Being poor and in debt involves chronic stress and sleep deprivation. It probably means multiple jobs, walking in the cold, short showers, back problems, and the list goes on.
Debt brings on a lot of psychological stressors. Worrying about whether your job today will be there tomorrow. Wondering if the bus will be on time. Hoping your rattletrap car will make it to the job interview on time.
Being poor and in debt means that you are living every day in a reactionary state of crisis. You may have a plan, but you have no resources for the future. Instead of saving up for the future, you are responding to one crisis after another. Flat tire. Grocery shopping. Getting to your shift on time.
The first Wednesday of every November is designated National Stress Awareness Day.
We know that stress can sometimes be helpful, but chronic stress can have far-reaching negative effects on the your body and health. National Stress Awareness Day is a great time to think about the effects of stress and different stress management methods.
Here are some of the ways that chronic debt is slowly killing you:
No time or money for exercise
At this point, we all know the importance of exercise on our health and wellbeing. Well, when you are constantly worried about money, you won’t have the resources to purchase an exercise machine or gym membership. And if you think that jogging around the block is a free and easy way to let off steam and shed some calories, consider that a poor person is much more likely to live in a crime-infested area.
Elevated glucocorticoid levels
Glucocorticoids are steroid hormones that sort of act like adrenaline. While adrenaline causes you to act within seconds, glucocorticoids back up this stress response over minutes and hours.
The glucocorticoids, combined with other hormones, mobilize your body into action. Heart rate and blood pressure go up. Blood flow gets shifted to different parts of the body. All of this will happen even if you are sitting still, going nowhere. A lion in the bush. A looming debt payment. Same stress response system.
Hypertension (chronically elevated blood pressure)
One of the first health problems that pops up for those with chronic stress is hypertension. When you have chronic stress, it makes sense that you would also have chronic high blood pressure. This high blood pressure takes a heavy toll on your heart. Your heart will try to respond by building up the muscle wall on the part of the heart in question, which could lead to irregular heartbeat and high cardiac risk. Hypertension also increases your risk of high cholesterol and cardiovascular trouble.
Here are some of the negative health effects associated with chronic stress:
- Elevated blood pressure (hypertension)
- Cardiovascular disease
- Strokes and heart attacks
- Heart disease
- Headaches and migraines
- Depression and anxiety
- Decreased sexual drive
- Altered appetites (both overeating and undereating)
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Weakened immune system
- Accelerated aging and shortened lifespan
As you can see, stress not only makes you miserable, it can literally kill you. When you are living every day as an emergency, the chronic stress will make you sick or increase your chances of getting sick. Basically, if you want to live a long and healthy life, don’t be in debt.
Learn more about the impact of debt stress on your health and wellbeing.
Being poor — not as bad for you as feeling poor
The stress of being in debt is in many ways psychological. Yes, money can get you access to healthier foods and healthcare access, but the psychological effects of feeling poor can have an even greater effect on your overall health.
Although the effect varies among different ethnic groups, Nancy Adler (University of California at San Francisco) has shown that poor health has more to do with feeling poor than being poor.
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The research suggests that the more creditors you have, the more psychological burden you have, even if the overall amount owed is the same. This is the psychological principle behind the “snowball” debt relief method. Having many accounts “in the red” causes increased cognitive load as you are constantly doing debt mental accounting that contributes to financial stress and anxiety.
The simple act of consolidating multiple debts into one single debt can have huge effects on your cognitive load, physical fitness, and emotional wellbeing. Better yet, debt consolidation can get you a much lower interest payment.
The credit counselors at DebtBlue can help you choose the plan that works best for you. Call us today for your free debt relief consultation.