Thanksgiving—with its juicy turkey, rich side dishes (scalloped potatoes, anyone?), and an array of desserts—isn’t the most health-conscious holiday. But neither is the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday is one of the biggest consumer holidays of the year, with hoards of people lining up in the middle of the night to score deals on everything from clothes to cell phones to TVs. A spending frenzy won’t have the same immediate impact on your body as multiple slices of pumpkin pie. But, there’s no denying the strong link between financial and physical health. Here, we explore how your finances affect your health and how you can get a better handle on your money—and health—in the process.
How Your Finances Affect Your Health
Because your finances—how much money you have, how you spend that money, and whether you have enough to cover your bills—are such a huge part of your life, they can also have a major impact on your health.
Financial struggles can mess with your sleep.
Catching enough high-quality zzz’s is a must if you want to be happy and healthy. But dealing with financial struggles can throw a wrench in your sleep schedule, and your health may suffer as a result.
“[Financial stress can] reduce your quantity of sleep because you’re anxious and you’re not falling asleep easily. Or you’re waking up at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. and you can’t get back to sleep,” says Richard Honaker, M.D., chief medical officer at Your Doctors Online. “But it also reduces the quality. When we go to sleep, we’re supposed to go through [sleep] cycles about every 90 to 120 minutes … stage one, stage two, stage three, and stage four, which is your restful sleep where you resolve conflict and do a lot of your dreaming, and then rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.”
Dr. Honaker continues, “If you’re not getting enough sleep, people tend to sacrifice time spent in stage four—restful, restorative conflict-resolution sleep … and that has all kinds of negative impacts on mood, psychology, and physiology.”
A lack of high-quality sleep might also lead to poor financial decisions, which can make it even harder to fall and stay asleep—creating a negative sleep-spend cycle that can damage both your health and your bank account.
“When you’re stressed about money, you are probably not sleeping well. … When the body isn’t getting enough rest, you may not be performing at your best, which could lead to more financial stress,” says Mike Broker, CFP, managing vice president of Trilogy Financial.
Financial stress causes stress in the body…
Stress is a part of life. But if you’re struggling financially, it can lead to chronic stress, which can wreak havoc on your health and cause a host of issues in the long term. “Stress causes adrenal glands to produce too much adrenaline … which raises your blood pressure,” Dr, Honaker says. “[Stress] has an effect on your immune system and reduces your immune function.”
Stress can also cause digestive issues, tension headaches, pain in the body, increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and more. Not only does it directly cause issues with your health, but feeling stressed and overwhelmed can also lead to an increase in problematic behaviors such as stress-eating, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, or using recreational drugs—all of which exacerbate both physical and financial issues.
In addition to physical problems, financial stress can take a toll on your mental health, potentially impacting your mood and cognitive function. “Financial challenges negatively impact mental health by causing … negative emotions like sadness and anger and feelings of guilt and unworthiness,” says licensed psychologist and entrepreneurial coach Ashley Hampton. “Mental symptoms can include crying, increased feelings of sadness, problems completing tasks, increasing feelings of anger, and problems engaging with others.”
When you’re struggling financially, it can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, which can lead to a growing feeling of hopelessness. “Often people feel as if they cannot climb out of financial challenges, whether it is due to lack of work skills or an inability to manage money,” Dr. Hampton says.
How to Improve Your Financial and Physical Health
Clearly, there’s a strong link between financial and physical health. Luckily, it can also work in your favor. Here are a few strategies to improve your health and feel a lot better about both your bank account and upcoming doctor appointment.
Take control of your finances.
Many people struggle with money because they don’t know how they’re spending it, which makes it nearly impossible to save and get back on financial track. But by identifying areas where you can improve, you can start to take back control of your finances—and your health in the process.
“Assess your current situation by seeing where you spend and save your money. You can either download an app and link your accounts, or you can take the past three months of statements to review where your funds are going,” Broker says.
Once you have a clear idea of how you’re spending your money, it’s time to determine any areas where you can cut spending and start saving. Do you go out to the movies once a week? Stay home and catch up on your Netflix queue. Are you dropping a ton of cash each month on restaurants? Make a commitment to cooking at home. Is your shopping habit eating into your monthly budget? Try hitting some thrift stores (or better yet, take a more minimalistic approach to fashion).
The point is if you don’t know how or where you’re spending your money, you can’t identify opportunities to better your financial situation. But once you’re clear on your spending habits, you can take control of your finances and get rid of negative health effects such as increased stress as a result.
Get your stress under control.
Your finances impact your stress level the most, so finding ways to better manage tension is crucial. The best ways to do this? Exercise and mindfulness. “[Exercise and mindfulness practices] typically reverse all those [negative] hormonal and chemical changes and put them toward what you should normally have and what your body’s normal physiology should be,” Dr. Honaker says.
Carve out a few minutes each day to work both your body and your brain. Go for a 30-minute jog in the morning and follow it up with 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation. Hit a yoga class. When you start to feel overwhelmed with stress, pause and focus on your breathing in the present moment.
The more you control your stress, the better your health will be. Plus, the easier it will be to manage any financial issues you’re struggling with.
Look for strategies that pay off—both financially and for your health.
If you want to be physically and financially fit, look for strategies that address both areas at once. By making small changes, you can take steps every day toward being happy, healthy, and financially stable. If you’re a coffee lover, try making healthier tweaks to your drink order. “Order a coffee instead of a latte,” Broker says. “A typical 16-ounce latte has around 130 calories and costs $5 or more at most coffee shops. A large coffee or Americano has 10 calories and costs closer to $2.”
If you tend to eat out a lot, try packing your lunch. “Brown-bag your lunch. Spending $10 on a grab-and-go sandwich three days a week adds up in both cost and calories,” Broker says.
Instead of spending money on sodas or sugary drinks, switch to water. This not only saves money (water = free) but is also way better for your health. The point is, look for opportunities to make better choices for your health and your financial situation, and then take advantage of those opportunities as often as you can.
Your financial health and your physical health go hand in hand—and when you take better care of your finances, you’re also prioritizing your health. Keep that in mind when you’re waiting in line for that new TV this Black Friday.