Did you know that if you are undergoing significant financial stress, you have a 13-fold higher risk of having a heart attack, or a 20% increased chance of having migraine headaches? There is an inexorable link between being worried about our future and developing a plethora of additional diseases, but one thing many of us neglect when facing tough times, is our mental health. In this post, we highlight recent findings on the subject and suggest ways to counter the ill effects of stress.

Findings on Stress and Mental Health

Study after study has shown that worrying about money is linked to mental illness. In one recent study published in theCommunity Mental Health Journal, it was found that worrying about debt and experiencing financial difficulties while studying at university, significantly increased the risk of anxiety, depression, and stress. Moreover, mental health issues and alcohol dependency predicted higher levels of financial worry and vice-versa.

Other studies have shown that financial and work stress can lead one to make unhealthy lifestyle choices, including smoking, consuming an unsound diet, and undertaking less physical activity. These findings back many previous bodies of research pointing to the vital link between the physical and the mental; healthy habits such as exercise and getting a good night’s sleep are vital to keep stress and anxiety at bay, yet they issue is very much a cyclical one, since stress itself can lead us to make the wrong choices.

Financial Stress Stops Us from Thinking Clearly

A study published in the journalNeuron, revealed that high stress situations cause cognitive impairment; previous research, meanwhile, established a link between stress and memory impairments.

Ironically, it is precisely when we are facing tough financial times that we need to think most clearly. It takes time and research to reduce or eliminate debts, with important steps to take including using balance transfer cards to reduce charges from other credit cards, and creating a financial strategy that involves making mindful, incisive decisions about how to save money, sell assets or make different investments, until we once again possess greater financial freedom.

Stress puts us into ‘fight or flight’ mode, which is the opposite state we need to be in when we are making important decisions.

Natural Ways to Battle Financial Stress

If stress is so severe that it is interfering with your ability to function well in day to day life, professional help from a therapist is indicated, since there are important health consequences from chronic stress, anxiety, and depression. Your therapist may use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or suggest a treatment as required, though natural stress busters can also help.

Gold standard complementary therapies for stress include yoga, Tai Chi and mindfulness meditation, all of which have been proven in various studies to significantly lower levels of stress hormone, cortisol.

Physical activity in the Great Outdoors is another excellent way to promote a mindful state, with practises such as ‘forest bathing’ currently all the rage among trendy urbanites in Tokyo and other big cities.

Overcoming financial stress involves making clear decisions about how to reduce debt and get back on your feet, but doing so is impossible without first working on your mental health. Counselling, CBT, mindfulness-based activities and exercise will help your body and mind escape from ‘survival mode’, which should come into play only when you are under a situation of immediate and extreme danger.