If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments. That is one true statement. Maybe it’s medical expenses, a divorce, you’ve lost your job or your business has failed, or your mortgage payments are too high—any of these could mean mounting bills and collection phone calls. You’re afraid to answer the phone and the stress is slowly killing you. Financial stress is real.

“Debt can turn a free, happy person into a bitter human being.”-Michael Mihalik

Chronic financial stress can affect your health. According to the American Psychological Association report, Stress in America, 62 percent of Americans report being stressed about money and that financial stress could put them at a higher risk for lower-quality health. Financial stress has been linked to:

  • Migraines
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Absences from work
  • Insomnia
  • Double the risk of overeating, drinking and smoking
  • Hair loss
  • Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Diminished cognitive ability

“Debt is normal. Be weird.” -Dave Ramsey

You are not alone. People of all backgrounds can find themselves overwhelmed with debts. The important thing is to not ignore your situation—it will get worse and your stress will continue to grow. Some tips to help you deal with your financial stress:

  • Start with a budget: You’ll find out where your money is going and where you can modify spending.
  • Add more money: Increasing the money coming in will help. Can you make more, or take a second job?
  • Pay off the small debts first: Dave Ramsey of Financial Peace University recommends using the debt snowball method. Pay off the smallest debt first, then use that amount, in addition, to pay down the next smallest one.
  • The power of attorney: If your debt is overwhelming, seek the guidance of a bankruptcy attorney. A fresh financial start may stop creditor harassment, home foreclosure, vehicle repossession, family problems and difficulties at work.
  • No new debts: Don’t get caught following the same old path. You don’t have to use credit next time. Putting away a small amount with each paycheck will help take away the stress of an unexpected expense.

It’s been said that running into debt isn’t so bad—it’s the running into creditors that can hurt. If that’s your story, you can take steps today to improve your situation. Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction can be the biggest step of your life. Tiptoe if you must, but take the step.