The economy is by and large decreasing our money supply, but upping our money stress.
In fact, 75% of Americans claimed that money is the No. 1 factor affecting their stress levels, according to a recent study from the American Psychological Association.
“People are feeling out of control, which is causing a sense of panic and anxiety,” says Elaine Ducharme, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Glastonbury, Conn. “Fortunately, while there are certain things out of your control—the stock market, your 401(k), a pay cut—you can take charge of your life in other ways. Taking action will always make you feel better, as long as you’re turning to healthy solutions.”
Are you stressed about money? Don't let stress control you.
Look for these top five signs that your budget is causing too much anxiety, and how to keep worry in check.
Symptom 1: You can’t sleep. A disrupted sleep pattern is one of the most common signs you’re too worried, whether you’re sleeping too much or not enough. Typical problems include trouble falling asleep, waking in the middle of night or early morning and being unable to fall back to sleep, or not wanting to get up in the morning, advises Ducharme.
The Rx: Turn your bedroom into a sleep zone. Making a feel-good space geared for sleeping, rather than watching TV, working or eating, for example. “Create a structured routine of relaxation, like showering, then reading or listening to music for a short time, then turning off the light,” says Ducharme. This calms you and readies you for sleep, unlike watching the news, which can make you more anxious.
Symptom 2: You’re drinking more than usual. It’s easy to turn to alcohol to help you relax or fall asleep at night. The problem is that while you may slip into slumber quickly, you’ll likely wake during the night, which disrupts your REM cycle (that deliciously deep sleep that happens every 90 minutes throughout the night and lasts 5 to 30 minutes). Without it, you’re miserable the next day.
The Rx: Exercise. The earlier in the day the better. “Physical workouts can be a great way to release agitation from your body, especially for people who don’t relax with deep breathing exercises,” she says. “And rather than sending stress hormones like cortisol through your body, exercise leads to a release of endorphins, which naturally produces a sense of well-being.” Evening sweat sessions may make you too energized to hit the pillow at bedtime.
Symptom 3: A sense of panic. Anything from tightness in chest, difficulty breathing or dizziness can be signs of too much anxiety. When we’re under stress, she explains, our bodies naturally tense up in response, causing us to breathe abnormally, such as holding our breath, breathing too deeply or not deeply enough. Be sure to check with your physician if you are experiencing chest pain or shortness of breath.
The Rx: A bottle of bubbles. No, seriously. Grab the kind you used to have as a kid and attempt to blow through the wand. If you blow to hard or not hard enough, you won’t be able to create a bubble, and you’ve just proven you’re not breathing normally. Dr. Ducharme has clients breathe in four counts through their nose, then out of their mouths for four counts in standard yoga-breathing style. If you’re into visualization, imagine breathing in a beautiful healing color, and exhaling a stressful color.
Symptom 4: Snapping at your kids or your significant other. When you’re at your wit’s end, loved ones often get the brunt of your anxiety level. This is heightened if you’re resentful or angry that your husband lost his job or your kids went on a shopping spree.
The Rx: Do a self-check of your situation. If your house is chaotic, consider giving yourself private time, like a hot bath. Otherwise, use this as an excuse to reconnect, she says. Exercise with your family—check out the free exercise channels on cable or short videos on OnDemand, set up a game night or shoot hoops in the driveway. You’ll distract yourself from worry and enjoy your family rather than grumble at them.
Symptom 5: You’re pounding the coffee. When you’re sleepy, unfocused or anxious, it’s natural to turn to stimulants like caffeine, which give you a jolt of pep and can make you feel more engaged, uplifted and energized. Unfortunately, says Dr. Ducharme, this can backfire by causing you to become overly agitated and hyper. The situation becomes worse if you’re drinking enough to keep you awake later that night.
The Rx: Weaning yourself off java can cause headaches. Start slowly, she advises, by trading your fully caffeinated latte for a half-caf, half-decaf version. Maybe even experiment with herbal teas. Your nerves will thank you.