Open a newspaper, turn on the TV, tune into radio programming, surf on the net and you will be pummeled with negative information about the economy, your job stability, your home value, your ability to afford health insurance, your investments. The toll this daily stress takes on your sleep, mood, physical health, energy levels, relationships and your diet is extremely worrisome. When economic stress hits, it can cause increased rates of depression (new and chronic), and it increases our indulgence in vices like eating comfort food, drinking alcohol and popping pills. The following sectors reflect an analysis and observation of how stress may be impacting you:
During economic boom times rates of drinking, drunk driving and alcohol-related illness actually go up. During an economic crisis, consumers actually cut back on drinking outside the home, but buy more alcohol to drink behind closed doors. Overall, though, because alcohol is an extra cost that most budgets hit hard cannot bear, alcohol consumption may go down, but purchase of cheap alcohol goes up. Using alcohol to self medicate is obviously a poor idea and it can increase violence inside and outside the home. Theft of alcohol or money to buy alcohol also tends to escalate during tough economic times.
One third of Americans report that they suffer and lose sleep during an economic nose dive. It's not hard to see how stress can make you stay up at night as you try to work the financial numbers of your budget to somehow cover all your bills, especially if one or both of you have lost your job. Additionally, people tend to over eat comfort food and gain weight which can lead to sleep apnea. Eating large meals of high fat/salt laden food can also make falling asleep difficult. Finally, stress can cause you to toss and turn all night resulting in poor quality sleep. Individuals who sleep less than six hours per night are at heightened risk for hypertension and pre-diabetes.
You may be forced to be budget conscious, but that does not, unfortunately, translate to being diet or calorie conscious. One way to stretch a buck is to buy very cheap processed foods. That's why we see sales of canned soups, fast food and inexpensive boxed food like macaroni and cheese skyrocket during an economic downturn. That means a growing waistline with all the health risks that come along with that extra girth, especially when it is located in the abdomen or waistline. Unfortunately, as you complicate your health profile with poor food choices, you increase your health care costs - which may no longer be covered by a health plan if you lost your job.
On the other hand, we do see some people get smart and begin to cut down on food expenditures outside the home. Restaurant eating decreases, brown bagging foods from home (with portion control, more fruits) increases and less money is spent on vending machines and blended coffee drinks.
Unfortunately, exercise decreases because people become too depressed to exercise or they let their gym club membership lapse because it's an extra. Walking, jogging is free and gyms are willing to "wheel and deal" with reduced rates. This is also a great time to try warehouse shopping and buy discounted exercise DVDs, or use online free sites or TV fitness programming as your source of motivation.
Next up - Stress and Your Heart - Relationships and Your Ticker
Published On: April 02, 2009