By Marko Tunjic, LCPC*
Stress is a common human experience and we all feel it in various ways. A simple definition of stress is being faced with challenges without having sufficient means to meet them or reduce their impact on our lives. Financial stress occurs when our current or projected income doesn’t seem enough to cover the demands we encounter or anticipate. If there are no immediate and relatively easy solutions for such demands, the stress we experience can start taking a toll on our health. Here I will focus on the links between financial stress and mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Stress in general and financial stress in particular affects us in many ways. In mental health care we focus mainly on its physiological and psychological aspects. Our body and brain respond to stress by releasing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline to help us tackle the challenges we are faced with. When the stress is chronic, as in situations of a prolonged state of financial instability and/or job insecurity, our natural stress response can keep us in constant ‘defense’ mode and unable to fully relax. Eventually this can become a state of chronic worry or anxiety. Psychologically one of the main ways that chronic financial stress can be harmful is by affecting our perception of self as helpless, incompetent, less than and similar negative concepts. We can also start perceiving our world as an unwelcoming and unstable place. Such negative beliefs about oneself are common causes of depression. In short, we see how our physiological and psychological response to chronic stress can eventually turn into depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, some of the more common coping responses can add to our stress instead of relieving it.
In my clinical approach therefore, I try to develop a supportive relationship with my clients and focus on alleviating negative effects of stress. Physiological effects of chronic stress can be managed and reduced by implementing relaxation exercises such as breathing techniques, muscle relaxation, mindfulness meditation and others. Consistency is the key here and the results are promising when we commit to small, measurable, daily practices to reduce our physiological distress. When addressing the psychological response to stress I try to help my clients recognize areas of personal strength and empower their agency in coping and problem-solving. This typically refers to perceiving oneself as capable to make wise decisions about personal health, lifestyle, relationships, education, and employment. It is inspiring to witness how changing the beliefs about ourselves can eventually lead to positive changes in our lives. At Centennial counseling center we strive to provide such support and make everyone feel welcome. Please reach out if you want to connect with us and learn more about our services.
*Marko sees clients out of the St. Charles office*