Stressed and Distracted? Your Finances Could Suffer

Two new studies suggest that your mental state – specifically being distracted and experiencing stress – can have a serious, negative impact on your finances.

Northwestern Mutual recently surveyed 1,000 Americans 25 and older to analyze their financial tenacity and self-discipline. Not surprisingly, the bulk of those polled admitted they were lagging in those areas.

Stressed workerAccording to the "Stick With It" study, three out of four Americans (74%) feel that today's fast-paced society makes it tougher for them to focus and remain on track when it came to achieving long-term goals.

If being distracted by today's demands – whether it's family obligations, friends on Facebook, work or even leisure activities – takes our focus off long-term objectives like saving for retirement, it's little wonder that the vast majority of Americans haven't saved enough for the future.

But even in a culture where everything around us is getting more immediate, the news isn't all bad."The good news is, Americans appear to be adapting," says Greg Oberland, Northwestern Mutual executive vice president. "The people who participated in this study said loud and clear – the best way to stay focused is to take baby steps, expect setbacks and never let yourself off the hook. In short: Don't expect it to be easy, but stick with it."

In a separate survey, from Financial Finesse Inc., researchers found that women in particular deal with high levels of financial stress and anxiety.

The company commissioned a study of more than 1,000 men and women in the U.S. and discovered that 28% of women experience "high" or "overwhelming" financial stress. By comparison, just 17% of men categorized their financial stress levels as "high" or "overwhelming."

Researchers theorized that one reason for women's higher stress levels is that women may generally feel more personally responsible for their children and households.

Whatever the reason, the implications of this research are staggering. At a time when Americans -- both male and female -- are battling everything from high unemployment to an ongoing foreclosure crisis, it's vitally important that people struggling with financial problems maintain the mental clarity necessary to seek out help or come up with their own solutions to what ails them financially. Otherwise, despondency and despair will kick in, limiting the future economic prospects for individuals and families throughout the U.S.

The following tips can help you cope with extreme financial stress. And if you know someone else who may be completely overwhelmed by his or her economic circumstances, share this advice with them.

1. Re-think how you think about debt

For many people, being in debt or declaring bankruptcy is shameful, and they may feel as if they have to hide their mistakes. Forgive yourself for the financial mistakes you've made, and instead of dwelling on the problems you've been struggling with in the past, give yourself some time to think of some solutions for getting ahead from here.

Remember, being in debt or filing bankruptcy isn't a crime. If you're unsure about whether bankruptcy is the best option for you, read this advice on how to know when to file for bankruptcy protection. Also realize that there's life after bankruptcy, and you can bounce back from this economic setback.

2. Watch out for depression

Financial troubles can be a source of stress for many and may even trigger long bouts of depression. If money-related stress, anxiety or negative feelings end up taking over your day, you may even contemplate suicide.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide because of a financial downfall, take a "time out" and reach out to someone you can trust, or seek help from a therapist or counselor. If you don't have anyone, visit suicidehotlines.com and locate a center in your state. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is (800) 273-8255.

Simply talking out some of the issues you're dealing with can help you see things from a fresh perspective. Feeling hopeless or fearful because of a financial crisis doesn't mean you have to end your life – anything can be resolved with some careful planning and an objective review of the situation.

3. Get help with spending problems

If you think you have financial woes due to a spending addiction or compulsive spending problem, get help from groups like Debtor's Anonymous, a 12-step program that helps those who are struggling with compulsive spending end their addiction and get their finances under control.

No matter how much debt you're in or how gloomy your financial situation may look, there's always a way to bounce back from a financial downfall, rid yourself of daily economic stress, and get yourself back on track to a more secure future. It may take some time and a lot of hard work, but there really is always a solution.

Work up the confidence to get help – you owe it to yourself and your family to get some assistance in this area and get your finances, and your life, back under control.

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