Exactly How Money Affects Your Anxiety—And What To Do About It

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When you think about keeping your body and mind healthy, financial wellness probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind. But according to a study of more than 2,000 people released this past August, 25 percent of millennials reported that, despite the fact that they were prone to excessive or frivolous spending, anxiety over money has made them feel physically sick.

Further, a recent Fidelity survey found that the life event that causes the most unhappiness is taking on debt—and paying it off has the largest positive impact on well-being, ahead of getting a promotion or getting married. In other words, while money may not buy happiness, not having it is strongly correlated with a sense of unhappiness and anxiety.

There's no question that money can have a huge impact on anxiety, but what can you do about it?

Learn and talk about money.

Knowledge is power, and learning about your money is key. Although more than 90 percent of women say they want to learn about financial planning, a new study on single women and money found that 48 percent admit they tend to spend freely without thinking about money in a more long-term way, and they tend to believe they know less about money than men their age. "The irony is that women are 60 percent of undergraduates, and women are primary breadwinners in 50 percent of households," says Fidelity's Alexandra Taussig. "They're coming into a lot of money, but there's a taboo around talking about it. They're more comfortable talking to their doctor about health than they are about money."

The case for adding financial wellness to your "wellness wheel."

Taussig believes that on top of eating the right foods, exercising regularly, meditating, and getting enough sleep, it's important to consider financial wellness as part of the overall wellness picture. "Forty-six percent of Americans cannot come up with $400 if they have some sort of emergency—they'd either have to borrow it and put it on the credit card," she says. "Financial wellness is absolutely critical, and it does a tremendous amount to decrease your stress. It's crucial to add it to your wellness wheel, right next to eating right and going to the gym."

She adds that just as we sometimes indulge, skip a workout, or don't get enough sleep every now and then, you don't have to be perfect when it comes to your finances. "It's really about having the basic framework, spending less than you earn, and saving for retirement. If you do all that, you'll be in a pretty good spot."

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Want to take action? Here's the very first thing you can do.

If you want to get your finances in order but have no idea where to start, Taussig suggests starting small. "If you work at a company that offers a 401(k) or 403(b), save to the match. That's basically free money," she says. "Second should be an emergency fund. Save up three to six months of expenses. Trust me, it will give you tremendous peace of mind."

Want to earn more money 2018? Consider taking on one of these soul-satisfying side gigs.

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