Financial Stress: Tips & Resources to Get Help

Are you constantly checking your bank account? Does your chest tighten when you're faced with a significant expense? What you may be experiencing is financial stress. Financial stress can be difficult to deal with, but since it's so common, we hardly give our money-related worries a second thought. The truth is that financial stress affects our quality of life in a big way — and we need to start talking about it.

BrightUp is an emotionally intelligent financial wellness provider that believes that how people feel about themselves affects how they treat themselves – particularly when finances are involved. We strive to provide tools and educational content – like this article – to strengthen your financial confidence. 

Financial stress can happen to anyone — it doesn't matter how much money you make or how good your job is. Unfortunately, many who have high-paying jobs worry about money because they have big bills to pay.

We'll have something helpful for everyone in this article – no matter your pay grade. We'll discuss: 

  1. What is financial stress? 
  2. Financial stress symptoms.
  3. Explore how it can negatively impact your quality of life.
  4. How to cope with financial stress

Let us help you meet and exceed all of your financial goals – keep scrolling! 

What is Financial Stress? 

All of us have experienced financial stress at some point in our lives. In fact, the American Psychological Association (APA) reported that over two-thirds of Americans are stressed about money. When you think about it, this makes perfect sense. After all, money affects virtually every aspect of our lives — from where we live to what we eat and even how we feel about ourselves.


For many Americans, financial stress is a constant presence in their daily lives. It can feel like an inescapable burden on your shoulders that never lets up.

To start, let’s define financial stress.

Simply put: it is a state of mental, emotional, and physical strain caused by challenges with money that are often out of your control. It can be challenging to define financial stress because everyone experiences it differently.

For some people, financial stress may be caused by unexpected expenses like a home repair or medical bill; for others, it could stem from a loss of employment or simply from not making enough money to cover monthly expenses. 

When you experience financial stress, your emotional reactions might be anger, fear of the future, shame, or sadness. Your mental symptoms could include decreased concentration at work and sleeplessness. Physical symptoms that can arise from money problems include headaches, muscle tension, and ulcers. We'll discuss the signs of financial stress in depth later. 

First, let's dig into the elements of financial stress. 

Elements of Financial Stress

When we think about financial stress, we're examining two separate concepts. Financial stress has two components: 

  1. A real-life financial situation that causes stress. 
  2. The feeling of stress, which can be very real and upsetting.


Financial stress results from one's inability to overcome a lack of assets or insufficient income, high debt, money management problems, or low financial literacy. Sometimes even thinking about a hypothetical financial situation can cause stress.  

Remember, not everyone had access to financial education in their youth and may not have enough experience to make informed decisions. They may not know how to handle financial stress. Similarly, most of those same people also have barriers to high-paying jobs. This often results in bad credit, difficulty getting a loan, or problems paying off a loan. With the help of our personalized financial education and financial coaches, these are some of the gaps BrightUp is striving to close. 

To further explore the second component of financial stress, let's look at a few triggers: 

These are just some of the most common financial stressors. Remember that it is different for everyone, and if you don't see your stressor on this list, it doesn't discount the feelings you experience when facing your challenges. 

The challenge with this type of stress is that it's not always self-evident. Too often, people will take on more debt in payday loans to pay the bills or buy what they want without realizing that doing so will only worsen their financial situation. Likewise, many people under financial pressure will work longer and harder to get ahead while trying to ignore the need for help with money management. Unfortunately, that kind of behavior can worsen stress instead of reduce financial stress. 

Next, let's break down the feeling of stress so you can better identify financial stress when it arises. Some emotions you may exhibit include: 

The list goes on…

If you start to experience negative thoughts and emotions when dealing with your finances, what you're feeling is likely financial stress. Remind yourself that you can take a pause, gather your feelings, and continue when you're feeling better. Just don't avoid the situation so much that it can fester and worsen, which can turn into chronic financial stress.


Recognizing Chronic Financial Stress

Most people feel their stress levels are at least moderately high, but it's essential to understand how chronic financial stress can impact your life. Chronic financial stress is often a result of prolonged financial challenges that are seemingly impossible to overcome. 

Unlike other types of stress – such as job stress – financial stress can impact all aspects of a person's life. For example, it might affect their physical health, mental health, and even their relationships with family members, friends, and coworkers.


If you're worried that you may be experiencing financial distress or know someone who is, here are some signs to look for: 

When you continue to ignore the signs of chronic financial stress, the emotional, mental, and physical impact can become long-term problems that keep you from living a happy and fulfilled life.  

How Financial Stress Affects Your Life

It can be easy to make light of the stress that money causes. You might have even joked about it at some point yourself. But money problems are nothing to laugh about. Instead, they can be a significant drain on your overall health and cause problems with your relationship. 

Before we dive into ways you can relieve financial stress, think about how your financial stress may be affecting your day-to-day life. It can:

Financial Stress Can Hurt Relationships


Financial stress isn't just a personal problem; it can also affect the people around you. For example, your spouse or partner might be feeling the strain of your money problems without even realizing it.


According to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association, we already noted that money is the number one source of stress for adults in America — even more than work or family. But did you know nearly two-thirds of adults say their financial worries affect their relationships? That's not good for anyone involved. 

When money is tight, some people focus on the immediate problem. They work harder, taking on extra hours or a second job. Others retreat into depression and don't think about anything beyond their situation. Either way, it's easy to forget that other people have feelings.

Allowing yourself to get distracted from the essential relationships in your life isn't a path anyone wants to walk. But, you and your loved ones deserve a brighter future. So, you owe it to yourself and them to take the steps necessary to reduce your financial stress and work towards building wealth. 

And BrightUp is here to help! As an emotionally-intelligent financial benefits provider, we provide our members with tools and guidance that accompany them through the peaks and valleys of their financial journeys. We want to help you build generational wealth with your loved ones for your retirement and your children.  

Financial Stress Causes Anxiety and Depression 

It's no secret that financial stress is a significant cause of anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that people with money problems are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than those who don't worry about money as much. In fact, money worries are one of the most common problems that bring people to therapy.


The first step toward overcoming financial stress is recognizing that you have a problem. If you're losing sleep over your finances, if you argue with your loved ones about money, or if you're feeling overwhelmed by your financial situation, it's time to make a change.

Poor Mental Health Affects Physical Health


A Capital One survey found that 41% of Americans who feel stressed about their finances also have difficulty sleeping. In another study, researchers found that people with insomnia were likely to experience absenteeism at work, which can cause even more financial problems. As a result, people who experience financial stress have a more challenging time being healthy and happy.

If you're stressed out about money, you're probably less likely to make healthy choices. You might skip going to the doctor because of cost or turn to unhealthy food because it's cheaper than more nutritious options. You might also use alcohol or drugs to cope with the stress, which comes with its own set of risks.

Financial stress can cause several physical health problems, including:

The effects of financial stress can seem limitless. And the fact that it can be so hard to escape makes the problem even worse. Financial stress is a vicious cycle. However, if you are experiencing financial stress, there are strategies you can try to help manage it.

Steps to Help You Cope With Financial Stress

Once you've assessed the problem, it's time to take steps to deal with it.


First, admit that you're stressed. It's easy for many of us to be in denial about our stress — especially when there are bills to pay, debt to deal with, and a family to take care of. There's no shame in having financial issues. For most of us, it's just a fact of life.


Remember: You're not alone. Most Americans have been in the same position at some point. For example, the 2017 survey by the APA found that 72 percent of Americans have felt stressed by money at some point within the past month.


To help you cope, take these ten steps:


  1. Take a deep breath. It may sound simple, but taking a few deep breaths is one of the best ways to calm down and reduce stress. One study from Yale University demonstrated that those who practiced breathing techniques experienced the greatest mental health, social connectedness, positive emotions, stress levels, depression, and mindfulness benefits.

  1. Start with your values. Figure out what's important to you. If you're unsure, start by writing down everything that matters to you and then prioritize that list. Making sure your spending is aligned with your values can be a crucial part of reducing financial stress because it helps keep things in perspective. It's easy to get worked up over not being able to afford something that doesn't matter much anyway.

  1. Set goals. Once you know what's important to you, set some goals. An important one might be paying off credit card debt, while another might be saving for a vacation or funding college education for your children. Plans give your life direction and purpose, and they provide a sense of accomplishment when you meet them. That can help reduce stress levels dramatically over time.

Bonus Tip: Get a little help setting and tracking your goals with BrightUp's financial planning tools. Our app pairs helpful tools with motivational messaging to help you stay on track.

  1. Plan ahead. You'll never be able to achieve any goal if you don't have a plan. A budget is an essential tool for achieving any goal, big or small — it lets you see where money is going so you. The BrightUp app also helps you track and analyze your spending to stay on budget.

  1. Talk to someone. Take a moment to confide in a friend or family member about what you're going through. They may be able to offer advice or even give you a hug, which is another excellent way to reduce stress.

Bonus Tip: If you need more than a compassionate ear, BrightUp offers access to real financial experts ready to help you tackle your most pressing financial problems. BrightUp coaches help you uncover the reasons behind your money habits and support you as you create stronger, sustainable ways to build wealth. 

  1. Create a budget. If your financial situation is stressing you out, try creating a budget. A reasonable budget will show you how much money is coming in and where it's going out so you can make adjustments and start putting more money aside for savings.

  1. Build a long-term financial plan. While you may start out saving for today, we encourage all of our members to plan for a long future. Between our products of financial tools, coaching and education, we're helping families build generational wealth. 

  1. Practice money mindfulness. How often do you find yourself in a negative cycle of self-defeating thoughts and behaviors when it comes to money? Thoughtful choices are usually made throughout the day as unconscious responses — taking a step back and seeing how these thoughts or actions related to your financial needs and asking yourself if this is really what you can help put your financial stress in perspective.

  1. Do something fun — for free. Can't afford a night out on the town? That's OK! There are plenty of fun activities that won't cost a thing, like going for a hike.
10. Ask about an Employee Financial Wellness Program (EFWP). Thousands of employee benefit plan administrators are re-examining their benefits packages to focus on financial wellness. Your employer might partner with BrightUp or provide similar services to their employees. It doesn't hurt to ask! 

Tackle Financial Stress Now

BrightUp understands that knowing what to do when you face financial challenges is half the battle for managing your money. We sincerely hope that we've been able to help you better understand the signs of financial stress and how to let go of financial stress. 

Our goal is to empower you with the knowledge to make better financial decisions on your terms. We do that by offering a variety of empowering products and services: 

If your company doesn't already engage with an economic benefits provider, recommend BrightUp to your leadership! 

Interested parties can contact a BrightUp representative on our website today. You can also call us directly at (833) 513-1302 or email us at

Was this helpful? You might also enjoy: 

Looking for More?