I think it is wonderful that Financial Literacy Awareness Month and Stress Awareness Month are both in the month of April. I think it makes perfect sense because money is the number one source of stress in people today according to the APA’s Stress in America report.
Money came in ahead of relationships, family, health, and job stability. In a recent poll on Stress 7 out of 10 people said they were “very stressed” about money.
So how does the financial stress we are feeling affect our health? Stress can lead to health problems. It can affect your cellular level and if stress is long term it can lead to many illnesses. Extreme stress or stress over long periods of time (called chronic stress) can damage your emotional and physical health. When was the last time you had trouble sleeping, struggled with tiredness, headaches, backaches, upset stomach or irritability? Did you know that these are all symptoms of chronic stress?
Stress is also associated with high blood pressure and atherosclerosis which are both strong risk factors for stroke. One recent study of more than 20,000 people (57% were women) who had never had a stroke or heart disease found that stress was associated with an increased stroke risk, even after taking into account other stroke risk factors.
Edward Yoon, M.D., cardiovascular disease specialist with Sutter Regional Medical Foundation & Sutter Solano Medical Center states in a recent article that a recent study called INTERHEART, published in the Lancet medical journal, collected information on thousands of heart attack patients in over 50 countries around the world. Researchers wanted to identify the most important risk factors that could predict a heart attack, and it was unique in its international scope. The usual risk factors were all present: high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure were the major factors linked to heart attacks.
But one of the most interesting findings was that patients who reported high stress levels also had a higher risk of heart attack, even when the other factors were taken into account. The importance of stress was consistent across-the-board, in people from Africa, Europe, Asia and the United States, and seemed to be as important as high blood pressure.
I believe that we can use Stress Awareness and Financial Literacy Awareness month to learn that stress, when we do not deal with its source, can have harmful ramifications on our health. So much so that stress is a contributing risk factor to high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. The link between stress and our physical health continues to be researched, but we do know that when we are stressed and do not deal with it, our physical body suffers. We also know that when we are stressed it can lead us to drink more, eat in an unhealthy manner, and smoke more; all of which are risk factors to high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.
I believe the best way to deal with stress is to learn stress management techniques and most importantly, to deal with whatever is causing the stress. If it is financial stress, identify the specific issue that is causing the stress, then deal with that specific issue or issues. Continuing to sweep it under the rug can have a very negative physical impact.
Here are some sources to help get started on a life of less financial stress:
If you are having problems identifying the source of your financial stress you can take a financial stress test: http://www.learnvest.com/2010/09/quiz-can-you-pass-a-financial-stress-test/
If you need help dealing with the specific financial issue causing you stress there are many resources you can utilize one of them is Money Management International:
Money Management International provides everything needed to understand finances and where to go for additional assistance. The site includes a 30 day financial fitness path to follow. What better time to start than during Financial Literacy Awareness and Stress Awareness month?
Make financial fitness a way of life. Take time each week to take care of your finances, listen to webinars on Money Wi$e Women Get Smart and make it a habit to start reading financial literature.