Five signs that you are debt stressed

Your bank balance isn’t the only thing that suffers when you’re in debt! – Written by psychologist Lauren Claassen

We’ve all experienced stress at some point in our lives. That first day on the job, meeting new people, exploring unfamiliar places and experiences can all trigger a stress response. We all deal with stress differently. Some people act out, others become quiet and introverted and some feel its effects physically.

A study was conducted in 2015 to establish the top reasons why people feel stressed. From 22 countries, 27 000 individuals were interviewed and the ‘amount of money people have to live on’ was ranked as the number one cause of stress. Good to know you’re not alone, right?

Experiencing stress about money is not only natural, but in many cases it’s beneficial. Ever feel like spending money on something and you decide not to because you remember what it feels like to be cash strapped at the end of the month? Exactly. Because you experienced that stress before, it reminds you of your financial responsibilities and keeps you in check when you might want to overspend again. But for those stuck in the vicious cycle of bad debt, it’s a different story.

Debt is, by nature, a long-term commitment. This means that you are potentially committing yourself to long-terms stress. Debt and stress go hand-in-hand. If you don’t manage your debt appropriately, you become over-indebted. If you don’t manage your stress properly, you become over-stressed. This over-exposure to long-term stress causes anxiety.

The difference between stress and anxiety

Stress is a symptom of a situation or event, such as when your boss suddenly gives you a new project with an urgent deadline when your plate is already full. It’s natural to feel stressed in this situation.

Anxiety is a symptom of stress. And, in many cases, it is also more severe. Let’s use the same urgent project scenario to illustrate: if you’ve reached the deadline, but you still can’t sleep because you’re worrying about the project – that is anxiety. The situation that caused the stress has passed, but your mind thinks about it repeatedly in a negative light. Prolonged exposure to repetitive negative thinking is what causes anxiety. For some, it has a psychological impact; for others it manifests physically – heart palpitations, rapid breathing, dizziness, a feeling of being out of control, panic attacks.

Five signs that you suffer from debt stress:

  1. Sleeplessness is a good indication that you are stressed. Pay attention to your thoughts when you’re lying awake at night. Are you predominantly thinking about money?
  2. Try to identify when you are feeling most angry, frustrated or fearful. If you are experiencing these feelings closer to the end of the month or closer to payday, it could be a sign of debts stress. Often, the closer we get to payday, the more we stress because we know we don’t have sufficient funds to cover our expenses.
  3. Feelings of shame or failure are often associated with debt stress.
  4. Difficulty concentrating or over-focusing on thoughts about money.
  5. If you feel anxious when any unknown or unidentified number phones you in fear of it being a creditor.

Experiencing any or some of the above symptoms could be an indication that you are debt stressed.

The right debt counsellor is not only qualified to help you deal with your debt through debt restructuring and rehabilitation, but they also have the ability to empathise with your situation, while offering support every step of the way.

All the debt counsellors at DebtCare have attended Debt Stress and Counselling training and have years of experience in helping debt-stressed South Africans regain their financial confidence. – Lauren Claassen, MEd (Educational Psychologist), HPCSA PS0120367.

*If you feel that you are suffering from depression or acute anxiety, please contact a qualified professional such as a psychologist or helpline such as The South African Depression and Anxiety Group on 0800 20 50 26 to speak to a trained counsellor. – Lauren Claassen, MEd (Educational Psychologist), HPCSA PS0120367

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