We all deal with financial pressure from time to time. Maintaining a budget and making sure that you’re saving money isn’t always easy. But when things start to feel dire, money problems can take a toll on your physical health.

In some situations, the ramifications are obvious. For example, if you can’t afford health insurance, you’re less likely to go to the doctor and this can exacerbate a medical issue. There are also a host of smaller ways that poor finances can affect your physical health. To better deal with your financial stress, it’s first important to recognize how this anxiety can affect you both mentally and physically.

Financial stress and the physical symptoms

According to Debt.org, the average college graduate has $37,172 in student loan debt. The stress that comes with this kind of debt burden is clear, with respondents to a survey by Student Loan Hero listing headaches, muscle tension, upset stomach and insomnia as symptoms. Other physical symptoms of stress include low energy, chest pain, nervousness and shaking, frequent sickness, and dry mouth.

Researchers have also found a link between financial problems and depression and anxiety. These conditions come with their own set of symptoms, including changes in appetite or weight, exhaustion or fatigue, an increased heart rate, restlessness, and sweating.

All of these symptoms can come and go, but if you feel them consistently, consider how your financial health may be impacting you. It may be time to do something about it.

Three ways to get your financial health under control

As with getting into better physical shape, improving your finances isn’t something you can do overnight. The key is to commit to financial wellness for the long-haul. Here are some tips to get started.

1.  Watch your spending

If you feel weighed down by debt, it’s time to take a look at how you spend your money to see if you can make some improvements to your habits.

For example, you can monitor how much you spend on dining out and hitting the bar with friends. You may also want to watch your other expenditures and see if you can trim the fat.

We’re not recommending that you stop spending entirely or deprive yourself of having fun, but taking stock of where you can cut back is the first step to tracking your money. Once you know what you’re spending on and where you need to rein it in, you can then take reasonable steps to start paying yourself first.

2. Boost your income

Getting a second job isn’t always the best way to relieve your stress. At the same time, earning more money to cover your expenses can provide financial relief.

To help make things less stressful, consider turning one of your hobbies into a side business. This way, you’re doing something you enjoy while earning money along the way. The only drawback to this option is that it may take longer to start seeing an income and you may need to invest some money upfront. Some other options that will result in immediate income without the need for start-up funds: Get a part-time job or take advantage of the gig economy. For example, perhaps you have a car and can drive for Uber or Lyft at night or on the weekends. Or, if you love dogs, maybe you can walk dogs for Wag! With a little research, there is no shortage of side gig opportunities.

3. Add some padding

For many people, the worst part about financial stress is the fear of the unknown. If something unexpected happens — say, your car breaks down or the water heater goes out — and you don’t have enough money to pay for it, it can lead to a myriad of other problems.

To avoid this scenario, make it your top priority to start an emergency fund. Even a small fund of $1,000 can make a big difference on a rainy day. And, the fact that you have that extra padding can help you sleep better at night.

Don’t worry if you can’t save a lot. Even if you can only save a few dollars a week, save it. Over time, this will add up and give you the extra cash you need.

Financial health is paramount

How you manage your money is critical to your physical and mental health. What’s more, the stress, anxiety and other byproducts of poor financial health can make it harder to improve your money situation.

Getting on the right track isn’t always easy, but these first steps may give you a little peace of mind as you work to improve your financial situation. Over time, you’ll hopefully feel less anxious and depressed. And, once you’re in a healthier place, you can then strive to achieve your long-term financial goals.

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