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Are Your Finances Making You Sick?

When your credit score takes a hit so does your health

When your debt exceeds your income, your credit score isn't the only thing to go downhill. According to a recent poll by the American Psychological Association, eight out ten people surveyed reported that the economy is a significant cause of stress.

Clinical psychologist Deborah Serani says, "Money is more than just dollars and cents. It offers intangible feelings of security, power, independence, and freedom. When our financial bedrock is shaken, not only do the numbers dwindle lower, but so, too, does our ability to cope with life issues," Serani says. "Maxed out credit cards, unpaid bills, and mounting cash flow problems shake up our world."

According to Serani, our bodies crave predictability. When we are taken by surprise or burdens or trauma creep in, it sets our neurobiology into a 'Stress Response Cycle'. "Stress becomes dangerous, even lethal, when it interferes with your ability to live a normal life and do everyday things," explains Serani. "Our physiology has a way of letting us know when things become too much to handle," Serani continues, "when agitation, lethargy, and headaches occur frequently and are accompanied by feelings like despondency, helplessness, or anxiety, a stress response may be in its beginning stages. Chronic stress, which can lead to heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, impaired memory and cognition, lowered immunity defenses, agitation, and depression and lethargy can wreak havoc on your emotional and physical health."

Improving your health along with your finances

How do you stave off the health-compromising effects of financial stress during these difficult times? Psychotherapist and life coach Kathy Caprino gives three sanity-saving strategies to be taken in sequence:

  • Step back to gain an empowered perspective about the root cause and the behaviors, assumptions, and beliefs that got you where you are. Look at the cause of your debt or your financial situation. Get help from outside people who can see a future vision and won't contribute to your self-blame or feed your fears.
  • Let go of what is holding you back the beliefs, actions, and patterns that are keeping you stuck and feeling small. If you're in a mound of debt from overspending, examine the behaviors that tricked you into thinking true security was somehow outside yourself, such as your high-powered (and high-paying) job. Pinpoint what you need to let go of so you can move forward.
  • Say "yes" to the compelling vision that you have about your next chapter in life. This can include emerging from debt, finding a new job, or developing more security in your current one. Accomplish your goals by taking action steps: seek out a financial consultant, mentor, or coach who can help you make a solid plan to turn your scenario around.
  • The tried and true methods of eating healthy, getting plenty of exercise and involving yourself in social activities are always part of any stress-management program as well. And if you find yourself tired and exhausted, surrender and give yourself a break. Find a distraction (a healthy one mind you) and focus on something more positive and uplifting for a while. And remind yourself that things will get better.