5 ways to combat stress (and save money)

Ruth Davies 07 July 2014

Today’s busy lifestyles mean that stress is something most of us experience at some point, whether in our personal, professional or financial lives. While some level of stress from time to time is inevitable, there are positive steps you can take to reduce its impact on your health and your finances.

  1. Exercise: Is there anything that exercise isn’t good for? The health benefits of regular exercise are well documented, including a reduction in blood pressure – a great antidote to stress. It can also provide a distraction from whatever is stressing you out, and even give you a way to channel your frustrations in a healthy way.
  2. Cut out your vices: Smoking, overeating and alcohol abuse may make you feel better in the short term, but the impact on your health simply isn’t worth it. In fact, being in poor shape physically could actually make you more stressed. The money you’ll save by cutting out costly habits like smoking should also be a weight off your mind!
  3. Eat healthily: A healthy balanced diet can help you feel calm and alert. Studies have shown that people who don’t eat breakfast or lunch are at greater risk of feeling stressed. Particular foods can also have an effect, with things like caffeine, fast food, sugar and cheese known to aggravate stress. Fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and plenty of water can help to keep you calm.
  4. Get a good night’s sleep: We all know that it’s much easier to become stressed if you’re feeling tired. Regular poor sleep can also increase your risk of medical conditions including obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Most of us need a good eight hours a night, although this can vary slightly from person to person.
  5. Get a pet: Stroking a cuddly animal has been shown to reduce cortisol and blood pressure, reducing the impact of stress on your body. The unconditional love of a friendly cat or dog can lift your mood and reduce depression, and having a dog encourages you to get some exercise. If you want a pet and your partner doesn’t, you now have the perfect excuse – your health depends on it!

Stress can sometimes be good for you

It’s virtually impossible to avoid stress ALL the time (those people who seem to float serenely through their lives are probably just very good at faking it!). The good news is that a little bit of stress can be helpful. A shot of adrenaline at the right time can push us to do amazing things; think of parents lifting cars to free their trapped children, or firefighters rushing into a burning building to rescue the people inside. Less exciting examples could be the last minute panic that pushes a student to revise for an exam, or the pressure that leads to a World Cup winning goal. While small bursts of stress can be beneficial, in the longer term it can have serious effects on our health and wellbeing.

Reasons to chill out

Chronic stress is harmful in a number of ways. The immediate effects of stress on the body include:

  • Increased levels of adrenaline, cortisol and cortisone
  • Halted production of dopamine (a mood balancer) and growth hormones
  • Increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and redirection of blood flow to muscles and the brain
  • Sweating and tense muscles

Over time, these short term effects can add up to long term health problems, including:

  • Disruption of sleep patterns
  • Headaches and stomach aches
  • Dramatic weight gain or loss
  • Accumulation of fat around the stomach stimulated by excess cortisol
  • Poor heart health
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of heart attack and stroke

Good health and happiness is priceless, but following these tips and reducing your stress levels could actually save you money. Life insurance is essential if you want to ensure your family are provided for after your death, and being in good health will save you money on your monthly premiums – that’s one less thing to be stressed about!