I am a big believer in self-reflection and striving for a rich, full life. I usually set aside some time in January to identify my intentions and focus for the coming year.
I generally organize my thoughts using the “Wellness in Eight Dimensions” model created by Peggy Swarbrick in the 1990s. Her eight dimensions are physical, spiritual, social, intellectual, emotional/mental, occupational, environmental and financial.
I frequently highlight the connection between health and wealth—and how the habits used to improve one dimension can also be used to make improvements in the other. Rutgers Cooperative Extension in New Jersey has a wealth of information regarding the physical, financial and mental health connection. It is well documented that health issues, problems with money, and poor mental health influence one another.
Our bodies are designed to be able to handle occasional stress, but sustained or chronic stress has negative physiological effects. Common problems include sleeplessness, headaches, fatigue, depression and anxiety. Under stress, our bodies release inflammatory hormones that have been linked to serious illnesses, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.
One of the downsides to financial stress is that people will put off routine medical exams and cancer screenings. These delays make it difficult to catch problems in the early stages when they are easier and less costly to treat. One Rutgers article also points out that money problems “can also mean scrimping on food, heating or other essential items and can increase a person’s stress and anxiety. These fluctuating and unpredictable pressures impact on our physical and mental health.”
The article goes on to point out that “people with long-term health conditions often have less, or a more precarious, income—due to being too ill to work or work regular hours—and more expenses on medication, transport, a special diet, physical exercise to manage pain, and ways to keep emotionally well.”
Rutgers points out the financial cost of unhealthy habits. “Eliminate a $10 a day smoking or junk food habit, for example, and you can save $3,650 annually, plus interest. That’s just the immediate savings.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a 10% weight loss could reduce an overweight person’s lifetime medical costs. Delaying the onset of diabetes can save thousands of dollars annually in decreased medical costs.
It is sometimes difficult to determine the initial trigger to a downward spiral. Poor financial health increases stress, which in turn can lead to poor decision-making and ultimately poor physical health. Poor physical health leads to increased financial stress, which can decrease our mental health. We all know what we need to do to improve our physical and mental health—exercise regularly, get enough sleep and eat a balanced diet.
The American Psychological Association offers the following tips on stress management:
◗ Take breaks from the news, social media or even certain friends. Constant exposure to negative information, images and rhetoric keeps stress at unhealthy levels.
◗ Practice the rule of “three good things.” At the end of each day, reflect on three good things—large or small—that happened. This helps decrease anxiety, counter depression and build emotional resiliency.
◗ Practice self-care in 15- or 30-minute sessions throughout the day. For example, take a short walk, call a friend, or watch a funny TV show.
◗ Keep in touch with friends and family. This helps build emotional resiliency so you can support one another.
◗ Keep things in perspective. Try to reframe your thinking to reduce negative interpretations of day-to-day experiences and events.
Even with good intentions, those changes can be difficult to sustain. Change becomes much more achievable if you pay attention to who you are and insert routines that take advantage of your strengths, tendencies and aptitudes. With self-awareness, you can cultivate habits and a mindset that works for you.•
Hahn is a certified financial planner and owner of WWA Planning and Investments in Columbus. She can be reached at 812-379-1120 or firstname.lastname@example.org.