A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

SmartHealthToday: ‘Most wonderful time of year’ can put stress on you, your pocketbook; keep focus


By Matt Koesters

They call it “the most wonderful time of the year,” but the holiday season can be downright terrible when money is giving you problems. Between putting food on the table, buying gifts for friends and family, and making sure the bills get paid, the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be extremely stressful.

Stress related to financial problems is no different from stress caused by any other source, said employee assistance program manager Dave Welscher with St. Elizabeth Healthcare. And that means worries about your pocketbook could have a huge impact on your health.

According to Welscher, significant or even chronic, moderate stress can affect all physical functions and health. Stress has been linked to gastrointestinal problems, sleep, compromised immunity, skin problems, weight gain, sexual functioning and cardiovascular problems.

“While it may not necessarily ‘cause’ the health problems, it certainly exacerbates existing conditions or makes us more vulnerable to a variety of diseases,” Welscer said.

It also can amplify mental health conditions of all kinds. “If anyone is feeling overwhelmed by their current stressors, as evidenced by disturbed sleep, appetite, and/or mood, racing or scattered thoughts or a general decline in overall functioning, they should seriously consider seeking help from a mental health professional,” Welscher added.

Sometimes people who otherwise have good finances find themselves in financial trouble because they use money to cope with emotional issues. But buying things to gain the acceptance of others, gambling, or shopping to fill emotional voids are behaviors that can be both emotionally and financially draining in the long run. Financial difficulties are sometimes outside of our own control, and learning to cope with that kind of stress is important, too.

Regardless of the cause of financial problems, taking steps to get spending under control is a good idea. Welscher suggests developing financial practices like keeping a spending journal or using a money-management app on your phone.

“If you struggle imposing controls on your spending, subscribing to a program that imposes some limits and guidelines can help you be more successful with money,” Welscher said.

Don’t let money ruin your holidays. Remember, buying gifts isn’t what it’s all about, and time well-spent with loved ones is something you can’t put a price tag on.

SmartHealthToday is a service of St. Elizabeth Healthcare.

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