It’s normal to feel a little stressed when a lot of unexpected bills pile up. Few people can keep cool in the face of the unknown as it relates to their finances. Chronic stress that involves constantly worrying about normal bills and debt, on the other hand, shouldn’t be.

Unfortunately, it’s more common than ever before. According to a recent survey, 30 percent of Americans say they’re constantly stressed about their finances. If you’re no stranger to money-related anxiety, then you’ll want to keep scrolling. Here we’ll discuss the reasons why so many people feel the pressure, and how you can relieve some of it from your life.

A growing number of people have failing finances

The survey, which was conducted in March 2018, show many of its respondents are struggling to achieve financial balance. Roughly 20 percent of those surveyed reported living paycheck to paycheck, while another 70 percent admitted they had to use up savings to make it until their next payday. Of course, these are the lucky ones. More than two-thirds (or 66 percent) of those surveyed don’t have a three-month emergency fund, while almost half (or 46 percent) of respondents don’t have any savings at all.

Without savings, unexpected bills, medical issues, and repairs have immense power over their finances. Those who don’t have savings to cover car trouble, prescriptions antibiotics, or an emergency vet visit have to rely on online advance loans to bridge the gap between paychecks. Lenders like MoneyKey have eliminated many of the barriers complicating the traditional borrowing experience — making it as simple as possible to secure a cash advance. You can learn more about this process to see how they manage this feat. But even the knowledge that you need help can be stressful. You’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop or for the next thing to go wrong.

Stress has a marked negative effect on your life

If you’ve been stressed about money, then you know it’s not a good feeling, but you may not realize just how bad this persistent anxiety can be for your health. Long-term stress overworks your body and can lead to chronic mental health issues, digestive problems, heart disease, and weight gain.

Financial stress also affects your IQ. A study conducted by Harvard University revealed financial worries decrease your cognitive abilities to such a degree it can lower your IQ by 13 points.

Researchers don’t suggest poor people are naturally less intelligent than their richer counterparts. Their work suggests poor people are under stress that decreases their cognitive capacity to solve problems quickly and efficiently. They aren’t making poor decisions because they’re dumber than those who scored higher. It’s because their living conditions would make anyone make bad decisions.

How can you banish stress?

That’s the question of the hour and not one that comes with an easy answer. It takes a lot of time and effort to find ways you can increase your earning power and decrease your expenses. The obvious solution involves getting a better paying job and making lifestyle changes to limit spending. What this involves is different for everyone, and a budget can help you take the first step to acknowledging your task. The following three steps are another simple way to improve your finances:

  1. Account for your finances: You need to understand where you are financially at the moment. This task includes figuring out how much you earn, how much you owe, and how much you spend.
  2. Make goals: Once you know where you are, then you have to find out where you want to go. Compare the financial snapshot you made in step one with your goals. Whether that’s paying off student debt, reducing how often you use payday loans, saving for a new car, or saving for your children’s education, use these goals as a way to focus your financial concentration. When you have a goal in sight, it’s easier to justify restricting budgeting and other uncomfortable experiences that you may have to take to achieve them.
  3. Figure out what you need to do differently: Cutting back expenses and earning more are two of the best ways to achieve your goals. At the start, you may only be able to cut back small expenses, but eventually you can reinvest the savings you earn from these purchases to make bigger changes, like how much you pay in rent, car insurance, and other big expenses.

At the end of the day, you need to take charge of your finances if you expect to banish financial stress. Make a list of what you need to do, and take the time to learn about personal finances to figure out how you can tick these items off your list. Spending as little as 15 minutes each day on your phone to learn about Roth IRAs, automatic payments, debt consolidation, and high-interest savings accounts can empower you to make positive changes to your finances. Start with small steps to see where they can take you. They’re the first step among many towards better mental health.