Inflation has now reached its highest level in 40 years. While many of us have experienced anxiety the last couple of years with the pandemic, money is now the top source of stress for most adults.

Whether it means finding a way to pay your rent or mortgage, rising food costs, or even filling up your car, a recent survey from the American Psychological Association (APA), found that 90% of Americans are feeling a lot of financial stress. As a recent New York Times article mentions, it also brings with it feelings of depression, shame, anger or fear.

If the thought of pulling out your wallet right now is a little scary, Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Farah has a few tips that may help.

Dr. Andrew Farah

Start with a deep breath

Farah’s first and most important piece of advice: don’t panic. If you think back on some of the bad decisions you’ve made in your life, how often did they come while you were under duress? As Farah explains, anxiety often causes uncertainty, which leads to rash decisions. These choices often lead to furthering the problem instead of resolving it.

“Doing anything out of desperation such as opening another credit card account, taking out a high-interest loan or even pawning things can often do more harm than good,” Farah said. “This is why it is important to stop, take a breath and think before making any major life decisions.”

Keep an exercise routine

Aerobic exercise is as important for your head as it is for your heart, which is why Farah suggests managing this source of worry by starting a regular exercise routine. While we all know that exercise can lead to weight loss and improved cardiovascular health, there are also many studies that highlight the positive effects exercise has on mood, self-esteem as well as stress and anxiety levels. That’s why Farah recommends physical activity when those feelings of financial anxiety arise.

“Just getting up and moving has been known to not only stimulate your body, but also your mind by increasing your body’s production of feel-good chemicals, called endorphins,” he said.

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Limit caffeine intake

While many of us enjoy a cup or two of coffee first thing in the morning, it’s important to remember that caffeine also plays a significant role in heightening stress. Farah suggests limiting your intake.

“Caffeine affects the body much like stress,” he said. “Along with increasing heart rate and blood pressure, it also increases stress hormones, which is why cutting back can often make all the difference.”

Stick to prescribed medications

Some people cut back on prescriptions to save money. That’s a bad idea, Farah said. “This may seem like a simple solution to save a few dollars, but it could also lead to increased health problems. Your well-being should be a priority no matter what the economy looks like.”

Make a plan

Farah also suggests converting your restless energy into productive thought and planning.

“If you could spend all that mental energy taking concrete steps, such as making a financial plan, family budget, or seeking financial help from a professional,” that’s probably going to help, he said.

Novant Health has a free behavioral health help line. Anyone in the community can call 1-800-718-3550 and speak to a therapist. If that person needs urgent care or emergency services, the therapist will assist them with making a plan to get the care they need.