Last year, the American Psychological Association released a study about “Stress in America.” Specifically, the effect of money on our mental health. The survey found 72 percent of Americans stress over money. For some, the worry is the result of overdue bills. For others, the sound of a phone ringing triggers insurmountable stress because of the possible bill collector on the other end of the call.
In my life as a research psychologist for more than 25 years, some of the most potent triggers that affect the human mind have been connected to money, or more specifically, the lack of it. Throughout those studies of personal finance and worry, I was able to identify something that affects more than 25 percent of Americans – Acute Financial Stress (AFS). And if it feels like something you could consider “Financial PTSD,” you’d be correct.
More than 56 million people over the age of 18 struggle with AFS. Think about it: You have a loosely planned budget and understand what you can afford. Suddenly, it happens. The car breaks down, the company reorganizes and lets you go, or an unfortunate report came in from the doctor.
This situation may sound familiar, or worse, feel familiar. You connect with the feelings of helplessness and loss. That pit in your stomach comes back. You may even feel light-headed. That’s because the symptoms of financial stress can closely mirror those of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is why it could be considered financial PTSD.
If you are struggling with personal debt, your bank account may not be the only thing at risk. Your mental health is being compromised, which could affect you for years to come. That is something Beyond Finance is looking to tackle.
Manage the Stress, Then the Debt
When dealing with (mainly) credit card debt spiraling out of control, it usually begins at a small value. One missed payment becomes two. Then, you get another credit card to help juggle the payments. Have you noticed how the “robbing Peter to pay Paul” process eventually takes control of your thoughts, your dreams?
Odds are you’re in this blog because you are considering debt relief or are already a client of Beyond Finance. Either way, you made the right choice. Now, let’s focus on the three main areas in your life where financial stress attacks you the most:
- Thoughts — Financial stress can cause persistent negative thoughts, such as beating yourself up over past mistakes.
- Feelings — Financial stress can cause feelings of fear, worry, or regret related to your finances.
- Behaviors — Financial stress can cause changes in your behaviors, like avoiding social occasions.
Any symptom can be treated. You must understand there is no personal failure related to debt, only troubling circumstances cause those feelings. This place of stress is not where people must stay. We are proposing a journey of self-understanding combined with developing a sense of financial security that will give us all a renewed sense of individuality and a sense of support that comes from taking this stress out of the shadows. Our goal is to remove the trauma from Financial PTSD.
AFS Meets CBT
At Beyond Finance, we understand our clients suffer from much more than just excessive phone calls. Looking over your financial problems is only a part of the problem. You are still suffering from a substantial amount of emotional pain. Therefore, managing your financial stress is key to helping you through this situation once and for all.
We will begin to offer all Beyond Finance clients a stress-reducing email series based upon Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This self-taught method enables your brain to override your emotional responses to stress. CBT is a non-intrusive, non-medical way to treat depression and benefits people dealing with those similar negative stressors making AFS feel like a financial PTSD.
Broadening our reach for our clients is not what was wanted; it’s what is needed. Our program helps every client leave Beyond Finance mentally and emotionally better than they were when they called.
Stress can be a good thing. It is a biological response for our bodies to respond to physical and emotional threats to help us protect ourselves and get out of harm’s way.
Take the experience of driving your car when another car cuts you off. As the other vehicle veers directly into your lane, every one of your body’s systems goes into high gear. As your foot slams on the brake, your heart starts pounding, your mouth becomes dry, and your vision narrows. And that good side of stress is on full display in the matter of a split second.
Stress has the power to save us from harm or cause us harm because of its direct impact on our mental health. If we can manage your stress, there are no long-term adverse effects of the activation of our threat response system. Stress can cause rapid breathing, spike heartburn, high blood pressure, shock your muscles, and even weaken your immune system.
And today, more than 90% of Americans say money causes some stress in their lives. Unfortunately, 100% of our clients have experienced these symptoms. Today, with the help of CBT and confronting these financial challenges, they are ready to deal with them.
Managing Financial Stress Makes a Difference
We are constantly bombarded with what feels like threats of one type or another. The kids are crying, the car is making a weird sound, your in-laws are coming to visit, and your new neighbor is a little creepy. Oh yeah, and there is a two-inch pile of bills you haven’t opened yet.
Many of these nagging stressors activate our body’s response system in the same ways physical threats do. Our cardiovascular system, immune system, and metabolic system all kick into overdrive when we least expect them to, causing us feelings of grief, worry, and loss. To further complicate what’s going on internally, if we don’t fully calm down after a stress response, all these systems stay somewhat activated for hours, days, or even weeks.
Our bodies cannot withstand stress-related disorders for long periods—heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, gastrointestinal problems, and so many more. Each of these conditions is directly related to chronic stress. The same stress you experience when you finally do open those bills and try to pay them.
While we all hope everyone can live stress-free lives and have no debt, it is unlikely without taking preventive measures. Therefore, Beyond Finance is providing this CBT-based email series. Each email will focus on one central point – we can use our minds to control how our bodies respond to chronic stress, even the kind related to personal finance.
This series aims to teach our clients to use their minds to manage thoughts, feelings or emotions, and behaviors. Mastery of these techniques serve us in two ways:
- Our bodies become less likely to react to those stressors that are not threats to us
- Our systems become more capable of returning to the levels they were at before we experienced the stressor
The Beyond Finance De-Stress Program is a series of 12 psychologically created emails designed to help you accomplish CBT management regarding the stress level of your financial PTSD. Each email will give you the rationale behind the technique, followed by managing your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Those new capabilities will help you distinguish between real threats and minor stressors. These emails will also teach you ways to truly relax and give your body, mind, and spirit time to become renewed.
This series will become an integral part of your debt settlement program with Beyond Finance. Our commitment is to help you move beyond debt and help transform your life. We understand that debt is not only a financial problem but also a stress problem. We aim to help you manage both and emerge from debt in better shape financially and emotionally.