The Cost of Stress: A Confessional

By Jackie Beck   Updated 05/05/2021 at 8:11 am

Let’s face it, this has been a stressful year for most of us. We’ve been going through a LOT.

If you’ve got debt, the stress is even greater — even if you managed to keep money coming in during a global pandemic.

It can end up creating a turning point, but the thing is, the cost of stress is high. Emotionally, physically, and monetarily.

Stress affects us all on a daily basis, and sometimes it costs people their lives. (Please read this post if you are thinking of suicide.) All too often, people feel alone.

This year has made people a little more honest, it seems, when you ask how someone is doing. Especially if they feel close to you.

But still, “I’m ok” can mean “I have enough food right now.” Or, “I had a good day today” can mean “I didn’t cry today, I got a little work done, and I slept. I slept!”

If You Feel Like It’s Just You and Your Ball of Stress…

If you’re feeling alone, and it seems like everyone around you has it all together, know this: No one has it all together.

NO ONE. No matter how it looks on the outside.

As the saying goes, don’t compare yourself to someone else’s highlight reel. Or to how you imagine they’re doing, because you can’t really know what their life is like.

Let me give you an example on that last part.

A long time ago — back when I was in an abusive relationship — a coworker noticed I had a cold sore on my lip. She commented on it, and I said yeah it happens when I get stressed.

I’ll never forget her reply.

“What do YOU have to be stressed about?!” she said angrily. “YOU have it all!”

I’m pretty sure I rushed out of the room and burst into tears. I never told her what my life was really like.

Because how do you say:

Well, I barely make it through the days. I have to walk on eggshells around x all the time. I can’t figure out what will set him off. He shouts at me every day, calls me names, lies about things big and small, destroys my belongings, towers over me, blocks me when I try to leave the room, overspends, threatens to cut off my access to my money, blames me for debt, follows me around, goes through my things and lies about it, has the counselors bamboozled, and more.

You don’t. Or if you do, most people don’t believe you.

And I don’t blame them. Because it doesn’t match what they saw: A funny, charming, generous guy that was always bragging about me.

So what came out instead was, “Things aren’t going so great at home” or “I’m under a lot of stress.”

When in reality, it was so much worse. It’s been many, many, MANY years, and I still panic if I end up alone in a room with someone blocking the doorway. Even if they would never hurt me in a million years.

Your body remembers. And then your mind does.

That wasn’t what I meant to write about at all.

But maybe it will help someone, so I’m leaving it.

Because I’m here to say that there ARE good people out there. And that you CAN turn your life around by making changes. Even if you can’t see how right now.

The answer is to take one tiny step in the right direction at a time, and to ask for help until you get it or manage to help yourself.

My turning point was realizing that I knew someone that had extra canned goods I could eat. I knew they would give them to me without question if I needed them. So I would not starve.

That thought was a tiny thing, but it was the first step in changing everything. Then I took another step.

One tiny step after the other.

What I Meant to Write About

I meant to write about how it’s easy to be vulnerable when you’re under a lot of stress. To lose money. To go into debt. To be taken advantage of.

And then to beat yourself up about it, and feel embarrassed or ashamed.

To hold that inside, and to feel worse.

But you don’t have to. It’s ok to tell someone. You don’t have to keep paying the price of stress. You can get some relief. Every little bit helps.

The Price of Stress

Here’s the example I originally planned to give on the cost of stress in dollars.

I have a rental property that’s a very small 2 bedroom, 1 bath house. The one bathroom part matters, because now there are plumbing issues.

It has a home warranty, so if there is a problem the renter just calls them. It’s great because I don’t have to manage it.

In this case the warranty company sent out a plumber, who took a look. It turns out that the sewer line under the house and another important pipe were both broken. Like in pieces broken.

So the renters couldn’t use the plumbing at all.

The Quote

The plumber quoted $12,000 to fix things. $12,000! Of which the warranty company would pay $1,000 for access. Oh first they needed a restoration company to remove hundreds of gallons of sewage and water from the crawl space. (Luckily that’s all the restoration company had to do; there was no damage.) That was another thousand.

That all seemed high, but they went ahead and fixed the pipes. But — spoiler alert — it didn’t fix the problem.

There are still plumbing issues. And the renters still can’t use the plumbing.

So the warranty company sent the plumber back out, and apparently the investigation is ongoing.

So the plumbing situation is stressful. And expensive! It’s bad, but it could be worse. (Please cross your fingers that someone finds the problem soon AND can fix it at a fair price.)

Why Stress Is Costly

The point of these stories is that stress costs you in many ways. It:

  • makes it harder to think at all, let alone clearly
  • makes finding ANY solution to the problem feel more important than finding a GOOD solution
  • increases the pressure you feel
  • can damage relationships
  • can damage your health (those stress hormones are no joke)
  • makes you more likely to get sick, etc.
  • can make you want to throw up your hands in despair

These all cost you money.

Poor thinking = poor decision making. Poor decision making + a feeling of urgency = higher costs and regrets. Relationships can end in expensive divorces, or costly business disputes. Poor health can cost you your life, or at best lead to the high costs of medicine, surgeries, therapies, etc.

What You Can Do to Reduce the Impact

No one gets through life without experiencing at least some stress. (And sometimes a whole lot of it. Hello, 2020 and beyond.) But there are things you can do to help reduce the impact.

It starts with having a plan in place. Building an emergency fund is always a good idea, but your plan will depend on where you’re starting from.

Also, learn from your past mistakes. That’s really the key!

For example, I could be upset and hold onto that. Or I could decide to do things differently.

I can write about it in hopes that it helps someone else. I can think about what I can do to prevent it or something like it from happening again.

For example, what if our house or a future property needs a big repair? What can I do now to prepare?

I could:

  • Have a list on hand of companies that serve the area that have good reviews
  • Get more than one quote for any major jobs
  • Use the 24 hour rule for household repairs too. (After turning off the water, power, etc to stop things from getting worse if needed.)
  • Send any renters or ourselves to a hotel if something major happens
  • Increase the size of the house emergency funds
  • Get photos of the exact problem that’s happening
  • Get details of exactly what will be done to fix it, costs involved, and what happens if repairs don’t work
  • File a complaint or ask for arbitration if things go wrong
  • Look for similar types issues that could occur in the future
  • Take care of myself

Just writing those things out helps. I’m sure that — like everyone else — I’ll continue to make mistakes in the future. But at least I now have a plan that I’m starting to carry out that should stop a repeat of this one. And I can do the same kind of thing for other problems too.

So what about you? How have you dealt with stressful situations? And what will you do moving forward?

The cost of stress, plus how to deal with it

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