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Tough economy can take its toll on your healthBy PAMELA YIP

The economy can be bad for your health.

The emotional upheaval from the sick economy has resulted in physical ailments - headaches, backaches, insomnia and worse.

"They really spiral down into significant depression when they don't have control over their finances," said Dr. Art Mollen, an osteopathic family physician and author of "Healthonomics: The Handbook for Balancing Your Physical & Financial Checkbooks."

"Once it affects mental function, it's going to affect their physical function."

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine questioned 250 homeowners going through foreclosure in Philadelphia and found that 47 percent showed symptoms of depression, with 37 percent exhibiting signs of major depression.

The rate was especially high considering previous research showed about 12.8 percent of people living in poverty were depressed, the study found.

The first step in regaining control over your finances is acknowledging what you've lost. "If you've got a financial crisis, what is the root cause?" asked Todd Mark of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Dallas.

If you got caught with an unexpected car repair bill, you can avoid that in the future by stashing away savings for emergencies. Likewise, if your debt is out of control, stop charging on credit cards and start paying off that bill. If you're having trouble making payments, contact your creditors and see if they will work with you.

"You can only regain control once you analyze where you are, what your potential challenges are, and develop an action plan," Mark said.

Make a brutally honest assessment of your finances and be patient. "Say to yourself, 'It took me years to get into this debt, and it will take me years to get out of it,'" Mark said.

There are certain aspects of your finances you can't control. "When stuff happens, what you do or don't do is critical," said Lynn Lawrance, a certified financial planner at Financial Network Investment Corp. in Dallas. "If you're passive, it's easy to feel that you have no control. If you become proactive and take charge of what you can, you'll feel like you still have some control."

Her remedy? Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. "In the first column, write what you can control or influence. In the other column, put what you can't control."

You can't control the economy, but you can cut back your spending and do side jobs to increase your income.

"You may have to work longer hours," Lawrance said, but you should balance that with exercise, a healthy diet and plenty of sleep. "Make sure you include items for your career, for your physical, financial and mental health and relationships."

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