Vacation season has come to a close and, I don’t know about you, but my stress level has gone through the roof. In an effort to decrease my stress level, I did a little research to find a few coping mechanisms and stress management tips. While on my search for the illusive “silver bullet”, I discovered some interesting statistics.
First, women are more stressed than men. Second, the number one source of stress is money, followed by work, and then the economy, according to the 2011 Stress in America survey conducted by The American Psychological Association.
75% of respondents in the survey said that money is a stressor in their lives.
We have plenty to stress about. We are working; caring for partners, family and friends; and trying to look cute and balance our budgets while doing it. But it doesn’t mean we have to live these statistics as our truth. It doesn’t mean that starting today, we can’t make concrete changes—or even tweaks—that will ease the stress in our lives.
Do Women Have It Tougher When It Comes to Money?
“Women have been disenfranchised,” says Dr. Kate Levinson, psychotherapist and author of Emotional Currency: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Healthy Relationship with Money. “Society doesn’t empower us. We’ve been acculturated to stay dumb about money – legally, and culturally for generations. It is so new for women to have so much access to and control over money.”
But we can’t “stay dumb” about money, insists Dr. Levinson. “It limits our options in the world, not to mention feelings of self-worth and competency.” I would venture to say, this concept is directly related to the stress we’re feeling.
What Can Women Do About Their Stress?
When it comes to your finances, it’s important to take an account of what your current picture looks like, and educate yourself on what the options are. “Being ignorant or sticking our heads in the sand only makes matters worse,” says Dr. Levinson. “We can’t afford to be ignorant about our finances. Engage with the real situation.”
Maybe you feel bad about your debt, and that leads to inaction. Instead, put denial aside and shed honest light on the issue. If it’s too hard to do this alone, reach out for help. Talk to a friend or family member who’s an expert, or with financial planner who will guide you through what’s holding you back.
When it comes to finances, Dr. Levinson agrees: “It’s important to talk with others, to not let the shame of the situation or the self-criticism stop you from getting support. Talking with others not only helps us to problem-solve, but also to feel not so alone and isolated in handling the situation.”
Get your partner involved, a friend or a money buddy. Basically, don’t go it alone.
If money is about numbers, and we know what we need to be doing, why is it so stressful? Why does it make us cry, do crazy things and keep us up at night? (And it’s not just about how much you have; the wealthy also feel stressed.)
The 2013 Women, Money and Power Study by Allianz Life Insurance Company described this as “an irrational fear that extends to women across the spectrum of life and affluence”.
This affliction affected more than half the women surveyed, with nearly a third earning` more than $2 million a year.
What’s even more concerning is that 46% of “women of influence” shared this fear.
The survey describes these particular women as well-educated, earning higher than average incomes and either having their own business or likely to have achieved a senior position at work.
“Money is not just numbers on a page,” says Dr. Levinson. “We’re taught that we’re just supposed to be rational about money when in fact our feelings and experiences greatly influence how we relate to money. Women have lots of feelings about money that they’ve been taught to push aside. We’re further impaired when we push our feelings aside.”
“Our relationship to money is more complex than just about any other psychological aspect of our lives,” says Dr. Levinson. “You need to understand where your feelings about it come from, and include your feelings in any of the financial equations or solutions that you come up with.”
At the end of the day, recognize that money is a major source of stress for all of us. Like dealing with any stress, we must be willing to make a change.