We all feel stressed from time to time. But for many Americans, stress can be debilitating and affect many important aspects of their lives, including their personal relationships, jobs, and their finances. Not only can being stressed out cause someone to make poor financial decisions, but money problems in general can also be a huge source of stress. In fact, according to a 2012 report from the American Psychological Association (APA), 69 percent of Americans identified money as a main source of stress. Whether the initial source of stress and anxiety is money-related, or if stress over completely different issues eventually leads to money troubles, there’s no denying that there is often a strong link between money and stress.
Retail therapy is just like it sounds—turning to shopping as a coping mechanism to feel better about something or to deal with stress. Occasionally splurging now and then when you’re feeling blue or anxious is one thing, but taking it to extreme levels and making it a habit can eventually lead to huge problems.
When someone turns to retail therapy as a way of dealing with a problem, they can end up spending more money than they have, buying things they don’t need, and getting deep into debt. Although the initial shopping trip might temporarily relieve those feelings of stress, getting into debt and falling behind on bills will eventually just make things worse. Not only are you failing to properly deal with what’s bothering you to begin with, but once you begin experiencing financial troubles, then you just have more things to worry about. For some people, this becomes an endless cycle and a very difficult habit to break.
As LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) Jason Esswein of Jason Esswein Counseling Services pointed out, many stressed out individuals will find a way to distract themselves from what’s bothering them and find something else to focus on. Just like anything else, shopping can become an unhealthy addiction, and one that can be very difficult to quit.
“When we spend money—acquiring things we may not even need—there is a dopamine rush in the brain, immediate novelty, and momentary satisfaction from the illusion of gaining more and being more,” said Esswein. “If it’s worked once, and we’re in enough pain, we’ll continue to chase this effect.”
While some people turn to shopping as a coping mechanism, many others turn to gambling, another habit that can become a serious addiction and lead to devastating financial consequences. Once someone turns to gambling as a way to distract themselves from something, it can be difficult for them to stop. Eventually, they can end up losing a huge bet, and losing money that was meant to pay rent or important bills. Although a lot of damage has already been done by that point, some people still won’t stop, and put even more at risk.
Additional medical bills
Stress doesn’t just affect you mentally—in some cases, it can take a physical toll on your body, affect your health, and literally make you sick. The problems that can result from being too stressed out can range anywhere from increased headaches, to experiencing heart troubles and digestive issues. And health problems will usually mean more visits to the doctor, which only increase your bills and can potentially result in medical debt.
Strain on personal relationships
Dealing with stress by overspending can negatively affect your personal relationships, which will likely only add to stress levels. For instance, a shopping or gambling addiction may have caused you to borrow money from friends and family that you’ve been unable to pay back. If you’re married, your spending habits might be causing a lot of tension in the relationship. In fact, disagreements about money and spending habits are one of the most common causes of divorce.
Healthier ways to deal with stress
Completely giving up any addictions may not be easy to do, but it’s key as you take your first steps towards dealing with stress in a healthier way. Talking to a stress management professional or therapist can be a great way to get your feelings out and help you deal with any issues you may be bottling up inside. By discussing your problems with a sympathetic ear, you might be less inclined to resort to unhealthy habits, such as overspending. Aside from therapy, there are other things you can do for yourself that can help relieve stress. Exercise is one way to not just improve your mental wellbeing, but it can also do wonders for your physical health. And the great thing about exercise? It doesn’t have to cost you a thing.
Other ways to relax and deal with stress include meditation, putting a debt repayment plan into action, and taking care of important things that you might normally procrastinate with. You can also try de-stressing by finding a creative outlet that you enjoy, such as writing, painting, or playing music.
If you need extra cash to catch up on bills and expenses, Peachtree Financial Solutions may be able to help if you’re receiving structured settlement payments. Contact Peachtree Financial Solutions today to learn more about selling future payments for a lump sum of cash.
Nothing above is meant to provide financial, tax, or legal advice. You should meet with appropriate professionals for such services.