Today, most Americans are in debt. By the end of 2018, credit card balances in the U.S. reached $420.22 billion. Today, the average household carries nearly $7,000 in revolving debt, which happens to be the most challenging type of debt to pay off due to higher interest rates. It’s no wonder Americans are stressed out at work, on vacation, and at home. The pressures of debt seem inescapable. The stress seems unavoidable.
Stress affects more than just you.
The stress you experience can affect everyone around you, from your family to your friends and even your coworkers. The irritability and anxiety you feel can cause you to respond to others with a short temper. It can also cause you to do and say hurtful things you wouldn’t normally do or say.
Your partner, spouse, or friends might be understanding and forgiving when you’re going through a rough time and you misdirect your frustrations toward them. Although they still feel slighted, adults know what it’s like to misdirect their stress. Kids, however, won’t always understand why you’re on edge all the time, or why you’re yelling responses to simple questions they’ve asked.
A stressful mood affects your kids more than you think.
Kids know when something’s not right, even when they don’t know how to describe it. Your kids are paying attention to everything you say and do, and they’ll be affected by even the slightest change in your mood. If you’re grumpy or short with them, they’ll take it personally and wonder what they did wrong. They won’t know you’re considering selling the family home to pay off a debt you’ll never pay otherwise. They won’t know you’re worried about their future and trying desperately to come up with a solution.
In a thorough debt management guide, Debtconsolidation.com suggests sharing your financial troubles with your children to mitigate the impact on them. When your kids know the source of your stress, they won’t take it personally when they see you stressed out.
The guide linked above suggests being strategic about what you share, and advises sharing only what is age-appropriate. For example, it’s helpful to explain that debt is simply a promise to pay someone back for something you’ve received in advance. In the guide, author Mary Hunt advises, “put it in terms that they can understand, such as them wanting a toy from the store and then paying back the owner with money they earn from mowing yards. Tell them that after a few weeks that they no longer like the toy anymore and lose their job mowing lawns but still have to pay back the money.”
The simpler the explanation, the better. At least for young children. You can probably share more details with teenagers.
Manage your relationships by reducing your stress.
When you experience a stressful situation like opening a credit card bill you can’t pay, your body automatically goes into stress mode. First, your hypothalamus directs the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Suddenly, you’re ready for quick action. Your heart rate increases, your breath gets quick, and more blood is sent into your muscles to make you stronger.
The body’s natural stress response makes sense when you’re in a dangerous situation. However, it doesn’t make sense when all you’re trying to do is pay your bills and feed your family.
Although stress is the body’s automatic response, you can control and prevent stress with simple practices including:
Learn to recognize how your body feels before you become consumed by stress. In that moment, stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, and breathe deeply. Focus on your breath to bring your heart rate down and stop the fight-or-flight response before it gains momentum.
If you feel stress building up and you can’t stop it, leave the room. Go for a walk outside and breathe in the fresh air.
Watch something funny on YouTube. Find videos of cats and dogs doing funny things. Watch a standup comedy routine. Watch anything that will make you laugh and restore a sense of balance to your day.
If you’re in the middle of paying down a large debt, take time every day to sit in silence. Meditate if you’re inclined to, or just close your eyes and rest for a few minutes.
Create a plan to pay back your debt to relieve stress.
Creating certainty around how and when you’ll pay your debt back will give you a sense of calm. Your family relationships are valuable. Place the end to your debts in sight and keep your relationships intact.
This content is sponsored by Larry Alton.
Photo credit: Shutterstock