to pay and the vacation with your girlfriends you’ve already booked. Your bank account is feeling the pain and your psychological health probably is feeling it too.
According to a 2015 study from the American Psychological Association, 72% of Americans say money stresses them out at some point during the month. For millennials, that percentage is 75% and for those who are 36-49 years old, it’s 76%.
For women who may be single heads of their households, that burden can be even greater. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that women are 60% more likely to experience anxiety than men, and having anxiety serious enough that it’s a mental health issue is no surprise if you also have debt. Researchers for a 2013 study published in Clinical Psychology Review found that people who are in debt are three times more likely to have mental health concerns, including anxiety disorders and depression. Not to mention that this can all lead to an unfortunate cycle: money woes impacting your mental health followed by a focus on your mental health which in turn makes it that much tougher to have the time and energy to get your finances together.
So, what to do to keep your mental and financial health on track?
Both your finances and mental health struggles like depression can often be alleviated by habit formation and the help of knowledgeable professionals.
Dopamine, the chemical in our brain that controls our reward and pleasure centers, gets activated when we work out (which helps depression) and when we form new habits, like making a budget. Or sticking to it. The more we develop these kinds of healthy habits, the less stress and anxiety will bother us. When you have a plan, you feel more in control, and that does positive things to your ability to save for the future and your ability to trust yourself to do so.
Sometimes, though, we’re in too tough of a spot with our finances (and with our mental health) to go it alone. If so, there are people who can help motivate you to move forward. Find a certified financial planner, a financial coach, or if you want to go even deeper and not just change your bank balance but also change your relationship to money, find a financial therapist. Financial therapy is a newer field (the association’s only been around since 2009), but increasingly therapists are realizing that our relationship with money is bigger than our wallets.
Staying on track with your finances can be a challenge, but the literal peace of mind will be priceless.