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How Money Problems Can Lead to Physical Pain

6 ways to address financial issues in your life and reduce stress


(Editor’s Note: This story is part of a partnership between Chasing the Dream and Next Avenue.)

If you are having money problems, it’s quite possible they are causing you physical pain. According to research studies, people who feel their financial outlook is shaky may actually experience more physical pain than those who are financially secure.

Research in the journal Psychological Science found the link between physical pain and finances may be driven by the lack of financial control over your life. It can hurt physically to be economically insecure.

Six studies from researchers at University of Virginia and Columbia University found that financial woes produce physical pain, reduce tolerance to pain and can predict over-the-counter (OTC) pain killer consumption.

When reviewing data on 33,000 people, they learned that households in which both adults were unemployed spent 20 percent more on over-the-counter painkillers in 2008 than households where at least one adult was working. Also, their online study of 187 participants indicated that unemployment and financial insecurity were correlated with reports of pain.

“Many doctors’ visits are because of stress, and money is the number one cause of stress,” says Leanne Jacobs, a holistic wealth expert, author and the host of the Beautiful Money podcast.

Chronic money stress often leads to lower back pain, neck pain and shoulder pain says Dr. Nathan Wei, a national expert in rheumatoid and osteoarthritis at the Arthritis Treatment Center in Frederick, Md. “When my patients have a flare up, I ask them what kind of stress they are under.”

Financial challenges, such as unemployment and abundant debt, can attack a person’s self-worth and lead to depression. Plus, physical problems can begin to compound when high levels of stress continue for prolonged periods of time.

“What starts with clenched teeth, tense muscles and low energy can eventually turn to heart attacks, hypertension and impaired immune system,” says Lisa M. LaMarche, a financial planner and CPA who is a partner at Milestone Wealth Advisors in Greenville, Del. “As a financial adviser, I see first-hand the physical pain and health issues that can develop from dealing with money problems.”

LaMarche regularly talks to clients about the importance of caring for both their health and their wealth. “Without health, we can’t enjoy the money we’ve worked and saved for. Without our wealth, we aren’t able to afford the activities we want to do while our bodies are healthy,” says LaMarche.

6 Ways to Cope With Money Problems

Here are six ways to cope, by improving your health and your finances:

1. Make sleep a top priority. “When we have stress stuck in our body, it will affect our sleep, our eating and spending habits,” says Jacobs. When people don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis, not only is their health challenged and immune system depleted, they’re more prone to overspending and having unhealthy habits that contribute to pain and poor health.

So, nix electrical gadgets in the bedroom, be mindful of not overeating before bed and sleep in a dark, quiet room.

2. Move your body. When stress energy is stagnant and stuck in the body, it shows up as spasms and eventually pain. Exercise gets the energy moving.

When you can, try to walk on your lunch hour or take a yoga class.

3. Write a plan to address your financial problems. Putting the source of financial stress on paper helps release it and makes people feel empowered, explains Jacobs. A written plan produces optimism.

Include specific goals with particular dates — such as when you want to become debt-free — and write those dates in the calendar.

4. Get your finances organized. Make sure all your financial documents, such as bills, wills and account information are easy to find and up to date. This will reduce the stress of knowing where they are and what needs to be done about them. “Your loved ones should be aware of where you keep these items as well,” says Joe Duran, CEO of United Capital Financial Advisers and author of the The Money Code.

5. Review your insurance coverage. Consider all your policies: life, home, auto, medical and disability. Do you have appropriate coverage in each area? “Life is ever-changing and unexpected things happen every day. If you’re not prepared, it can cause feelings of anxiety that spill over into all other aspects of your life, or worse, negatively impact the ones you love,” says Duran.

6. Save as much money as you can. Set aside cash each month in an emergency fund or a separate savings account, even during sluggish financial times. Savings can cushion a blow.

This story is part of our partnership with Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America, a public media initiative created to stimulate a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty. Major funding is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.

By Jennifer Nelson
Jennifer Nelson is a Florida-based writer who also writes for MSNBC, FOXnews and AARP.

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