Financial wellness is a key pillar of overall wellbeing. While money certainly cannot buy you happiness, removing the stress of financial burdens can be incredibly helpful when it comes to establishing good mental health.
It goes without saying that these financial burdens have been exacerbated by the pandemic. By December of last year, 8.9 million people had borrowed money due to the pandemic’s financial impact. Despite the government’s furlough scheme, household income in the UK fell by 15% last year. While the reopening of the country has of course led to a favourable uptick in these numbers, we are still in the midst of an economic recovery. For many, the financial issues of the pandemic are still being felt.
Financial health has real, tangible impacts on physical and mental health. The stress of financial difficulties can lead to a loss of sleep, the curtailing of social life and even depression and anxiety. The constant atmosphere of dread that is experienced when every bit of income and cost is scrutinised can be incredibly difficult to cope with.
Key to overcoming this is a combination of coping methods and open dialogue. While it may be easy to slip into unhealthy habits to cope with the stress, such as heavy drinking, overeating or substance abuse, these only add to the financial burdens and establish a vicious cycle. These methods also add to the sense of shame so often associated with financial difficulties, and can prevent us from seeking help and advice.
In fact, the first step to dealing with financial stress is to talk to someone. It is incredibly important to resist the temptation to bottle everything up and try and deal with the burdens on our own. In the current economy, you’ll likely find others who are struggling in just the same way that you are. The simple act of expressing your problems to someone else can make them seem far less intimidating. Whether a friend, family member or professional advisor, talking over your worries can help you find solutions that you may not have thought of on you own.
It is tempting to ignore the stack of bills on the kitchen table, but ignoring the reality of the situation will not help anyone. Instead, take the time to sit down and get a detailed idea of your financial state. Collect those bills, bank, and credit card statements and go through them in detail. This way you can keep a track of all your spending, list your debts and identify patterns. Once you’ve done this, it’ll be relatively easy to spot spending habits that can be eliminated, such as buying a sandwich for lunch or a pack of cigarettes on your way home. Finding small ways to cut your expenditure is a useful early step to financial recovery. It is worth taking the time to highlight that this process can quite easily lead to a low feeling of self-worth, do not beat yourself up about your situation – that’s a poor coping method!
After you’ve taken stock and have a clear picture of your finances, the next step is to make a plan. You should be easily able to spot the aspects of your finances that need changing, be that credit card spend, online shopping or poor budgeting. Brainstorm some ideas with family, friends or a professional advisor. Maybe you need to restructure your debt, eliminate a car payment or talk to your boss about working overtime. Whatever your plan is, it is important that it is thought out and that you stick to it. There may be some bumps on the way, but try to be consistent. With a bit of planning and time, you’ll soon start to see some positive changes.
While it may be stressful and difficult, it is worth remembering that financial struggles affect everyone. The pandemic has been an incredibly tough time, financially and otherwise. There is always help out there, whether it is in your social circle or through professional means, like the Citizen’s Advice Bureau or an employer-funded EAP.