Matt's Money: How to relieve the stress of debt

by Matt Montgomery

According to Nerdwallet, the average American household with debt owes $132,158. Of course, that includes a mortgage but credit card debt accounts for $15,675 of that. Little wonder that money worries are a major cause of stress.

Behavioral scientists tell us that humans have an innate response called “flight or fight.” It’s nature’s way of launching our bodies into action. Think about the physical responses you feel during moments of stress -- faster heartbeat, accelerated breathing, tightening of muscles, an increase in sweating. These are response mechanisms that we all experience in one way or the other when we’re under stress.
We also know that stress can also manifest itself in physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, an upset stomach, and general irritability.

When it comes to money – especially debt and the stress it causes -- our bodies may experience long-term consequences.

According to WebMD, long-term stress because of debt may lead to serious health problems like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma.

What can you do? Number one, stop ignoring your debt problem. Acknowledge it. You can’t reduce your stress levels until you accept the problem. When I talk to stressed-out people with debt problems, the first thing I do is get them to admit they have a problem.

Second, get to the real root of your debt problem. I have found people in debt usually have a deeper problem than just buying things they can’t afford.

Sometimes, just knowing why you buy things you can’t afford helps solve the problem. At the same, simply knowing why may reduce your stress level.

Third, developing a strategy to eliminate your debt. It doesn’t just happen. You need to write down your plan and stick to it.

It won’t happen overnight so it’s usually a good idea to have someone you can talk with about it. It’s like having an accountability partner. That kind of support may provide you with hope and optimism to get out of debt.

Finally, keep your debt worries in perspective. Debt doesn’t have to ruin your life. Maybe you can write in a journal when you’re feeling the need to buy something you don’t need.

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Indexes are un-managed portfolios and investors cannot invest directly in an index. Past performance is not indicative of future results.