By Scott Blair

Stress is unfortunately a big part of our lives. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what tax bracket you fall into; stress affects everyone on some level. However, certain groups tend to feel the weight of stress more than others, particularly when dealing with financial stress. Being one incident away from not paying your rent or being unable to put food on the table for you or your family, is a common issue these days.

Let’s discuss the effects of stress due to finances, what it means for your mental health, and how to cope.

Financially & Mentally Stressed

Being financially and mentally stressed often go hand in hand, and coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people than ever are experiencing both. It’s even worse when you’re worried about where your next meal will come from or whether or not you can provide your family with food and shelter. A recent PLOS ONE study found that financial stress is positively associated with depression, particularly among low socioeconomic groups.

Furthermore, COVID-19 has caused at least 50% of Texans to experience financial hardship. The 2021 Winter Storm also caused 30% of Texans to lose income and 27% to experience some form of financial hardship. Another recent study shows that 55% of Texans say that increased prices have had a major impact on their financial situation, while 37% say the impact was minor.

What it Means for the Black Community

Before the pandemic, 22% of Black Americans faced poverty compared to 9% of whites, while 86% percent of Black Americans experienced financial hardship due to the coronavirus, (and those effects are still lingering).

Currently, the average white family’s wealth is eight times larger than the average Black family’s wealth. Government and academic research show that Black Americans are much more susceptible to falling into debt than white Americans.

Symptoms of Financial Stress

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Weight Gain
  • Physical Ailments
  • Social Withdrawal
  • Relationship Difficulties
  • Unhealthy Coping Methods

Financial stress can make you anxious almost 24/7. It can make you depressed and cause you to lose sleep. You also might gain weight due to stress eating and experience other physical ailments such as stress-related back pain. Many people with financial stress are afraid to socialize or spend time with friends. You may lash out at friends or family who are doing better financially. Lastly, you might turn to alcohol or drugs.

A Horrible Cycle

Financial problems typically cause mental health problems. Mental health problems often affect how you manage your money which leads to a worsening financial situation. You can start to feel the bills and debt pile up until it seems insurmountable. It becomes a vicious cycle of increasing financial problems and declining mental and physical health.

What You Can do About It

First, it’s important to understand that, in many cases, financial problems aren’t your fault. Also, realize that fixing your financial problems and related stress won’t happen overnight.

With the last few years behind us, it’s time to pick ourselves back up and change our situation to the best of our abilities. Here are some steps to take:

  • Forgive Yourself
  • Assess Your Situation
  • Make a List
  • Reach Out
  • Take Action

It’s important to forgive yourself. Whether your financial situation is all your fault, partially your fault, or not your fault at all, you need to forgive yourself before you can move forward.

Take an assessment of your entire situation. How much money do you owe? How much are you making? What can you do to reverse the situation? Make a list with the answers. You should also reach out to public services, friends, or family for any help they can provide.

Lastly, take action. Moving forward is the best thing you can do to change any situation. Being stagnant gets you nowhere. Even if you do a simple little task that pushes you in a positive direction, that still helps. Before you know it, you’ll be on to bigger tasks and find you’re doing more and more every day while your financial situation improves.

Where to Go for Financial & Mental Health Help in Texas

Here are some resources for financial and mental help in Texas:

Other Steps You Can Take

  • Create Extra Income Sources
  • Set a Budget
  • Understand the Debt Cycle
  • Exercise and Eat Healthy
  • Meditate

Brainstorm about how you can create an extra income source. It could be a business you can do from home, such as cutting hair or an online store selling t-shirts you design. Set a new budget and stick to it as best you can. Learn about the debt cycle; there are several books you can find at the local library or audiobooks for $0.99 on Amazon.

Make sure exercise and a healthy diet become part of your lifestyle. Studies show exercise reduces stress, and the healthier you eat, the better you’ll feel. Meditation is another great way to reduce financial stress and provide better mental health.