Although chronic stress has many sources, a primary cause in the United States is money, according to a 2016 survey by the American Psychological Association. The survey of 3,511 adults found that 61% reported  feeling stressed about finances.

When it comes to money, “there is a lot of fear of the unknown,” says James L. McKown, III, CFP®, Financial Planning Manager at Wells Fargo Advisors. We worry about whether we’re earning and saving enough, and we feel stressed about putting aside enough for the future, McKown says. When the stock market is low, we worry that our investments are going down in value; and when it’s high, we fret that we’re missing out.

One way to calm financial fears is to educate yourself about money. “Start with a clear understanding of where you stand financially,” McKown suggests. “Even if the news is bad, at least you’ll know where you stand.”

The power of planning

Seek out the advice of a trusted financial advisor who can help you set short- and long-term financial goals. “A big part of financial stress is the fear of making the wrong decisions,” McKown says. Having advice from a knowledgeable professional may help ease that fear. When you understand your finances, have realistic expectations, set reasonable goals, and feel confident in your decision-making skills, you’re less likely to feel stressed.

A powerful tool that you can use to create an investment plan is Wells Fargo Advisors’ Envision® process. With the help of your financial advisor, Envision enables you to develop an investment strategy that’s based around your life’s goals, dreams, and needs. Moreover, you can track your performance and make adjustments whenever necessary.

Once you have a solid investment plan in place, be sure to review it with your financial advisor on a regular basis — once or twice a year, or whenever you experience a change in income, job loss, inheritance, or other large financial shift.

One way to calm financial fears is to educate yourself about money.

Tips to cope

Besides money, there are other causes of stress too, of course. Challenges caused by family commitments and work demands can seem never-ending. Most of us do a good job of coping with these stressors in our lives. But when stress becomes overwhelming, or when it continues for long periods of time, it can take a toll on our health.

Ongoing stress is more than just an inconvenience. Because of the biochemical changes it causes in the body and the brain, chronic stress can cause a range of health problems — like headaches, gastrointestinal issues, fatigue, back and neck pain, depression, and anxiety. It can interfere with sleep, memory, concentration, and the healthy function of the immune system. And it can trigger anger and irritability, making it harder for us to maintain good personal relationships with family, friends, and co-workers.

Whether you’re worried about money, work, or anything else, here are some other ways to cope:

  • Take good care of yourself. Boost your resilience by eating right, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep.
  • Spend time with family and friends. Social support recharges your spirit and reduces feelings of isolation.
  • Practice relaxation strategies. Techniques such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and prayer can lower levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, in your blood.
  • Take small relaxation breaks throughout the day. Inhale slowly while counting to four, and then exhale to the count of four. Repeat for several breaths. “In just a few seconds, a mini relaxation can give you a chance to step back, gather your emotional resources, and cope with whatever challenge faces you,” says psychologist Alice D. Domar, Ph.D., executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health.
  • Practice gratitude. For a few minutes each day, focus on being thankful. Studies show that actively practicing gratitude — writing down three to five things for which you’re grateful each day, for example — can increase happiness and reduce anxiety.
  • Ask for help. Call your doctor or a therapist if you need help dealing with stress or other emotional challenges.

Alice Lesch Kelly is a freelance writer based in the Boston area.

Wells Fargo Advisors is a trade name used by Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC, Member SIPC, a registered broker-dealer and non-bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.

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Additional Resources

One way to relieve stress about money may be to talk about it, either with a financial advisor or family. Wells Fargo Advisors offers tips on having important family financial conversations.

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