How to cope with the stress of debt Part 1

Posted 03 March 2016

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Research shows that women worry a lot about debt, our blog shows you how to cope with those worries and get on with your life.

As part of our ‘women and debt’ week, this two-part blog is going to look at the anxiety and stress debt causes, including how you can identify stress and what you can do to feel better about life. 

You may ask why we’ve chosen to concentrate on stress and debt, and the answer is easy. Our research into women and debt showed that when we asked women what caused the most feelings of stress out of the following categories; relationship, money, family, work and appearance, a third of the women said money.       


So, money is a major cause of stress for women, and with that being the case, and our research showing that in most households (55%) it’s the women who have sole control of the purse strings, we at DAC felt it was time we offered some advice on how to deal with the stress caused by debt.  

Why would debt cause stress?

Stress often comes from the feeling of not being able to cope. There’s no one thing that causes it and the levels of stress a person can cope with, before it becomes an issue that affects their health, differs for everyone. Some people thrive on stress, they love being up against it, they find struggling to cope a challenge, rather than something to be dreaded. But, others don’t cope so well.

So imagine this scenario, you have just had your hours reduced at work so you’ll now be taking home only 50% of what you used to get each month. When you get your first reduced pay packet, you soon realise that if you want to keep the kids fed and warm you’ll have to sacrifice a payment to someone else – your credit card for example. The fact that you need to make this choice will, almost certainly, be a cause of stress. 

Now, if you’re in this situation for a few months and you’ve not been able to make any payments to your credit cards, your card provider will start to write, call or email you to find out what’s happening. If you have a number of people you owe money to, they may all try to contact you, meaning you have lots of calls, letters and emails to deal with, which could cause you considerable stress.  Sounds familiar?

If you don’t deal with your creditors when they contact you, and you don’t make any arrangements to pay, they will take the recovery process up a notch. If this happens, you may find yourself with letters asking you to appear at court or confirming that a County Court Judgement has been awarded against you. These will be, as you can imagine, another source of worry, which just adds to your anxiety.  

But that still doesn’t mean that you can’t spring back from it once you have something in place to sort your finances out. At this point, if your symptoms of stress fall away, there’s nothing to worry about. However, if you find that the symptoms persist, you may need further help. So, what does stress look and feel like?  

Am I suffering from stress?  

There are a number of symptoms you might experience if you’re suffering from stress. You could:

• have headaches

• problems sleeping

• be irritable

• sweat more than usual

• lose your appetite

• experience difficulty concentrating 

• feel dizzy

• have muscle pain

• suffer from fatigue 

This is not a comprehensive list of the symptoms you could experience – stress is funny like that – so don’t think that because what you feel isn’t on this list, it’s not stress. A full list of all the symptoms you may encounter when suffering from stress is available from the NHS.   

A good way to see if you’re suffering from these stress – as it’s not always obvious to you – is to ask a friend or relative if they think your behaviour has changed. They are usually much better placed to give you an accurate picture of how you are, than you are in your stressed state – it can also alter your perception of things too.   

What should I do if I’m suffering from stress? 

The answer to this question really depends on how bad you’re feeling and how long it’s been going on for. If you’ve just received an unexpected bill for a broken washing machine and it’s caused you to feel a bit panicky about how you’ll cope, it is obviously stressful. But, if you know that you’ll be fine by next month, and the stress will be gone, it probably isn’t anything to be concerned about. Worry is normal and, as long as it passes reasonably quickly, it’s perfectly okay. 

If you’re not sure whether what you are feeling is more than normal levels of stress, the NHS have a tool that allows you to check your mood. It’s just a few questions that’ll help you think about how stressed you really feel, how long it’s been going on for and how it’s affecting your life. 

But, if you feel like you can’t cope, like you want to walk away from it all or you’re getting to the point where life isn’t worth living anymore, and it’s been like that for some time, these are definite signs that you’re feeling overwhelmed and it’s probably time to get help.    

If you’re in this situation, we’d advise giving the Samaritans a call on 116123. They’re trained to help people feeling like you do, so can offer a sympathetic ear and words of support. There are other places you can contact if you’re feeling desperate, including Anxiety UK and CALM. Then we’d advise a trip to see your GP and a good long chat with them about your situation and how you’re feeling.  

In any case, it’s useful to have a visit to your doctors if you’re suffering from any kind of persistent or worrying symptoms. What you don’t want is to be mistaking your symptoms as stress, when they are, in fact, something else entirely. So, a check-up with your doctor maybe the best first step to calming your mind. Once you know that you’re not suffering from any other illness, you can concentrate on finding ways to combat your stress with your GP.  

That’s it for part one. Tomorrow we’ll look at ways you can reduce your stress levels.

by Shelley Bowers

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