Summary: Managing stress and improving sleep can help you prosper financially as well as physically.
So far in our series about physical fitness and financial fitness we’ve covered several topics including:
And I’ve shared how I’m working on my fitness efforts to help both my health and finances thrive.
Today we’re moving on to another set of money and health-related topics: stress and sleep.
Lower Stress to Improve Your Finances
We’ll begin with some highlights from Money’s post on stress. They asked what people stress most about and the results were quite interesting:
- 67% said Money
- 65% said Work
- 54% said Family responsibilities
- 51% said Health concerns
Well, we certainly can help with #1 and #2 and potentially #4. So I guess you’ve come to the right place if you stress about any of these. 🙂
Before we get to solutions, here’s more of what Money had to say about stress:
And in what can be a vicious cycle, stress can hurt your job performance: The more anxious you are, the more distracted and ill-prepared you are at work.
A global survey by Willis Towers Watson linked higher stress to higher absenteeism. And workers who worried about their finances reported being distracted 12.4 days a year—what’s called “presenteeism”—vs. 8.6 days for their more relaxed peers.
Stress can also trigger other unhealthy (and potentially costly) behaviors, including smoking, excessive drinking, and overeating.
And here’s what they suggest to combat stress:
Mindfulness meditation, a secular, approachable form of meditation, has been shown in many studies to help reduce anxiety. The basic idea is to set aside quiet time—it doesn’t have to be long—to pay attention to the present moment without judging the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that constantly pepper you.
It’s interesting to note that meditation is a key part of the great morning routine detailed by one of my favorite books: The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM).
How to Lower Stress
I must admit that I’m not the greatest dealer with stress.
Thankfully, I haven’t had high levels of stress related to money, family, and health issues. And for a good chunk of my career (maybe half of it), I didn’t have much stress either. But the other half of my career was FULL of stress!
You can tell this if you’ve been reading the My Jobs series (like where I had to work for a maniac). Furthermore, the two years that I was president of a $100 million company was full of crushing stress. I’ve never felt anything like that. There’s nothing like being responsible for the livelihoods of 800 people to give you more stress than you ever want in life.
Then, of course, there was the last job I held before I retired. Now that I think about it, maybe the last three years of high stress was payback for all the years I had almost no work stress. 🙂
Anyway, here are my thoughts on how to reduce stress in your life:
- Retire. The ultimate stress-reducer. It’s taken months for me to decompress since I retired, but I can noticeably feel the difference. So if you can retire, do it. Your stress will drop like a rock (at least your career stress).
- Pursue FI. If you become financially independent, even if you still work, you’ll dramatically reduce both money and career related stress. So while I had career stress, it was limited by the fact that I had “walk away money” and wasn’t totally dependent on an employer for my family’s well-being.
- Exercise. In addition to helping you fret less about health-related issues, exercise also helps you blow off steam from the other stresses in life. I’m not sure if it’s the physical movement, the fact that you really can’t concentrate on much else when you’re gasping for breath, or both, but exercise certainly does help take down the stress level.
I would also suggest meditation, though I’ve never practiced it so can’t speak from actual experience. Maybe some ESI Money readers can offer their experiences with meditation.
Increase Sleep to Improve Your Finances
Now let’s move on to sleep, something all of us have experience with. We’ll start with Money’s thoughts:
Sleep may be free, but not getting enough can be costly. In a 2016 study, economists Matthew Gibson and Jeffrey Shrader found that one extra hour of sleep per week can result in 5% higher wages. “When you’re sleep deprived, your productivity is lowered, your mood changes, and your creativity is impaired,” says Mathias Basner, a professor of sleep and chronobiology at the University of Pennsylvania. If you can’t perform at your best, it’s that much harder to earn raises or promotions.
One extra hour of sleep a week equals 5% higher wages? Do I need to tell anyone how HUGE that is? We’ve discussed previously that 1% or 2% over time can have a massive impact on your career/earnings, so just imagine how big 5% is! And just for an extra 9 minutes of sleep per day!!!
Maybe I need to add “sleep more” to my tips on how to make millions more with your career.
One in three Americans gets fewer than the recommended minimum of seven hours a night, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation survey found. That costs workers 11.3 days of productivity a year on average, reports the 2011 American Insomnia Survey. That adds up to $2,280 in lost productivity a year—tallied for the entire country, that’s $63.2 billion lost.
Sleep too little and you drain your income. Sleep a bit more and you grow your income. Got it.
And the final word from Money:
A chronic lack of z’s is also linked to a host of illnesses, including diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, says David Brown, a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the author of Sleeping Your Way to the Top. Want to shed weight? Don’t bother spending time in the gym if you’re going to skimp on sleep, says Brown.
Here we have the opposite side of the coin — the fact that you can lose a ton of money with too little sleep.
How to Sleep More/Better
The issue with sleep isn’t just a “sleep more” problem, but a “sleep better” one as well.
I’m not an expert on either, but I have gone from a person who used to take 30-60 minutes to fall asleep to one that takes a few minutes at most. So here are my thoughts on more/better sleep:
- Retire. It not only lowers stress, but you sleep better when you retire. Or at least I do. Why? I no longer have to turn off my racing mind when I go to bed at night. My biggest bedtime issue now is “what am I doing tomorrow?” and since the answer is “whatever I want”, there’s nothing to churn through. 🙂
- Pursue FI. Same as above. Not as good as retirement but certainly headed in the right direction. It’s easier to sleep soundly with $3 million in the bank than it is to try and sleep wondering if you’ll make the mortgage payment this month.
- Exercise. This is a big one. Ever since I started working with my trainer a year ago, I sleep MUCH better. And this was even while I was still working. I think my body is simply tired/exhausted and I HAVE to sleep.
- Eliminate caffeine late at night. By trial and error I found out that I can’t have caffeine past 3 pm and expect to get to sleep easily that night. Just doesn’t happen. So I limit myself to three cups of coffee a day and all have to be consumed before 3 pm.
- Go to bed/get up at same time every day. I know this sounds like advice your grandma would give, but grandma was right! As much as you can, go to bed at the same time every day and get up at the same time. I know schedules can be crazy sometimes and you can’t always do this. But try to do it as much as you can and it may make a difference.
Since I’m not an expert, let me share some sleep advice from those who are:
Of course, YMMV. My advice is to try a bunch of things and see what works for you.
So there you have my thoughts on how to lower stress and improve sleep. Anyone want to share tips of what’s worked for you?
Mike H says
No caffeine during the day at all- period.
Exercise first thing in the morning.
20 minutes before bed limit screen time- stick to quiet time, prayer, reflection, etc.
As usual, you are my hero!
No caffeine at all???? How can you live? 🙂
Mike H says
It’s painful for the first 3 days of coming off it, but then after that you can cruise just fine without caffeine. It’s so easy to get sucked back into the habit- my vehicle of vice for caffeine when I do take it is dark chocolate that I periodically indulge in and then abstain for a spell.
Outside that it’s over abused and over rated. The quality of sleep and uniform ‘clean’ energy that is present without it far outweighs the temporary rush from the morning caffeine fix. And I was an addict for 25 years before having kicked it and have since been caffeine free for the most part for 25 years.
Froogal Stoodent says
Caffeine is a heckuva drug! Wait…did I do that wrong? 🙂
Seriously, though, people forget that it’s a drug and that it therefore affects your physiology, including your mind! I once started drinking coffee every day during a particularly stressful week at work. When I found myself craving the ‘Seattle’s Best’ coffee at my second job EVEN THOUGH I HATED THE BITTER FLAVOR, I knew that it was time to go cold turkey. And I’ve had very little coffee or tea or soda or chocolate ever since.
Anyway, I think this is a post that a lot of people need to hear. Thanks for sharing, ESI Money!
I do a few things in addition to the other things you mentioned (exercise, caffeine):
Avoid screentime late at night. I make sure I’m not looking at my phone or computer within 30 min of sleep.
I read for at least 15 minutes, preferably more. Almost always fiction, so my brain relaxes. I found reading the news or anything educational is not good for me right before bedtime. I read a physical book or on a non-backlit Kindle.
Oh and although I may work before going to bed, there are some types of work I avoid. Anything extremely analytical or frustrating, I put off until morning 🙂
I need to cut the screen time right before bed as well…
Financial Panther says
Like the idea of pursuing FI to reduce stress. Even if you’re still working, not having to work because you absolutely need the paycheck is a total game changer. It really changes up that stress level.
Sleep is one of my favorite things to do. Many, probably most, just look at it as ‘down time’, just something they have to do.
Man is the only animal that does not wake up at a natural time. Stress is the reason we wake up in the morning, knowing we have to be at work or school. Sometimes, just having to take care of our bodily functions provides the stress that wakes us up.
We all take electricity everywhere for granted, allowing us to work and play all through each day. But it was only common beginning in the 1930s. Evenings were lit by candle, lamp, and firelight. It was common to sleep 9-10 hours a day, especially in winter when weather kept people inside.
A book that really helped me work through sleep deprivation, and years of feeling stressed and unrested, is Paul McKenna’s “I Can Make You Sleep”, which is a practical how-to guide to training yourself to sleep so you maximize the productive rest during the time you have allotted. Highly recommend. The additional sleep (beyond a normal 7-8 hours/day) has really improved my quality of life, feeling rested and less stressed during waking hours.
I just listened to an NPR podcast on the history of light this morning while walking to the gym. It was very enlightening! 🙂
You don’t know the value of sleep and how bad sleep impacts you until you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. It is a condition where you snore and never get into a full REM sleep. I was diagnosed 15 years ago and have had a CPAP machine ever since. Mine is a condition due to structure of my soft tissue in the back of my throat. Surgery would only guarantee a 50% chance of working. I didn’t like the odds or the thought of going under the knife, so I tried the CPAP machine first. It was a miracle. I didn’t realize how bad my sleep was until the first week of getting a proper nights rest. During my sleep study I was waking up 32 times an hour. I was tired even after 8 hours of sleep time which never was a deep sleep. You lose energy, start having neurotic suspicions, depressing thoughts and ruins your whole mental attitude. Let alone the stress you put on your body, your heart and your marriage. People have known to die from sleep apnea because they stop breathing due to an obstructed air way and never start again. If your doctor suggests a sleep study do it. You may have other things impacting your sleep like restless leg syndrome or may other conditions. Sleep issues are more common than you think.
My dad has this as does a good friend. I echo your thoughts and suggestions.
In the category of getting more sleep, I use the health app on my iphone to set reminder alerts. It tells me when I need to go to sleep to get 8 hours and I awaken to chirping birds at 6:00am. Chirping birds in Winter, when it’s still dark outside, is such a treat.
I also use the app to track how far I walk and how many stairs I climb every day. Try to do 5 miles a day, which is hard when the Winter weather is raw and blustery. Listening to Ted talks while I walk is a great way to learn and not feel as if I’m “wasting” time. Really it’s about multi-tasking for me.
I have a habit of not opening my snail mail after 6PM and business email after 7PM. This is after business hours for most companies. I have realized that if I have any questions most will not be answered until the next day. Therefore, I wait until the next morning. In the past, I would go to bed worrying about things I could not address. I also try not to make major decisions when I am tired.
I have not retired. I have a high stress job that I enjoy. However, I work 2 days a week. I try to sleep when I am sleepy taking naps when necessary.
Justin Pogo says
Nice find on the study about how a little more sleep can lead to 5% more income over your lifetime!
I see you mentioned Hal Elrod’s book, The Miracle Morning. That too is one of my favorites- in fact one of my favorite lines in that book is the following “the success you have in life is directly correlated to the amount of time you spend on personal development.” Are you apart of the Miracle Morning Facebook Group ESI?
There are a couple things I do to fall asleep
1. I try and read before bed
2. Here is my embarrassing tip. I am a Lebron James fan and was so happy when he won the title this year. The NBA published a 2016 NBA Finals Mini movie recap which is 30 minute long. If I really need to fall asleep I play that video and normally I always fall asleep within the first 10 minutes. I guess we all have our quirks!
Ha! That’s funny! Maybe I need a copy of that video!
Yes, I am part of the MM Facebook group.
Justin Pogo says
I hope he gets better! I was devastated when I found out what happened to him 🙁
Justin Pogo says
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDCegwpnlbM. Here is the link!
Physician On FIRE says
You are smart to point out the non-financial aspects that will lead to a better retirement and life in general.
I’ve got a job that pays really well, but it can be stressful and absolutely leaves me sleep deprived. Finding balance is key, and an early retirement is probably the best path for me.