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Money and Emotional Reactions

Money and Emotional Reactions

The current financial stress, experienced by all of us, can create worry about how this stress may impact our life style, emotional well-being of family members, and future retirement plans.

This article is designed to provide information about the emotional impact that worry about the economy and money can have on our lives. Helpful suggestions and tips on how to manage financial stress is presented.

The Experience of Money Worries

The economy/money is likely to cause personal stress and emotional reactions when we experience bad news about the state of our finances. In many ways money defines who we are; our lives are planned around money and what it can provide for us. For example, the type of housing we choose, the type of clothing, the schools our children attend, vacations, and our retirement plans.

Money worries can lead to:

Concerns about job stability
Worry about our children's future
Depressed mood
Increased work tension
Disappointment in the loss of comfort or limitations of our dreams
Anger that the "money system" let us down and became unstable
Anxiety about the uncertainty of the economic future
Regret that we did not take action to have more control over our money matters

Common Stress Experiences

Warning Signs of Emotional Stress
  • Overeating or consuming fatty and unhealthy foods or loss of appetite.
  • Headaches, muscle tension, neck or back pain
  • Upset stomach
  • Dry mouth
  • Chest pains
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Fatigue
  • Increased frequency of colds
  • Lack of concentration or focus
  • Memory problems or forgetfulness
  • Jitters
  • Irritability
  • Short temper
  • Anxiety

The current financial stress, experienced by all of us, can create worry about how this stress may impact our life style, emotional well-being of family members, and future retirement plans. We are not alone in this experience. To experience stress from such economic change is normal.

A recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association indicates that as many as 8 of 10 Americans are stressed because of money concerns. In addition:

  • 50% stressed about their ability to provide for the family's basic needs
  • 56% concerned about job stability and work load
  • 60% feeling angry and irritable
  • 53% feeling fatigued
  • 53% say they lie awake at night with worry
  • 47% are having headaches
  • 35% are with an upset stomach
  • 34% report increased muscle tension due to stress

Emotional Consequences

Financial stress can trigger a host of issues. In addition there may be a stress effect on children. Children are resilient and they are able to cope, and to a much better degree, based on how parents respond to stressful changes in family life. Parents can help by paying attention to their children's level of understanding about the family's financial situation. For example, younger children may tend to exaggerate things and make them worse than what they are. If you say, "We are going to be living on the street if this economy doesn't get better," children may take this comment literally and believe they will be living on the street without a home. Whereas, older children and adolescents are more exposed to news and talk with friends, and are able to discuss their understanding of the economy.

How to be proactive and help yourself, family and your children build resilience:

  • Encourage a positive life view and promote acting as a family team to handle challenging situations.
  • Develop family goals to meet the new financial reality.
  • Teach your children how to embrace and accept change.
  • Create a family financial contract, gather input from all family members', and have everyone sign the contract as a way to get cooperation and willingness to help.
  • Don't over-react to news or avoid a situation that needs action, but do stay well informed.
  • Brainstorm things to do that are fun, active and have little demand for money.
  • Maintain consistent daily routines in the home.
  • Be proactive about managing your families stress.
  • Maintain positive social connections, and increase family time.

Behavior Changes That Can Help Reduce Anxiety

Stress Tips
  • Understand how you respond to stress.
  • Identify your sources of stress.
  • Learn your own stress signals physical, behavioral and emotional reactions.
  • Recognize how you deal with stress and find healthy ways to respond to it
  • Take care of yourself and reach out for support when needed
  • Take charge of your financial situation despite what Wall Street might do.
  • Maintain extended family, friendship, and social connections.
  • Reinforce self-care, good sleeping, and eating and exercise habits.
  • Learn to take a break from worries, structure and demand and do something creative.
  • Take the attention off your self by helping or being of service to others, give your time.

Keep in perspective that the U.S. economy has always experienced good and bad times. Past history suggests that we weather these economic downturns, and collectively come together to solve the problem. We want to remember we do have some control over our lives, and focus on those things that we can control.

  • Stop blaming "THEM" and take charge of your own finances.
  • Focus and emphasize what you can control.
  • Assess your current financial situation. What does your real financial picture suggest?
  • Can you maintain your current spending levels?
  • Prepare a current spending budget. Where do you need to adjust or shift financial priorities?
  • Talk as a family about money matters, i.e., what is possible what is not possible.
  • Decrease anxieties by turning off the television or stop reading articles about financial crisis in the newspaper. Too much gloom interferes with forming a realistic perspective about our lives.

For more specific information on how to cope with stress, please see Dealing with Stress.

Modifying "Faulty Thinking"

The less we think in negative terms about our money and financial security the more we will be able to cope with our stress. Negative or faulty thinking can lead to becoming indecisive and stop our ability to look at our money concerns in a realistic way. Unrealistic thinking about our finances can keep us in distress. When we can modify negative or faulty thinking around money concerns we are better at creating a more realistic perspective about our financial situation.

Some examples of Faulty Thinking:

Don't make catastrophic statements; or try to predict the future negatively without considering other, more likely outcomes.

"The news reports say another large company is in financial trouble, soon I will be living on the street."

Don't use "all or nothing" thinking such as viewing a situation in only two categories instead of on a continuum.

"The stock market is plummeting today, and now I'm going to lose all my savings."

Don't over-generalize, such as making sweeping negative conclusions that goes beyond the current situation.

"The media reports all day the dire news about the economy, the world is falling apart financially and my kids will not have a future."

Don't use tunnel vision, seeing only the negative aspects of things.

"The government can't figure out how to solve the national financial crisis now, they can't do anything right."


For additional information or to schedule an appointment to discuss your particular concerns with a counselor, contact PAS at 919-416-171.