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Economy

Don't forget to care for your well-being during tough times

May 18, 2009

Let's face it, the financial meltdown has impacted all of us in one way or another - lost jobs for some, reduced income for others, increased credit card debt, decreased retirement wealth, home foreclosures.


Even if you've somehow personally dodged this bullet, you probably have a family member or friend who has experienced financial loss.

Our elected officials are frantically working on strategies to end the recession as quickly as possible and ease the pain for those who have been hurt, but many more will feel the pain before this is over.

Whereas the financial hurt is easy to see, a more subtle effect of this financial crisis is the increase in stress and anxiety.

According to experts, financial stress is associated with increases in many other unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, alcohol and drug usage, overeating, overspending and insufficient sleep.

Chronic headaches, neck pain, back pain and increased susceptibility to colds are common ailments linked to stress.

With prolonged exposure, your immune system can be compromised with more serious effects on your health, such as heart disease, ulcers, depression, diabetes, hair loss, sexual dysfunction and tooth and gum disease.

It's no wonder that financial stress is the leading cause of marital problems in this country. It's not just about the money.

There's a sign on College Avenue this week that says "Lack of money is the root of evil."

I don't actually agree with that statement, but I suppose there are many financial problems that could be solved with a little more money. Even with some of the money being thrown at the problem by Washington, it's not enough to take away the stress right now.

So what can you do to reduce the negative effects of financial stress? The simple - and too simplistic - answer to this question is that you need to identify the source of your stress and take steps to get rid of it. Easily said, but not so easily done, particularly in this economic climate.

It should be obvious that if you are stressed by too much debt, you need to figure out how to pay it off. If you can't afford your house, you need to downsize. If you're unemployed, you need to try to get a new job. But these things take time.

So while you work on the longer-term solutions, here are a few strategies to cope with the bad stuff in the short term.

  • Simplify your life. Even if you can't solve your money problems, eliminating other sources of stress can reduce the cumulative effect on your mental and physical health.
  • Work on time management so that you aren't feeling rushed. Don't create imaginary deadlines for yourself. Cut down on extracurricular and volunteer activities.
  • Maintain healthy habits. Eat well-balanced meals, exercise and get enough sleep. Take your vitamins, many of which are known to help combat stress. If you to cancel the health club membership, you can still do your sit-ups every morning and run with your dog. You need all of those feel-good endorphins you can get.
  • Don't omit personal care. Expensive salon splurges may be out, but you can still have a home hair coloring and manicure get-together for all your friends. Have your spouse or partner trim you hair.
  • Stay positive and maintain a sense of humor. There are always reasons to be happy. Make a list of your "feel goods" and be sure to include them in your day. Laugh out loud. There's a reason they say "laughter is the best medicine."

Originally published in the Coloradoan, May 9, 2009.

Editor's note: This column is by Vickie Bajtelsmit, J.D., Ph.D., a professor of finance at Colorado State University and the author of two books on financial planning: "The Busy Woman's Guide to Financial Freedom" and "Personal Finance: Skills for Life." Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the university.


Contact: Vickie Bajtelsmit
E-mail: vickie.bajtelsmit@colostate.edu
Phone: (970) 491-0610