7 tips on dealing with financial stress
Money concerns can place a strain on your mental health, and vice versa. Here are 7 tips to help you cope with financial stress.
In recent years, we have become more aware of the importance of looking after our mental health. And we have seen the negative impact events such as the pandemic have had. A survey conducted last year by mental health charity Mind, found that around a third of adults and young people said their mental health had significantly worsened since March 2020.
Meanwhile, the UK is currently experiencing a 40-year-high inflation rate of 9%, as prices have risen on items such as food and fuel, which have in turn trigged hikes in interest rates.
It’s a perfect storm that has raised the cost of living and put a strain on many people’s financial health. A recent survey by the Office for National Statistics found that 23% of us are finding it difficult to pay normal bills, while 43% said they would not be able to save money in the next year.
This added pressure has meant that more people are feeling anxious about their financial futures. Kerry McLeod, Head of Information Content at Mind explains the link between mental health and financial stress. “Poor mental health can make earning and managing money harder and worrying about money can make your mental health worse. It can start to feel like a vicious cycle.
“Certain situations might trigger feelings of anxiety and panic, like opening envelopes. Money problems can affect your social life and relationships too, and they can make you feel lonely or isolated, if you can’t afford to do the things you want to.”
While sorting things out might feel overwhelming, she advises, “learning how mental health and money are connected might help if you’re struggling. Try taking things one step at a time.”
1. Ask for help
If you’re struggling because of money issues and related anxiety, talking to someone can be of great benefit – a loved one, a health professional like your GP, or an advice service such as the Government’s Money Helper service. Advice services can offer some help with next steps, such as any financial assistance you may be entitled to.
If you’re a Benenden Health member, call our 24/7 Mental Health Helpline and speak to a qualified counsellor for support with any anxiety you might have around finances. This support is available from day 1 of your membership.
2. Spot the signs of financial stress
It’s important to manage financial stress, as leaving it unchecked can impact your health. Too much stress can lead to sleep problems, anxiety and depression. Physical symptoms, such as headaches and high blood pressure, or even unhealthy coping methods such as heavy drinking, which will likely make things feel worse. Try to manage your stress with free, regular exercise. Techniques such as mindfulness and healthy eating will also help. If you are concerned about your mental or physical health, talk to your GP.
3. Check your finances
It’s easy to lose track of what you’re spending. Note down all your outgoings and work out what you spend your money on, weekly or monthly. Try free, easy-to-use apps and tools such as Money Helper.
4. Get organised
Having all your financial information (bank accounts, bills etc) in one place can help reduce money-related stress. Also, schedule a regular time to deal with money tasks and plan a relaxing (and stress-busting) activity afterwards such as a walk or run.
5. Know your money and mood patterns
Keep a diary of your spending and your mood. Are there certain times when you’re more likely to spend money, which aspects of dealing with money make your mental health worse? Understanding your relationship with money could help you plan ahead for difficult times.
6. Take control
Make a plan to help ease your financial stress. Deleting apps and not saving your card details on websites can stop the temptation of impulse purchases. Hand over your cards to someone you trust or avoid debit/credit card payments by taking out a set amount of cash every day or week.
7. Get help with debts
Reduce your anxiety related to debt by talking to a free professional debt advice organization such as National Debtline, StepChange or Citizens Advice. You may be able to get a break from paying debt interest under a Government scheme called Breathing space.
Remember that being afraid to open bills or check your bank account will only store up future problems and may potentially cause even more stress. It’s important to know that there are many people in the same situation, and that by asking for help, you are taking a positive first step to improving both your financial and mental health.