Understanding the Connection Between Financial Wellness and Mental Health

April 20, 2023
A young female physician with dark hair pulled back stands inside an office wearing a white lab coat with a stethoscope around her neck holding up a light pink piggy bank with both hands.


Whether it is the rising prices of groceries, gas or everyday essentials, financial stress can often lead to individuals adopting unhealthy coping mechanisms like overeating, smoking and using alcohol or recreational drugs, which in turn can affect a person’s overall mental health. Additionally, high levels of financial stress can manifest through physical symptoms like sleep loss, anxiety, headaches/migraines, compromised immune systems, digestive issues, high blood pressure, muscle tension, heart arrhythmia, depression or a feeling of being overwhelmed.

According to The American Psychological Association’s The Stress in America™ survey conducted in October 2022, money continues to be a top source of stress for Americans from all economic backgrounds. Of those surveyed, 66% reported feeling stressed about money at least some time in the prior month.

No matter which comes first—the stress of financial debt or mental health problems—the solution may be to address them simultaneously. When you are mentally healthy, it is easier to tackle your debt. And when you are getting your finances in order, it is easier to improve your mental state. With mental health and financial problems so closely aligned, here are some suggestions to address each area. 

Steps to improve your financial health:

  1. Review your current situation and determine if there is a pattern to how much and when you spend.
  2. Create a budget for yourself and/or your family and stick to it. Unexpected expenses always arise, but do not get derailed. Think of it in terms of a diet: one day of bad spending or one day of indulging will not wreck your entire plan.
  3. Seek out financial resources and ask for help. Whether through your employer, free online or community services, or through your financial institution, help is available, and you do not have to go it alone. 

Ways to improve your mental health:

  1. Speak to your primary care physician to help address any physical, mental or behavioral issues you are experiencing from your financial stress. They may recommend you see a mental health professional or provide other guidance such as prescribing medications. 
  2. Review any current lifestyle activities and how they are affecting your mental health. Are you living beyond your means? Look at how and when you are spending and if it is causing you to have undue stress in your life. 
  3. Set long-term personal and professional goals. If you do not have a clear direction, chances are your mind is constantly wading through the possibilities and stressing about the future. When you know what you are working toward, it will be easier to ward off feelings of dissatisfaction in your career or personal life.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by stress, seek help from your primary care physician, a psychologist or another mental health provider. To learn more about BayCare’s Behavioral Health services, click here.

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