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  • Writer's pictureIsabella Maire

Economic Stress and Mental Health: Coping Strategies for Financial Hardships in Utah


Man opening empty wallet financial stress

You turn on the news and you'll most likely hear about how the economy is never what it used to be. You look at how inflation seems to be on a never ending rise and at the same time you hear your friends wishing that they could get paid more. The simple thought of economic stress seems unmanageable for some, especially in the current economy. Few have never felt it, as the majority of people in the U.S currently live within low-middle incomes. We especially saw this stress during the economic downturns that were outside of their control, like the crisis that happened during the COVID 19 pandemic. Regardless of what your experience is regarding economic stress, this article will focus on how to manage that stress and take control of your finances.

 

What is economic stress? How is it connected to financial hardship?

Economic stress is simply defined as stress that is induced by the present state of an individual's finances and/or induced by fear about the economy1. It is synonymous with financial stress and both those terms will be used interchangeably throughout this article.


This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Personal debt

  • Paying off loans

  • Not having enough to pay for basic needs

  • Comparison to others who have more financial assets

  • Fear of losing your job

  • Bankruptcy

 

Whatever it is, financial stress is a type of stress and thus should be treated as such. If not treated actively, it can lead to further consequences on a person's overall well- being.

 


Woman staring at wall financial stress

How does economic/financial stress affect my mental health?

As mentioned before, financial stress is a type of stress, so if it's not treated as such it can lead to negative consequences on a person's physical and/or psychological health. Especially if it becomes chronic stress or comes in constant waves, this type of stress can be harmful .

 

In a systematic review of studies done in various countries with different economies, researchers found that overall financial indicators including assets or lack of them, unsecured debts (such as credit card debt), financial hardship, and subjective perceptions of your financial stress were strong predictors of depression2. It's important to note that this includes not only the reality of your financial situation, but also how you perceive your situation, all of which plays a factor into experiencing depression.


Along with depression, overwhelming economic stress can lead to insomnia, weight gain/loss, anxiety, physical illnesses, and relationship difficulties.3. According to the American Psychological Association, economic stress can also have an effect on children and youth, including lower self-esteem, anxiety, and other emotional/behavioral problems.4. 


Dealing with all this financial stress can additionally lead to a negative cycle where  your financial stress impacts your mental health, then impacts your ability to work, then impacts your financial situation leading to more financial stress and starting the cycle all over again.3. No matter what you’re dealing with and your current financial situation, it is always a good idea to be aware of these symptoms because they are signs that you are being overwhelmed. 


Basic tips for financial wellness and surviving financial hardship in Utah

Here are a few basic tips that can help you out if you’re currently dealing with economic stress. 

  • Clearly identify your goals. Often people describe their financial goal as “I want to be good at money”. Understand what that means. Does it mean I spend within my budget? Does it mean i pay off debt and learn to avoid it? Does it mean I can do the fun things I love in life and not worry I can’t afford it? Make specific, measurable goals for the kind of money-manager/spender you want to be, and use those to help do the other tips below. 


  • Create a budget. If you talk to any financial expert, this will be the number one thing that they stress you should do. Create one that works for you and one that you can easily access at all times. Whether  on a piece of paper or an Excel sheet, clearly identify your current spending for things you need. Then from there determine what other expenses you have that you can cut out. Remember to include everything you spend money on, not just regular bills or expenses.


  • Cut back on unnecessary expenses. This goes along with the previous tip, but is essential to dive more deep into it. This can include not going out to eat for lunch everyday, or even avoiding going to the movies every weekend. You don’t have to prohibit yourself from pleasure all the time, but cutting it down will definitely help. Passively, we often find we are spending money on things we didn’t even know. Look at your accounts for auto payments that you don’t remember approving or things you no longer use.  


  • Seek professional advice. This can be talking to a debt counselor or any financial expert that you know. One good resource is InCharge Debt Solutions which offers free debt counseling and debt management to Utah residents. You can find them here https://www.incharge.org/debt-relief/credit-counseling/utah/ 


  • Manage the stress. Remember this is economic stress that we’re talking about. Like any other stress, managing it is essential in order to stay healthy and be able to get through this hard circumstance. Make sure to eat low cost, healthy meals, spend time with loved ones doing inexpensive things, and find time for regular exercise even if it’s just a brisk walk. If the stress seems like it’s too much to handle, consider reaching out to a therapist, there are many that offer lower-cost services or even sliding fee scales. 


mother daughter in woods

Resources for financial stress in Utah

It is crucial during this time to take care of yourself. Below you will find some local resources in Utah that can help in taking care of yourself and your family during financial hardship. 


  • Community Health Connect (for Utah County) Health Access Project (for Salt Lake County) - They specialize in connecting you to medical specialists across these counties who offer discounted and sometimes donated services for those who are underinsured or do not have insurance. Can also help you apply for Medicaid. 

  • Mountainlands Community Health Center - Offer sliding fee scales for primary care needs for your entire family. You need to be uninsured to go here. 

  • www.mentaya.com - A website that helps connect you with therapists even outside of your insured network. They can help in getting you some of the money back as well. 

  • CHIP and WIC. These are programs offered by the government that can help you in obtaining food for your children. You can look for them online on how to apply for them. 

  • https://www.incharge.org/debt-relief/credit-counseling/utah/  - InCharge also offers more links on local resources here in Utah that you could use for housing payments, utility bills and also paying for child care. 


Remember that you can get through this! 

 

Sources


This blog was written by Alessandro Gemio, edited by Izzy Maire, and reviewed/approved by Taylor Madsen, LMFT, and Hailey Maire, LCSW. 


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