3 Ways Credit Card Debt Is Affecting Your Health

It’s not just your financial health that could be in trouble

It’s no secret that credit card debt is a threat to your financial health — but what about your physical, emotional and even social wellbeing? According to a recent LendEDU survey, shouldering credit card debt from month to month can have some serious impacts on your relationships, your body and your mind. Here’s how your debt could be impacting you, and what you can do about it.

How it’s affecting you

You’re headachy and losing sleep. According to the LendEDU survey, slightly more than half of respondents (56 percent) said they lost sleep due to worries over their debt. A further 30 percent got headaches, and about 18 percent experienced fatigue. Feeling like your life is out of control due to credit card debt is nothing new, according to Dr. Kathleen Hall, author of “Mindful Living Everyday.” When we feel that loss of control, our bodies perceive that as a threat and prepares for battle. “Your body becomes inflamed, and that inflammation becomes the killer of the body,” says Dr. Hall. “Your inflammation due to stress can get to such a high level that it can cause things like heart disease, high blood pressure, infertility, and it can weaken the immune system.”

You’re stressed, every day. Eighty-eight percent of people feel some level of stress because of their credit card debt, and a third of those people deal with that stress on a daily basis. “Americans have so much debt to begin with, but I think what really resonates with credit card debt is that it’s a daily reminder of how much debt you have,” says Mike Brown, research analyst at LendEDU. “There’s not a day that goes by that you don’t use your card. Every time you pay, you’re reminded, and that adds to the stress.”

Your relationships may be impacted. Having credit card debt also strains your relationships — according to the survey, 17 percent of people said they had been dumped by their partner because of their credit card debt. Shouldering debt has also delayed major life events for people like buying a house (42 percent), starting a family (30 percent) and getting married (26 percent).

What you can do about it

While taking the necessary steps to reduce your debt, you can also take steps to reduce your physical and emotional stress. Brown says that the worst thing you can do is try to conceal your debt, which is, unfortunately, a common strategy. More than thirty percent of respondents said they made an effort to hide their credit card debt from their partner or significant other. “Talk about it, be open about it with your friends or family because they could help, or put you in touch with someone who can help, and try to hear some new solutions,” says Brown. Dr. Hall also suggests using the buddy system. “When people start sharing, that immediately changes the brain and immune system because they don’t feel alone.” She also recommends changing your outlook. “Don’t look at it as this predatory thing, the brain believes what it thinks. If you think ‘This debt is going to eat me up’ then it will be true.”

No matter how your debt stress symptoms are manifesting, Dr. Hall suggests implementing S-E-L-F care into your daily routine:

“S” is for serenity — the opposite of stress. Being relaxed lowers your cortisol levels and reduces inflammation. You can do this by practicing breathing, even if it’s just for two minutes. Don’t know where to start? Pick up your smart phone and download apps like Calm and Insight Timer. And if breathing isn’t your thing, that’s okay. Dr. Hall says that simply looking at a photo of those you love could instantly reduce your stress.

“E” is for exercise. Don’t worry, you don’t have to run a marathon or do an hour of Crossfit training to reduce stress. Just a simple walk or a few yoga moves can help reduce inflammation.

“L” is for love. Dr. Hall recommends touching base with someone you love on a daily basis. Whenever we connect with people who make us happy, we relieve some of our stress.

“F” stands for food. Hippocrates was right: food should indeed be our medicine. Make sure you’re filling your body with nutrient-dense foods that’ll give you an energy and brain boost, including bananas, turkey, fish, and sweet potatoes. You can even sneak in some chocolate in there from time to time! When we have the right vitamins and nutrients in our system, we can actually reduce our rates of anxiety and depression.

No matter what method you choose to de-stress, your mind and body will be better for it. Remember that worrying never changed anything, so take a deep breath, go for a run, and get on a solid plan to pay off your debt. You’ll be debt free — and worry free — before you know it.

With Hattie Burgher

Jean Chatzky