Committed to Growth During the Pandemic: Financial Stress and COVID

Part of our Committed to Growth during the Pandemic Series

A recent Chubb surveylink opens in a new window found the majority of Americans (68%) said they were concerned about the financial well–being of themselves and their families. This level of concern was common among both genders and all income groups and ages.

Financial worries can place a toll on your wellbeing. Prolonged stress, for example, has been shown to wreak havoc on pretty much every facet of your life.

Mental health

For example, when we are stressed, our emotional wellbeing can suffer. Depression, anxiety, irritability, guilt and shame can all arise as a result of stress. Our mental functioning can also suffer. Difficulty concentrating, lack of focus and problems with memory often occur when stress levels are prolonged. 

Physical health

Research highlights the detrimental effects of long-term stress on our physical health. Difficulties sleeping, eating more or making unhealthy food choices, avoiding exercise, being sedentary, GI distress and unexplained physical pain, such as headaches, neck/back pain are not uncommon.

What’s more, there is a field of study called psychoneuroimmunology, which explores the impact of stress on the neurological and immune systems. One of the consistent findings is that extended stress can diminish immune functioning, making it harder to fight off pathogens. The result? Increased likelihood of being ill.

Stress affects relationships

Relationships can also suffer when we feel stressed. Examples include:

  • Personalizing what others are doing or saying
  • Being easily offended
  • Being irritable with others
  • Yelling
  • “Clamming up” and not openly communicating
  • Being passive aggressive
  • Blaming others

Any of those sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so.

..and our work

What’s more, our work can suffer as a result of extended stress. Procrastination, “paralysis analysis,” problems staying on task, spending time on unnecessary tasks and avoiding what is most important, dodging work altogether, performing sub-par because issues with mental functioning, making more mistakes and increases in work-related injuries can all result from a stressed-out mind.

Reactions matter

While you cannot control everything that happens in your life, you can control how you react to it. And one way to do that when it comes to financial stress is to stop using a common thought “trap” that psychologists call fortunetelling.

Fortunetelling is a type of cognitive distortion, or inaccurate way of viewing a situation, where the person predicts negative events will happen and then emotionally reacts as if those fears are imminent. It is the classic “What if” thinking, as in “What if I lose my job” or “What if I get injured and can’t work?” Generally, when people ask themselves these types of questions, they actually answer it in their minds, imagining the most horrific outcome. “If that happened, I would be homeless and wouldn’t be able pay for food for my kids.” And that is where the anxiety and stress climb.

I equate fortunetelling with putting your winter coat on in the summer. Imagine that it's summer (oh wait, it is), and it is 100 degrees outside. You see someone in a long winter coat with a scarf and hat. Wouldn't you think something was a little strange with that person? Well, what if the person then told you that they were just getting ready for the winter, which would arrive in four months? I mean, when December comes, wearing a winter coat makes sense, right?

However, wearing that parka in August makes no sense at all. Sweating for four months until it’s cold enough to warrant wearing that coat causes unnecessary discomfort. And yet that's what we do when we fortunetell; we emotionally react as if something is already happening, even if it isn't.

Having a plan helps

Of course, having a coat in the closet for when you need it is a smart idea. You are not needlessly sweating (i.e., acting as if your fear is imminent). You are, however, ready in case it does happen.

That is analogous to considering worst-case scenarios, such as financial events, but not emotionally reacting as if they are impending. It is important to take steps to prevent financial issues, such as establishing a budget. It is also important to put into place different systems in case something adverse takes place. 

Dr. Elizabeth Lombardolink opens in a new window is a Licensed Practicing Psychologist with a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Master's degree in Physical Therapy, and the authority on how to crush your inner critic so that you can live a life of purpose, fulfillment and True Success™. She’s America’s most trusted celebrity psychologist with over 100 national media interviews. She writes for Combined Insurance in an effort to help educate readers, but her medical opinions and advice are for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for visiting your doctor.